Q: For some years I have been frustrated by boxes popping up in front of attachments and Microsoft Word documents that tell me I can’t do things.

One example is the “File In Use” message I often get when I try to open a Word document. The document, which I may have opened many times before without trouble, now has a popup box that says the file is in use and asks me whether I want to open a read-only copy or create a local copy.

But I never knowingly “lock” anything. We have only one computer, no other terminals, no router, and no cell phones! There is no “authorized user” except me. By doing a lot of clicking around I can usually make this box and its demands disappear, but it wastes time.

Secondly, after clicking on an attachment, it does not open. Instead, I’ll get a message that “You should only preview files from a trustworthy source.” Then a warning, then paradoxically, a button that says “Preview File,” which is just what it warned me not to do! Then an already-checked box, “Always warn before …”

How can I block these intruders?

— Charles Bagley

A: Word is very often used by multiple users on a network, so the program tracks who has opened a document to ensure that multiple users don’t make changes at the same time, which would generate conflicts. The way Word does this is by creating an “owner file” when the document is opened. This temporary owner file is automatically deleted when the Word file is closed.

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The message that you’re getting indicates that one of three things has happened:


1. The document is available on a network and another user has it open.

2. A second instance of Word is currently running on your computer with that document open.

3. Word was closed improperly and the owner file wasn’t deleted.

Since you didn’t say anything about being on a network, I’m figuring the third option is most likely what you’re dealing with. There may, for example, have been a power outage. Or you may have shut down your computer with Word still open and with that document loaded.

To get rid of the message, reboot your computer, then look for an owner file for that document in the same directory as the document. Look for a file that begins with ~$ followed by the filename. Delete it and you should be good to go on opening the document.

Your problem with trying to open attachments makes me wonder whether your computer has been configured for use on a network. Prompting users about only opening email attachments from trusted sources is default behavior for Outlook.

But you should be able to change that configuration unless a network administrator has set a policy that doesn’t allow you to. If this machine used to be on a network that would explain it. And if that’s the case, you’d need someone experienced to edit the Windows Registry and change the policy setting.


Q: I have an email account with AT&T, which I have used for years. I recently began receiving a “Failure Notice” for one specific email address. The message I receive says that the email was rejected because it came from a server that transmits spam messages. It advises me to contact my administrator so that they can contact us. I have no idea how to contact my “administrator,” but I would definitely like to resolve the issue. Any suggestions as to how to resolve this issue?

— Richard Finger

A: In this case, your administrator is your AT&T email service. Contact them and let them know that you’re getting emails kicked back by the receiving server.

What’s going on is that email services regularly put traffic from servers that deliver spam on a blacklist. Sometimes that may be because a legitimate server – in this case that of AT&T – may have been used by a spammer who hacked into an AT&T email user’s account. Or it may have been a plain and simple error by the receiving server to blacklist the AT&T server. Either way, the way to deal with it is to notify your email service provider.

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