Issues with Word Templates

Recently, there have been issues with Dynamics GP and Word Templates, due to some changes to the most recent Microsoft Office build releases. Specifically, documents generated in Word Templates cannot be opened in Microsoft Word, once you’re running a build from Sept 8/9th or newer. Today’s post is an attempt to clarify what the situation is, and what is and is not affected and clarify some of your options.

Issue Recap

The Microsoft Office releases around September 8th and 9th, 2020 affected the ability for users to open Word Template generated documents. The details of the issues were posted on the Dynamics GP Team’s support blog here. I will not recap all of the details in this post, the support team’s post covers the details plus more recent workarounds to consider.

Who’s affected?

The most commonly used Word Templates are Purchase Orders, Sales Invoices and EFT remittances. What specifically happens is users receiving those documents or users attempting to open those documents cannot open them. The error message, as indicated in the blog post linked above, states “Word experienced an error trying to open the file.”.

The effects are both internal to your organization and external, if you send docs out via the Email Document functionality in Dynamics GP.

Issue 1 – the users generating the documents cannot print/view them if they are on one of the affected builds of Office. That’s a significant issue for organizations who need to print to mail documents to vendors or customers, or simply to be able to print/save copies of these documents for their own internal use.

Issue 2 – if you utilize the Email Document functionality, users who receive those documents won’t be able to open them either if they are using one of the affected builds of Microsoft Office.

It gets worse…

If you saved previously generated documents, or attempt to open previously emailed documents, you will be unable to. For example, a few of my clients pay me via EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer). When I went back to previous emails received from the customers, documents I was able to open in the past I could no longer open on this new build of Microsoft Office. The issue isn’t occurring during generation of the documents, it’s the document format itself (the XML structure, from the latest support team update).

How to mitigate the risk part 1

If you use the Email Document functionality in Dynamics GP, the best way to mitigate the risk for your vendors and customers is to switch to emailing in PDF format only. The good news? You do not need a special version of Adobe on a user’s computer to do this, you merely need to ensure they have Office 2010 or later. (I’ll add “apparently” as I don’t have an Office build that old to test).

Here’s where things get confusing…

In the olden days (saying this tongue in cheek), it was hammered into us (consultants) that you needed to have full Adobe Writer/Distiller on a machine to utilize PDF functionality. Honestly, until this Word Template issue happened, I thought that was still the requirement for emailing Word Templates and I was guilty of implementing functionality like EFT at clients with emailed remittances and leaving them on the default format of Word .docx formats. Boy, I’m glad I was wrong.

If you are using the functionality in Dynamics GP to email Purchase Orders, EFT Remittances or Sales Documents, you do not need full Adobe to make this work. It uses Microsoft Office’s own PDF functionality to convert Word Templates to PDF and email them to your customers or vendors. More importantly, there are NO error messages for the user generating these, even if you cannot even open the native Word template.

That’s just plain weird, but a true story.

Now, if you want to save a report using the “File” shortcut to PDF, or “Sent To” shortcut on a Report Writer report to send as PDF, those functions you DO need full Adobe. Sorry… this isn’t all good news. 🙂

How to mitigate the risk part 2

The above is only useful for the documents you are emailing to others, not for the very common situation of needing to actually view/open/print the documents internally, within your own organization. It also doesn’t help the users who are unable to open previously emailed documents.

For now, the best solution is to rollback your version of Microsoft Office to a supported build. If you’re lucky, you can identify a few people in your office that need to be able to generate/save/print documents internally and only roll back for those people. They can then generate the Word Templates and print/save to PDF. That’s short term at best though, although if you are OK with rolling back and disabling future Office updates for a while, this solution could work until a fix is released for Dynamics GP.

That option isn’t possible for all users/organizations I realize. The second best option right now is to look at the blog post linked above, and look for the Sept 22/2020 update. There is information there about a batch processing fix that could work. I have not tested this but the gist is it’s “fixing” the XML in the Word Templates in order to be able to open the template/document.

Will this be fixed?

Initially this was identified as an Office issue. It turns out the Office issue is addressing a security concern, which means it’s now a Dynamics GP issue and how templates are generated needs to be fixed.

The plan at the moment is to have a fix ready for the rollout of GP 18.3, the October 2020 release of Dynamics GP. That’s tentatively planned for October 1st but keep in mind this change may bump that release date by a few days. If you are on Dynamics GP 2018 but didn’t update to 18.2 yet, consider updating to 18.2 and 18.3 when released if this affects you. It’s an 18.x code base so it’s not a major upgrade like it would be going from GP 2016 to GP 2018.

For those on Dynamics GP 2016, the Microsoft Dynamics GP team is looking at rolling it back to GP 2016 but no guarantees there until further information is published.

For those on older versions of Microsoft Dynamics GP, you’re on an unsupported version so unfortunately, this will not be fixed for you.

After all that I’ve said above, if this not what you want to deal with, it may be time to consider a reporting solution where you can replace the out of the box reports with SSRS and avoid Word Templates entirely. Two products I’m aware of that you can look into are Victoria Yudin’s company Flexible Solutions (GP Reports Viewer), and Liaison Messenger.

Summary

In closing, there’s not a lot of “good news” in this post. It’s a bit of a crappy situation with no notice and very little in the way of permanent or easy solutions to fix it. Rolling back the version of Office is pretty painless, based on what I saw at a client who was affected. The bigger challenge is now that this isn’t deemed something that will be fixed in a future Office build, you now have to decide between 3 no-so-great solutions – rolling back Office updates for the foreseeable future, updating Dynamics GP when a fix is released, or considering an ISV solution to replace Word Templates entirely.

3 thoughts on “Issues with Word Templates

  1. Reply
    Beat Bucher - September 24, 2020

    Great post!
    I mentionned it on my blog as I wrote about the issue a few days after started to spread like wildfire.. https://dyngpgeek.wordpress.com/2020/09/15/another-office-update-that-screws-up-the-word-template-printing-in-the-gp-client/

  2. Reply
    Ryan - September 24, 2020

    Hi,
    We ran into this issue just today and I was wondering what work is involved switching the eft to use pdf instead of word? It seems like we would have to manually change it on each vendor. Thanks.

    1. Jen Kuntz - October 4, 2020

      Hi Ryan,

      I’m so sorry I didn’t respond to this earlier, your comment got caught up in my spam filters. The quickest way to switch vendors from Word to PDF is via SQL script. This is from the support team’s blog: UPDATE SY04905 SET EmailDocumentFormat = ‘3’ WHERE EmailDocumentFormat = ‘1’. (the single quotes here might need to be edited if you copy/paste this to your environment).

      Doc Format 1 is DOCX, 3 is PDF. I recently did this at a client and it was quick and easy. I hope this helps (if you didn’t find this out already!).

      Jen

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