Misbehaving Outlook Email

Some say that computer problems happen at the worst times. I’m not sure that is true, but I won’t argue. Without warning, my Outlook email stopped working. I could receive an email, but I couldn’t open any items. Instead, I saw an error message that read, “Cannot open this item. The text formatting command is not available. It may not be installed correctly. Install Microsoft Office Outlook again.”

For most of my Outlook email problems, I can work my way to a solution. This one had me stumped, although I had some functionality running Outlook in safe mode.

To start Microsoft Outlook in safe mode,

  1. For Windows 8 or above, press your Windows key + x, then choose Run from the popup menu.
  2. Type Outlook /safe in the Run dialog box.

Prior to calling Microsoft Support, I did a query on the error message to see what solutions had been suggested. While I don’t know the cause of the problem, I found 3 suggestions that might solve the problem.

Suggestion 1: Reinstall Microsoft Outlook.

If the developer offers a solution to an error message, that’s where I start. Let’s face it; they have the inside advantage. In my case, I recently installed some Windows patch files and thought they might have contributed to the problem.

Suggestion 2: Create a New Outlook Profile

From what I read, this procedure fixed the problem for many folks. This was the first thing the Microsoft technician suggested. SlipStick has a good tutorial  on this.

Like the first suggestion, this one didn’t fully resolve my problem. It appeared to work and then the error message reappeared. Again, I had to call Microsoft.

Suggestion 3: Close Outlook and Rename 4 .DAT files

The third time was a charm as the saying goes. This tech rep offered a different solution from his peers. In my case, this solution worked.

There were four .dat files that were renamed so the originals were still around if needed.

  • outcmd.dat
  • frmcache.dat
  • views.dat
  • extend.dat

When Microsoft Outlook restarted, it created new versions of those files.

As a result of this fix, I did lose some custom views and toolbar settings, but I think it was worth the cost. It’s was much easier for me to recreate those settings than to be without my email. And yes, I’m still catching up on email inquiries if you sent me something.