Q. Every time I get an esoteric error message in Excel, I puzzle over its meaning—let alone what, if anything, I can do about it. I realize that often Windows will correct itself when I reboot the computer, but I would like to know what went wrong. Can you help?
A. Windows error messages have provoked much irritation—and humor—because they are so mysterious. They often sound very Zen—providing little information. If you really do want to know the meaning behind an error message—and possibly even uncover a fix if Windows fails to fix itself—consider downloading and running a Microsoft file, extralert.exe . It installs Microsoft Office 2000 Customizable Alerts, a program that offers to find more information via the Internet. To get the file, go to http://office.microsoft.com/downloads/2000/alerts.aspx .
Once it is installed, Word, Excel, Access or PowerPoint sometimes will display a Web Help button along with the normal error message. Clicking on the button will take you to a Microsoft Web page that will provide more information.