Microsoft has fixed a problem in Office 2003 that prevented users from opening documents saved using its rights management service (RMS) technology. The feature is used to prevent sensitive documents from being opened by unauthorized users, but ironically left many corporate users in the frustrating position of being unable to open their own files due to an expired certificate.

An error message read "Unexpected error occurred. Please try again later or contact your system administrator" whenever users attempted to open or save protected documents. Microsoft acknowledged the snafu on its Office Sustained Engineering blog last week and posted a hotfix over the weekend. The problem affects Word 2003, Word 2003 Viewer, Excel 2003, Excel 2003 Viewer, PowerPoint 2003 and Outlook 2003. Office 2007 is not affected and neither is the Office 2010 beta, according to a Microsoft spokesperson.