Outlook 2010 only Viewable when Maximized on Windows 7

Resolution Up Front:

  1. Modify the shortcut used to start Outlook by right-clicking it (hold shift if clicking a Start Bar icon) and selecting “Properties”
  2. In the “Shortcut” tab, select the “Maximized” option from the drop-down menu for the “Run” field.
  3. Choose “OK” and use the shortcut to start Outlook.
  4. When the maximized Outlook window appears, right-click the Start Bar and choose “Cascade Windows”.
    1. This will arrange all of your windows, Outlook included, in a cascading presentation.  It seems to force the Outlook application to render its GUI in a coherent screen position, thereby resolving the problem of the GUI’s unwillingness to appear.  This seems to solve the problem in a manner which persists across application and system restarts.

Problem Description:

A coworker approached me with a strange Microsoft Office problem today (I’m the resident Windows guy in the UNIX/Linux basement): he could start Outlook 2010, and though the Systray icon and Start Bar would attest to the program’s running state, no GUI window would appear.  None could be coerced into existence with the standard procedures, either;

  1. Alt+Tab failed to display the window
  2. Hovering over the Start Bar icon would yield the standard preview pane, but no Window was drawn within it (just a small Outlook icon) and no window would appear when it was clicked.
  3. Entering Task Manager, right-clicking the Outlook process in the Applications tab, and commanding “Bring To Front” obviously took action (the Task Manager window would be sent to the background, behind the Start Bar) but produced no Outlook GUI.

Theory of Action:

So, when I first encountered this issue, I started Outlook in safe mode from the command line (C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office14\OUTLOOK.EXE” /safe) and this produced the GUI.  Thinking this was indicative of an Add-In problem, I checked my coworker’s machine for strange Add-Ins, but found nothing even remotely interesting (the worst possible third party Add-In was from Apple).  I tried disabling them all and starting the software outside of safe mode, but this failed to work.

So it looks like what’s probably happened is that, somehow, what I suspect is a Registry key holding the Outlook application’s GUI’s windowed position and resolution has become corrupt, preventing Outlook from properly rendering its GUI in a windowed mode.  The “maximize” option gets around this problem by directing the application to fill the screen in a way that avoids any reference to this corrupt Registry key, but as soon as the application is moved from its maximized position in any way, the corruption causes it to disappear again.

The “Cascade Windows” option resolves the issue most likely because the OS forcibly modifies the Registry key containing the application’s GUI window’s resolution and screen position, overwriting the corrupt data.

That’s my guess!

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