• Natalie Lawrence

Is Microsoft Office Blocking or Banning Macros? Short Answer: No.

Updated: Jul 31

In February 2022, Microsoft announced that macros in files downloaded from the Internet will be blocked by default (https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/deployoffice/security/internet-macros-blocked).


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What does this mean for macro-enabled templates that I or other developers create for you?


It means you can still use custom-made macro-enabled templates.


This article explains how (https://support.microsoft.com/en-gb/topic/a-potentially-dangerous-macro-has-been-blocked-0952faa0-37e7-4316-b61d-5b5ed6024216) but I'll do a short summary of what's happening and what to do about it.


Why is Microsoft blocking macros by default?


This actually isn't a new thing: Microsoft has warned for years that VBA/macros can be used to create malware. That is why it's had security policies, so you can choose how your version of Office handles macro-enabled template.


Their recommendation has always been to disable macros by default, with the ability to press the Enable Content button, if you want to activate the macros. Personally, I choose to disable macros by default, which means I have to press the yellow Enable Content button in order to use custom macros.


However, users can still change the security policy to activate macros in all files. It's possible more users are doing that, or just absent-mindedly enabling macros in files they download from web sites, or aren't using the Trusted Locations feature in Microsoft Office.


This is why I highlight the words by default. It has always been Microsoft's standard/recommended setting to disable macros - but it has always been possible to change this setting to something else.


Microsoft is applying an extra security measure to keep users safe and encourage them to ask questions about the files they download. However, it is still possible to change this for certain files and enable macros.


Can I still use macro-enabled templates that I buy/download from you?


Short answer: Yes.


In the second article I linked above (https://support.microsoft.com/en-gb/topic/a-potentially-dangerous-macro-has-been-blocked-0952faa0-37e7-4316-b61d-5b5ed6024216) it describes how you can enable macros in files you trust.


In Windows Explorer, right-click the file with the macros, click on Properties and, at the bottom of the General tab, untick the Unblock box.

As of writing, I am yet to test this, however I imagine this will be a one-time activity - you unblock a file once and you don't have to keep going back to unblock it again.


I'm still really nervous about macros because of this news. What should I do?

The 2nd article asks three really good questions that users who download files with macros should ask themselves.


Q. Was I expecting to receive this file?

Q. Am I being encouraged to enable content by a stranger?

Q. Am I being encouraged to enable content by a pop-up message?


Undoubtedly, my clients who ask me to create macro-enabled files for them are expecting to receive these files!


Prior to the start of any project with a new/existing client, I have a talk with them - either on the phone or via an online call - to discuss the project and what's going to happen. There is plenty of email contact prior to me sending a macro-enabled template.


I also do not send macro-enabled templates as Word attachments, unless I know it's allowed by the recipient's security systems. They are sent via other means - either ones I can use or when clients provide permission to upload them to their systems.


I do not send macro-enabled templates "unannounced" - they have to be for a job that the recipient has commissioned me for.


As for the last point, I have no idea how to create that pop-up message, so my templates can't do that.


So it's still possible to use macros in Microsoft Word?

Yes it is. The articles above show how to enable them. There has been no announcement that Microsoft is banning the ability to create macros - if there were, that would mean wholesale changes to the Developer tab (such as the removal of the Record Macros buttons). These buttons and commands will remain.


My own personal opinion is that there is a huge industry in creating custom macros, mostly for Excel users - banning or blocking VBA macros outright could lose Microsoft a lot of professional and commercial Excel users, so would be counter-productive.


Using Trusted Locations in Microsoft Office


Regardless of whether you create or download macros from trusted sources, I encourage all users to save their custom macro-enabled templates in Trusted Locations.


For PC users, you can follow the instructions in this link: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/add-remove-or-change-a-trusted-location-7ee1cdc2-483e-4cbb-bcb3-4e7c67147fb4


For Mac users, open up Microsoft Word, go to Preferences and open File Locations.


Look at User templates and make a note of the file path. If one isn't there, or you want to change it, click on the Modify button.


That User templates file is your version of a "Trusted Location" folder. If you put a macro-enabled template in that folder, Word will open a copy of it and you won't have to enable the macros.




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