The problem occurs when Outlook is installed over Exchange, Microsoft's previous email client. After installation, a user can still go back and launch Exchange, but doing so automatically launches Outlook in the background and eats up system resources.
The patch, which Microsoft calls a "Forms Fix," automatically reconfigures the system to avoid the dual launch when the user selects the Exchange program. The Forms Fix patch is still in beta, but it replaces another patch called "Switch Forms" which originally shipped with the Office 97 value pack.
The Switch Forms patch will remain available, however, because "Forms Fix" might not work in all circumstances, Microsoft representatives said.
The fix-of-a-fix is not the only instance of Microsoft taking more than one stab at remedying an Office 97 bug. The company announced last week that the Office 97 "service release" in July would include a comprehensive fix to the Word file format incompatibility problem that has irked Office users since the new suite's launch in January.
Microsoft says that it has been able to address most compatibility problems between Word 97, 95, and 6.x files, but the problem won't be 100 percent covered until July.
The July release will also include a patch that prevents the WordMail email client--different than the Outlook and the Exchange email clients--from opening when Word 97 is launched.
The Outlook-Exchange and WordMail bugs were first reported last week by Windows Magazine.