Phantom Links in Microsoft Office Files

Users have reported to us that LinkFixer Advanced “sees” (and reports) more links than they are able to find in their Microsoft Office files.

When you are dealing with file formats at the level necessary to do what we do at LinkTek, and when you do it all day long, you run into all kinds of interesting phenomena.

So we investigated.

We had a few questions like: What are these links that our software is finding but no one else sees? Is LinkFixer Advanced seeing “dead people”? (I have a dog that my wife and I are convinced sees dead people — or at least she thinks she does.)

I had a couple of our software engineers look at the raw data contained in files sent to us by customers who had reported this paranormal file activity. Long story short, we have come to the conclusion that these phantom links do exist in the files when LinkFixer Advanced reports them. (Whew! The software is not delusional after all.)

This is a LinkFixer Advanced report showing two broken links instead of one. So what’s important about this? Keep reading to find out.

Ghost-ChainTurns out that these ghostly links are relics left over from times that they were modified using the application (for example, Excel). In essence, they are earlier iterations (versions) of links, and are no longer actually doing anything.

We did the following test: We modified a link in an Excel file using Excel 2013. We just opened the Excel file and made a change to part of a link.

Beware of the phantom file link!

The result was a duplicated link that was reported by LinkFixer Advanced but not visible in the file itself. (The link does nothing.) On the other hand, if instead of modifying the link using Excel, we delete it entirely and replace it with a new correct link, no “phantom” link is created.

It is important to note that phantom links only happen when modifying links directly inside the Microsoft Office application. If you have LinkFixer Advanced modify your links, no phantoms are created.

We have never figured out why the Office applications retain the internal data that leads to these phantom links. Fortunately, phantom links do not have any adverse effect on your files (that we know of) nor on the operation of LinkFixer Advanced.

Do you have questions regarding this article? Let us know in the comments below or e-mail us at: [email protected]

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