Q&A: why do I have to quit my web browser when I install Office:Mac 2011?

Via email, I got this question:

I installed Office 2011 last night.  I had Safari and Firefox open, but was forced to quit them during the Office install.  Why?

During the installation of Office:Mac, we install fonts.  Web browsers, since they’re heavily reliant on fonts, don’t particularly like it when you change fonts out from under them while they’re running.  If you install a font that the browser is using, then it’s likely to not display that font properly until you restart your browser.  To avoid this kind of issue, we simply ask you to close down your browser for a couple of minutes.

On a related note, Jim asked this in the comments thread in my post about latest Office 2008 and 2004 updates:

Why does the update to Office insist that I quit Safari????

Our updater uses some of the same code as our installer, and that’s one of the pieces we reuse.  We reuse that particular piece of code because an update could include font updates.

9 thoughts on “Q&A: why do I have to quit my web browser when I install Office:Mac 2011?”

  1. I always thought it was because you were installing browser plugins (the SharePoint plugin that enables open-document-in-Office-app buttons in the Web Apps). Does that play a role or is it solely for fonts?

    1. Browsers are much better about dealing with the installation of plug-ins than they are about dealing with font changes.

  2. This sounds like a specious rationalization: *every* application uses fonts. What about Preview, whose specific purpose is a text renderer? What about other design apps? What about the scores of other apps you know nothing about?

    Unless there is more to the story, that explanation holds no water. By that reasoning, you should be trying to quit every damn app on the system.

    I know Microsoft has a style of doing things backwards, but it’s not the early 90’s anymore!


    1. Sure, pretty much every app uses fonts, but they’re rarely using them to paint live pages constantly as web browsers do. Apps that install fonts ask you to close your browser before installing that app. Some apps go further, for the reasons you cite, and ask you to close down everything. That’s probably the best in terms of system hygiene, although given that most people run leave multiple apps running all the time, asking users to quit everything makes them pretty cranky (as evinced by your comment).

      A couple of minutes of web searching, or simply searching in the Apple support discussion forums, will turn up mountains of issues with regards to installing fonts while your web browser is still running.

  3. Clearly, then, the bug lies with Safari (or the apps that can’t cope with changing fonts), or perhaps more appropriately, the underlying OS.

    It blows my mind that in 2010 and Mac OS 10.6 font references apparently aren’t cached automatically by an application when it launches.

    This isn’t something that third-party apps should be trying to \helpfully\ (read: forcibly) work around.


  4. Font related – I just installed Mac Office 2011 and the fonts in certain emails (such as LinkedIn) all changed to an ‘A’ in a square box. I have now removed Office and the fonts have reverted back to normal. Any suggestions ?

    1. Without knowing which mail application you’re using, it’s hard to be certain, but my guess is that you would simply need to either fully quit the mail app in question and relaunch it, or reboot your system. If that doesn’t work, then we’ll do some more troubleshooting.

  5. You need to fix this behaviour.

    a) Most browsers are using built-in system fonts. You should not be replacing or overriding them anyway.

    b) There must be some way to do it, since I don’t have to quit my browsers to install iWork.

    c) If there’s anyone out there who can convince Apple to change the font installation behaviour, it’s Microsoft. File a bug report. Attach all the complaints you get. Get on their ass.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to close all of my tabs and quit my browser while I install this bloody software.

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