Scott Hanselman

Fix: "General Failure" while launching FireFox URLs from Outlook

April 11, '07 Comments [9] Posted in Musings
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There seems to be an ongoing chaotic series of bugs, or bug, around "Set as Default Browser" and FireFox. Recently I updated my FireFox to and suddenly whenever I click on a URL in Outlook I get a message box with "General Failure." Occasionally I'll get a "Locate Link Browser" message as well.

The issue seems to be some of the old Windows DDE stuff where a DDE message is sent to an application after it started up to pass information - in this case, the URL. Today, we prefer to pass the URL on the command line. It also makes for a faster launch.

Even though this was a problem with FireFox 0.9, it's still happening today. (I'm not the only one). John Haller has a fix in the form of a Registry File.

You can also make the change yourself in the Explorer UI via Tools|Options|FileTypes. Go to the ones marked (NONE) and start with URL:HyperText...and go to Advanced, then Edit the Open action and clear out the DDE Message TextBox.

Unrelated Aside: John's even got a theme and tools and hacks to make FireFox 2 look like IE. Stunning.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007 10:09:37 PM UTC
this seems to happen after every few Windows Updates. I normally avoid it by launching firefox immediately after the required reboot. Firefox will say it isn't the default browser and I will make it so, then I avoid the Outlook problem.
Thursday, April 12, 2007 12:56:31 AM UTC
It's deja-vu all over again:

Three years ago, same problem! Will it ever go away? I wondered why that old pages started picking up a bunch of new comments.
Monday, April 16, 2007 4:55:29 PM UTC
Hi Scott,

I made this change... and while it works as advertised, it's worth noting that when opening those URLS in Firefox (using Outlook or FeedDemon is the common use case for me), the application changes focus. That is, if I click the URL in an Outlook message then Firefox opens a new tab -- but the Outlook message window changes focus.

Put the DDE Message back in and this no longer happens (but you have to deal with the lame failure messagebox).

Hopefully some future updates will resolve things so that focus doesn't change AND we don't have the error message...
Sunday, May 27, 2007 3:12:48 AM UTC
What program is this found in? I looked in Windows (Vista) Explorer, IE7, Firefox, and Outlook, and don't see the menu choices you are referring to - thanks.

"You can also make the change yourself in the Explorer UI via Tools|Options|FileTypes. Go to the ones marked (NONE) and start with URL:HyperText...and go to Advanced, then Edit the Open action and clear out the DDE Message TextBox."
Thursday, May 31, 2007 3:17:22 PM UTC
Question: What program is this found in?

Answer: In Vista, Control Panel > Default Programs > Associate a file type or protocol with a program. File Types are no longer listed in Folder Options applet.
Thursday, June 07, 2007 8:58:12 PM UTC
Actually, the vista version of the control panel does not have the entries referred to here, nor the ability to edit the DDE information. Does anyone know how to do this in Vista?
Thursday, June 07, 2007 9:14:39 PM UTC
Nevermind, went into the registry and edited it there, removing the DDE entries doesn't fix the problem.
Friday, June 08, 2007 5:13:52 AM UTC
Okay, after my failures (that I posted about in the previous two comments), I can finally report success! After a little digging with process monitor, it looks like the fix will work in Vista, but you have to edit a different registry key. I posted about it here.

This fixed the issue for me, hopefully it will for any of you on Vista.
Friday, June 08, 2007 5:35:11 AM UTC
Doh, looks like Mozilla already had a knowledgebase article up here:
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.