MS Excel confounds me

In: Fun

23 Feb 2004

This is the error message I get when I try to open 2 documents with the same name, but in different directories, in Microsoft Excel:

A document with the name ‘’ is already open. You cannot open two documents with the same name, even if the documents are in different folders.
To open the second document, either close the document that’s currently open, or rename one of the documents.

Emphasis mine. Why can’t I? We’ll never know how Excel is implemented (unless there’s a MS Office source code leak), but this is pretty dumb if you ask me, considering how easy it is to get by this technical difficulty. Perhaps there is some perfectly rational explanation why there is absolutely no way that Excel would be able to work with 2 documents of the same name, or if there is, it is more work than it’s worth. I’d like to hear that explanation.

Oh wait, I believe I should Google it. Hmm… Toby Allen reports the same thing, and Joel Spolsky has this plausible explanation:

“I think it’s because when you have an external reference (of the form foo.xls!A1) they only had 8 bytes in the data structure to store the file name. It’s kind of shocking that 10 years later nobody has fixed this, …

Well, still not fixed in Office 2003.

15 Responses to MS Excel confounds me



February 23rd, 2004 at 4pm

Heh, wierd. I just noticed that the problem is non-existent on MS Word though. By the way, this comment edit box gives a js error everytime you type a character into it in IE 6 *ducks for cover*


Cheah Chu Yeow

February 23rd, 2004 at 5pm

Thanks for pointing that out (the comments textarea JavaScript error). I’d forgotten to remove some old code I was trying out for an automatic comment preview box. Didn’t quite work out and thought it wasn’t worth the trouble anyway. Or maybe just a combination of sour grapes and a hurt ego.

Fixed it.


Stephan Segraves

February 23rd, 2004 at 11pm

I have noticed this as well and I think it may have to do with Excel trying to keep track of all of the ‘sheets’ that you are using at that time and keeping them from being overwritten. As far as I can tell it takes the name of the file and only uses it as a reference (for where to save, etc.) while using the actual file name only for the editing. That is the only thing that makes sense to me… It is an annoying and stupid problem though.



February 26th, 2004 at 3pm

I wonder if Open Office has the same problem? I’m doing my best to de-Microsoft my life these days, and you’ve just given me another reason to do so.



March 20th, 2004 at 3pm

well, all softwares have their own problems. without microsoft office, open office won’t have improved as much till today… in term of usability and interface

everyone is learning from everyone.

maybe that’s one of the problem they shd have fixed it, but maybe there are really some reason for that.

yah… hurt ego, that might be a reason for ppl who held themselves highly, Bill Gates & co.?



April 1st, 2004 at 5am

I have received the same error but i have only one file open! Recently upgraded the OS from t 4 to 2000 pro. Any sugestions on fixing this?


Cheah Chu Yeow

April 2nd, 2004 at 9pm

Michael: That’s strange. I really have no idea. Perhaps you could re-install MS Office?



April 4th, 2004 at 3am

You can’t open files with the same name in Excel. You have to change the name of one of them. If you get the error that 2 files are open and you only have one file open, your macro’s are pointing to the file that has the macro’s you want to use. Fix that by updating the macro’s on your current file and remove the referrence to the original or other file. Example your macro says “U:\time!macro1” delete “U:\time!” and your macro will work fine.


Bill Gates

December 11th, 2004 at 2am

I fixed it as follows.

1) First, I made sure nothing was corrupted in Office by reinstalling it from the CD (although, the re-install said that it could not install something related to html. This did not affect me, though)

2) I noticed that I only had this problem with one worksheet, in particular, that had many worksheets within it (ie. I did not get this error message if I created a new worksheet, and then tried to open it).

3) So, I created a new worksheet, and migrated worksheets from my original, one by one, to the new worksheet (saving, opening, and closing both worksheets after I made a change), until I found a worksheet that caused the problem (ie. I could now open my original without the error, after I moved one of the worksheets out, and the othe worksheet had the error).

4) So, now the problem worksheet was in a different, separate worksheet.

5) I created a blank worksheet within my original.

6) I transferred the data back (copy and pasted) from the one causing the problem, to the original.

7) I think that is what fixed it, but I also noticed that under Insert / Name / Define, many of my Go To macros pointed to outdated range definitions, and referenced other worksheets, so I also deleted all of those also. The probably wouldn’t have been a cause of the problem, though, as they only do something when you click on them. I deleted them anyway, though, because they were sloppy and inaccurate.

8) Conclusion: When you go to Tools / Macros / Macros – I find that the problem worksheet does not have any macros in it. I think the problem has to do with the part of the error message that says a problem could result from the use of templates – which means copying and pasting a worksheet, on which to do updates, which I did.



January 16th, 2005 at 5pm

This solution worked for me:

Try the usual fix(es) for this problem.

Tools>Options>General uncheck “Ignore other Applications”
Exit Excel and try again

If this doesn’t work try to re-register Excel

Close Excel first and
On the Windows Taskbar

1) Start>Run “excel.exe /unregserver”(no quotes)>OK.
2) Start>Run “excel.exe /regserver”(no quotes)>OK.
See the space between exe and /regserver

You might have to designate a full path to excel.exe.
In that case Start>Run “C:\yourpath\excel.exe /regserver”(no quotes)>OK.

Gord Dibben Excel MVP
< <<<< Extract from


Richard A Clifton
Kestrel Programming Ltd



May 23rd, 2006 at 3am

Repair the file association for Microsoft Excel files.

Click Start, Run, and enter excel /regserver
Insert the Microsoft Office installation media if prompted to do so.
Applies to
Microsoft Office (any version)



May 26th, 2006 at 12am

Good call Richard that worked for me, did the Click Start, Run, and enter excel /regserver, I open an excel file reassociated it and no more errors.



Corrupt Excel Repair

August 17th, 2007 at 1pm

Not only error for excel but also present everywhere, to impossible to open the same name document at the same time. If you are trying to open then you are doing confused to pc. Because if you give wrong input then it will give wrong output.

Thank you

Damon Thomas


Excel Fix

September 8th, 2007 at 3pm

You can not open two the same name excels files even if both files are different folder where as two word files can open at the same time. I think this may be the condition of the coding of excel program.

Thank you
Damon Thomas


MS Excel Trainee

September 14th, 2007 at 7am

Love Excel, but never knew such a simple thing does not have a workaround yet.

However, I see how references across two different files can create problems for Excel if the filenames are the same. Requiring unique names surely is a fix, but not a good fix.