MSWord 2003 (SP2) is an excellent product, but like any such extremely
complex system, it can be expected to have problems.

If anyone showed you an empty tray and invited you to "Take one!", imagine
what you'd think of that behavior. MSWord does something exactly like this.
(While it's true that MSWord is only software, one or more persons are
responsible for every aspect of its behavior.) Consider the following:

Whenever menu item "Insert/Picture/From file..." is used, MSWord opens
"C:\Documents and Settings\username\Documents\My Pictures" as the source
directory. If no such directory exists (as is true on all configurations I
manage), MSWord actually creates a "My Pictures" directory and opens that
empty new directory as the source for files to be inserted.

[I believe this nonsensical behavior of MSWord is a direct result of
the shift toward marketing computers as entertainment appliances for
the masses, instead of professional tools for increasing productivity.
While this shift has been spectacularly successful in selling
computer systems (which has reduced costs for all of us), it has
necessarily included extensive "dumbing-down" of the user interface.
Of course, a beginner's interface is a useful idea, and, with a
much painstaking effort, it's possible to strip away much it to achieve
a more efficient interface. But inexplicably, designers have chosen to
make it extremely difficult or impossible to remove completely many
aspects of the restrictive and encumbering beginner's interface,
including childish devices such as the pervasive "My this and My that"
nomenclature.]

Unable to find an option in MSWord for specifying an alternate directory as
the source for "Insert/Picture/From file...", I took the advice at
http://skp.mvps.org/ppt00039.htm. This site suggested adding string value
"My Pictures" to
"HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Curre ntVersion\Explorer\User
Shell Folders", and setting its value data to specify the desired
directory.

It worked: After making the suggested addition to the registry, MSWord's
"Insert/Picture/From file..." menu item opened the directory I specified in
the value data, and even better, it no longer created the silly
"My Pictures" directory.

But later, I found that adding the value to the registry had side effects
on my XP SP2 system, leading to at least three serious failures (It's
likely that other failures would've occurred as well, if I had tested for
them.):

1. Downloads from Internet Explorer failed. The "Downloading" dialog
would appear, but after clicking "Save", the dialog would freeze.
It was necessary to use the Task Manager to kill the download
process.

2. Attempts to export a registry key failed. The system would show an
error message indicating that an access error had been generated
in comdlg32.dll (access to address 0x00000000).

3. Any attempt to download a picture from Internet Explorer would
immediately close the browser, without warning.

Removing the "My Pictures" value from the registry corrected these
failures.

Every experienced user of Window knows that changing or deleting anything
in the registry is risky, but my experience here show that simply *adding*
a value to the Windows XP registry can have undesired side effects.

The failure of the registry addition on my system was in no manner any
fault of the site which offered the advice. I've sent an e-mail message to
the contact listed at the site, thanking him for his generosity in sharing
his ideas. (I did describe to him the unexpected side-effects I observed on
my configuration, for his consideration in case he's heard of similar
things.)

--Dr. S.L. Sanders 2006nov19