Dealing with links embedded in Excel

McDermott, Michael michael_mcdermott at
Wed Sep 28 18:12:43 BST 2011

Dear Shib Users,
A crafty user has created a report that generates an excel file which will
display a list of errors for their problem domain and a link to the specific
record in the web application that manages that domain.  The application is
protected by shibboleth.  All of the individual links work, they just do not
work in when clicking them in Excel in Windows.

It seems that this problem is documented:

After some debugging, this is clearly an Excel problem, the root of which
seems to be that Excel makes the initial http call and does not invoke the
browser until it gets an http 200 response code (and in a normal interaction
there would be a few redirects before you get to the login page).  The
effect is that the user's browser arrives at the Shibboleth IdP login
screen, not knowing which SP this request is for and so the process fails
after login.  I have tried to work through this with both SP and IdP
initiated AuthN and since they both use redirects, the error is the same.

On the surface it seems like there is a problem with Shibboleth,
particularly since a diligent, non technical user will paste the link into
their browser to confirm it works at all before calling.

As in the preceding posts, I do not have a work around in Excel (e.g. a way
to make Excel open the browser and then pass in the link), so if someone
does, please let me know.

At the very least this might server as a warning to others that this issue
exists and your IdP works fine.

Michael J. McDermott
Lead Developer, Identity and Access Management
Brown University
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