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Fixing Word and Word Document Problems on the Macintosh

Tony R Williams

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As word processing is one of the most common tasks performed by users it is also one of the most common source of problems. This article outlines my methods for diagnosing and fixing problems in Microsoft Word running on the Macintosh. It also demonstrates my core method for examining most application support issues.

Step one in diagnosing these problems is to discover if the problem is application specific, machine specific or document specific. Let's look at an example.

The user tells us “Word won't print to my printer. " Our first step is to check that the problem is just Word. Open another application, Text Edit is perfect, and create a small document - just the word “Testing" is perfect - and see if that will print. If this fails then we know we have a general printing problem and can address that. If it succeeds then re-open Word and create the same small document. If this prints then we know we have a document specific problem; if it doesn't we have a problem printing from within Word. The same steps can be taken with other Word and document problems, remember that Text Edit can open and save Word documents for diagnosing other problems.

Document Problems

If there is a document problem then we need to repair the document. Our first step should be to physically copy the document, this will probably not work as a repair step but will at least give us a copy to work on rather than the original. Second, create a new document in Word and copy and paste the entire text from our original into the new document. If this doesn't work then try opening the document in Text Edit and save a copy in Word format with a new name such as “Document name - repaired", you may, however, lose some formatting with this as Text Edit does not support all Word formatting.

If none of these work (or you lose too much formatting) then you may be forced to create several Word document containing parts of the file to discover exactly what is causing the problem, note that it is usually the beginning or end of the document or one section (for documents containing sections) inside the document that is causing the problem.

Word Problems

Problems in Word can usually be split into three types, the application itself, the preferences and the user data. The best course of action is to address all three at once.

The Microsoft uninstall process is notorious for its inability to remove all the preferences on the Mac system so do it by hand by dragging them to the trash. They can be found in :-

Library:Application Support:Microsoft Library:Preferences:com. microsoft. * Users:user_name:Library:Application Support:Microsoft Users:user_name:Library:Preferences:com. microsoft. *

(user_name is the name of the user and the ‘* is a wildcard meaning multiple files all starting the same but ending differently. )

Now drag the “Microsoft Office 2004" folder to the trash then empty the trash.

Finally in the users “Documents" folder is a folder called “Microsoft User Data". If the user uses Entourage then this contains their mail, otherwise it just contains some user specific set up information. To be safe, rather than just delete it right click on it (or control click on one button mice) and select “Create a archive of Microsoft User Data"which will zip up the folder then delete it.

Now re-install Office (using the Installer rather than the drag and drop method) and the problem should have gone.

If this doesn't work then you have a deeper problem. At this point the most likely problem is with the user account itself. Create a new user and test to see if you still have the problem. If it has gone then you should set up the new user identical to the old user and transfer all their documents. If that doesn't work then you have a serious operating system problem and should seriously consider a re-install.

Tony Williams has been involved in the IT industry for 25 years as a programmer, magazine editor, software support technician, system administrator and IT Manager. He is currently Macintosh systems administrator at a major Australian University and founder of Macintosh Tech People , a web site for Macintosh sysadmins and tech support folk.


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