Overcoming three Tricky Problems in MS Word

By January 16, 2015Uncategorized

We frequently come across issues with MS Word ranging from simple usability problems to bizarre bugs that have no explanation. Recently we came across three issues in Word 2007 (yes 2007 is still used by many companies in technical writing) that we’d like to share solutions for.

The first problem is a very bizarre one: when running an update on a document that contains a “list of figures” populated from the document’s figure captions, we found that in some cases one or more of the figures themselves will actually appear in the list after the update completes.

Our initial solution, or rather workaround, until we could track down the cause, was to manually delete the figure(s) from the list each time we ran an update. This however isn’t practical especially when there are a large number of figures with this problem, but luckily we stumbled upon the culprit.

In short, we discovered that sometimes there is a missing line feed between the figure and the figure caption. Thus, inserting a line feed just after the picture/diagram (i.e. to the right of it) seem to clear up the problem.

The second problem we found is that spell check does not execute sometimes (i.e. it doesn’t display any messages that it has completed). This is different from another similar problem we discovered in the past where spell check was executing, but not actually finding any spelling errors. However, the solution is the same: close the document and ensure that all other Word documents are also closed. You may even want to use the Windows Task Manger to ensure that Word is no longer running in the background. Then, re‑open Word and proceed to execute the spell check again.

The third problem we encountered was incorrect numbering for Heading 2, 3 etc. where by the numbering for these heading levels would always start at 1.x or 1.x.x whenever a new section using Heading 1 was inserted, instead of using the current chapter number from the Heading 1 title.

The cause was due to existing numbering having already being assigned directly in the Heading 2 and Heading 3 styles even though these heading styles were also assigned in outline numbering. The solution is to open the styles, then click on Format-Numbering, and then select “None” for the numbering library, even though “None” is already highlighted (note to MS: this is a usability bug). Upon returning out of this numbering dialog, the numbering information will disappear from the style’s summary, and will disappear from the preview in the styles window. The final step is to click on text using Heading 1, then select Define New Multi Level list from the list dropdown on the Home tab and ensure that each level is assigned to the correct heading style in the outline numbering.