Need help with a Word bug

I need help debugging this.

word bugThe image on the left is a screenshot of Word 2011 bug effects that are standing in the path of a book am finishing. If you click on it you’ll go to a larger image with mouse-over notes explaining the problem, which I’ll detail here in slightly greater length.

While the Print view looks fine, and clicking on any text shows the correct style in the Styles toolbox, the Outline view has big problems. Lines of normal text, regardless of formatting, show up in the Outline view as Level 1. They also show up as Level 1 or 2 in the Document Map Pane sidebar, which is the pane on the left.

“The Comity of the Commons” is Heading 2. So is “Agency,” though it shows up as something between Level 2 and 3. The other items flush-left are all normal text that Word has elevated to Heading 1, even though they are not.

I use this pane to navigate around the book, which is close to 300 pages and over 80,000 words. Having so many illegitimate Heading 1’s and Heading 2’s makes navigating nearly impossible using the Document Map Pane sidebar.

I can very temporarily fix the problem by clicking on the line of text incorrectly seen by word as Heading 1 or 2, clearing the formatting, and re-formatting it if necessary. But that takes me about an hour each time this happens, and it’s a huge PITA. And then it goes back to this state anyway.

Word’s AutoRecovery works rarely, and when it does, the AutoRecovered file has the same problem. FWIW, I don’t use any fancy formatting, instead relying on Word’s own default Headings and other styles.

Bonus problem: If I view and save in Outline view, ALL TEXT gets turned into Level 1, and the document is hosed. I just have to go back to the last good copy.

I have wasted my time on the phone already with Microsoft support, which was useless.

I have invested some time with Craig Burton on the phone. He opened one of my screwed-up book drafts in his Windows version of Word 2011, and the doc was screwed up in exactly the same way.

So the docs (.docx) are being screwed up, somehow. It’s not a display issue. It’s embedded in the file itself. And unscrewing the problem doesn’t help, because the file screws up again anyway. The document doesn’t appear to be screwed in Print view; but in Outline view, and in the Document View Pane sidebar, it is screwed. So, as it’s going now, I’ll be turning in a document that can only be used in Print view.

Any clues or help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. And please don’t tell me not to use Word. I wish I didn’t have to; but it’s a requirement if I want to get this book finished and in.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give.

[Later…] Autoflowering, below, gave me an answer I tried before — saving the file as a .doc instead of a .docx — and seeing if that worked. It didn’t the first time, but it did this time, and has been working for more than a day now. I’m not convinced that the file isn’t still corrupted in some way, but it seems to work fine. So, thanks to everybody for your help.


  1. Mike Warot’s avatar

    I know you probably can’t, but is there any chance you could use OpenOffice and save it as a .docx?

    Earlier today I recovered a broken Word 2000 document using it, and it’s a lot more liberal in what it can deal with than Word itself.

  2. Doc Searls’s avatar

    For reasons I don’t have time to plumb, OpenOffice scrambles my footnotes and endnotes, and loses half of them in the process. The footnotes are also mostly in what looks like Japanese, and bullets are in some kind of upside-down V. Graphics come across okay. Page breaks are lost of misinterpreted. Headers fine, margins fine. Still, not useful at this stage.

    But, worth a try. So I tried. FWIW, I don’t blame OpenOffice for that. It just iz what it iz.

  3. Karl Hakkarainen’s avatar

    I posted a comment in the Flickr thread. Basically, it’s possible to have paragraphs assigned to outline levels that don’t necessarily correspond to their appearance in text.

  4. Hanan Cohen’s avatar

    I have learned that what usually helps in this kind of situations is using the style brush.

    “I don’t know what the problem is and I don’t know how to fix it but I want THIS text to be formatted exactly like the OTHER text”.

    Works every time.

    (The problem is that often I waste time fighting with Word and only then re-remember this method)

  5. John Wunderlich’s avatar

    Posted my comment in the Flickr thread. Try isolating the heading line by adding an extra line after it.

  6. David Scott Williams’s avatar

    I have never published a book — but .. aren’t there people for that at the publishing house?

  7. David Scott Williams’s avatar

    You’re building a table of contents, right? I have had similar things happen… I think if the line after the heading you remove all style, and then re-style, it can sometimes help…

    I try to avoid Word whenever possible, but it is not usually possible at work.

  8. David Scott Williams’s avatar

    Oops–should have read the post…you already do the clear/re formatting step

  9. Doug Skoglund’s avatar

    Hey, Doc — have you tried Word on a Windows machine?? You must know somebody with a Windows machine — right??

    Sorry, Doc, but I really am serious.

  10. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Doug. I actually have a Windows machine here. It’s a Linux dual-boot ThinkPad. It doesn’t have Office on it, but I could get Office, I suppose. In any case, time’s up. The publisher gave me until today to get it in, and I did, even though there are flaws with the document. They told me they’ll fix the document before I get it back on the edit round.

    Not clear if the problem is something Word does to the document, or that the document got hosed in some way that Word can’t fix.

    By the way, as I added above, the problem with the document is identical on Craig Burton’s Windows machine. He runs Windows, Mac and Linux at his shop, and in any case replicated the problem.

    Thanks, everybody.

  11. Todd’s avatar

    Happy to hear that it’s out the door! You must be so relieved.

  12. Doug Skoglund’s avatar

    Doc, let me reinforce my recommendation — until you have identified the cause of the problems you must assume all these versions to be possible causes. And since Word has been around for a long time you may have to go back to an old version of windows — Windows 2000/Windows 98 with an old version of Word may be the best answer.

    BTW, maybe you want to come out here and use my W2000 machine — and see my database at the same time. Bring an old copy of Word with you.

  13. firmaekle’s avatar

    BTW, maybe you want to come out here and use my W2000 machine — and see my database at the same time. Bring an old copy of Word with you.

  14. Autoflowering’s avatar

    As a possible solution or workaround, try saving the document as a previous version of MS word / .doc.
    You can also see if the problem remains after exporting the document to Open Office. These are both workarounds and also ways of isolating the issue to your specific version / install of MS Word. Worth a try anyway as you have a lot of text there and need a quick and easy way of solving this format issue

  15. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Autoflowering, I’ve tried both of those already, and neither worked. But I just tried them again, and your first suggestion did work. I’m keeping the document in .doc for now, and we should be home free.


  16. Peter Bernacki’s avatar

    Writing a book in word is your first problem. Ever hear of Adobe?

  17. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Peter, did you read my whole post? I said “please don’t tell me not to use Word. I wish I didn’t have to; but it’s a requirement.”

    If I could have written it in Open Office, or a text editor, I would have.

    Adobe for what, btw? Acrobat is only good or producing .pdfs, far as I know.

  18. David Scott Williams’s avatar

    I would think that a publisher as enlightened as to publish The Intention Economy would be enlightened enough to have an Open Standards based doc format option as well 😉


    PS- Not thinking Adobe — thinking “Open Office”

  19. Engkoh’s avatar

    @Autoflowering: thanks for your help. I got same problem with you, Searl.
    I tried today after go to home.

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