Tools: Rescuing corrupt Word documents

Subject: Tools: Rescuing corrupt Word documents
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: CEL <copyediting-l -at- listserv -dot- indiana -dot- edu>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 29 Jan 2006 09:47:14 -0500

Of interest to those who occasionally grapple with corrupt Word files: Over the past year, I've encountered a handful of files that were corrupt in uniquely interesting ways that would reliably crash Word whether I opened the file, inserted it in a new document, or copied everything except the final paragraph marker into a new document. No luck.

In a fit of desperation, I tried importing the corrupt files in Adobe's InDesign CS software, and wondrous to behold, it opened every last file with not so much as a hiccup. It let me recover the full text of the files, and even some of the graphics. (I say 'some' because I didn't check all the graphics... just deleted them from the file because that was part of the edit procedure anyway. The recovery may have been 100%, but I simply didn't check this.)

Copy and paste them into a new Word document and away you go. I won't swear that this will recover everything from a truly amazingly corrupt file, but it's gotten me out of several sticky situations I couldn't solve in any other way... and as you know, I'm fairly creative. <g> (Yes, I wrote a fan letter to the Adobe development team. They were quite pleased to receive this feedback, but did not comment on my suggestion that maybe they could share their "open file" code with Microsoft. <g>)

You lose tracked changes in this approach (all insertions and deletions are accepted, and the comments seem to disappear where I couldn't retrieve them), but you can at least get the text back, nice and clean. That leads me to a bonus tip: If you've tracked your edits, reached the last line of the file, and saved it before corruption struck, persevere! Recover the file as described above, producing a "final" document with all edits accepted. Open the original document from the author, open the Tools menu, select Track Changes, then select Compare documents. Compare the original with the Word file you created using the text recovered from InDesign. After a bit of chugging, the resulting document contains your original edits correctly tracked.

But what if the resulting document also contains the seeds of corruption? Bonus bonus tip: Call in "Spike"! (No, not James Marsters. <g>) Word lets you select text, including tracked changes, rip it out of the document, and jab it onto a virtual spike--like those things they use in paperbound offices to impale bills and correspondence--for future use. You can then paste that text anywhere you want, just as if you had copied the text to the regular clipboard--but without losing tracked changes.

To copy text to the spike, first turn off revision tracking (important!) if you don't want the removed text treated as a deletion, and definitely turn it off before inserting the spiked text so you won't lose the tracked changes. Next, select the target text and press Control/Command-F3 (Windows/Mac) to spike the text; to unspike it <g> and paste it into the new location, position the cursor at the new location, and press Control/Command-Shift-F3. If you're trying to forestall corruption, copy everything except the final paragraph marker and paste it into a squeaky clean new document.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - --
Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


Now Shipping -- WebWorks ePublisher Pro for Word! Easily create online
Help. And online anything else. Redesigned interface with a new
project-based workflow. Try it today!

Doc-To-Help includes a one-click RoboHelp project converter. It's that easy. Watch the demo at

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- infoinfocus -dot- com -dot-
To unsubscribe send a blank email to techwr-l-unsubscribe -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
or visit

To subscribe, send a blank email to techwr-l-join -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to lisa -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Previous by Author: Items in a Series and Comma Use?
Next by Author: The Technical Writer vs. Agile Development Methodologies
Previous by Thread: Re: Showing FrameMaker structure view to writers/reviewers without FrameMaker
Next by Thread: CE marking

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads