Uncorrupting a MacWord document

A Word document is made up of containers and data. For instance, the main document is a container of sections, sections are containers of paragraphs, paragraphs are containers of words (or sentences), words are containers of characters, etc. Each container has properties (data) and objects (other containers) associated with it. Paragraphs have a style property, for example "Body Text", that refer to the document's "Body Text" style object (which contains properties such as Font, Borders, Numbering, etc). The graphical representation of document, section, and paragraph containers is the "paragraph mark" or pilcrow:


To see the paragraph marks in your document, type CMD-8, or click the Show/Hide button on the Standard toolbar:

When documents corrupt, a large percentage of the time the corruption occurs in the document information container, which is represented by the last paragraph mark in the document. Removing the corrupt information consists of copying the entire document, except for the last paragraph mark:

Paste the clipboard into a fresh new document. The corrupted document information will be left behind, and Word will recreate much of it in the new document. Save the file. This should fix a large proportion of bad documents.

Other methods

If the document is too corrupt to open in MacWord using File/Open, there are some other methods that you can try...

Find a Windows buddy

WinWord 2002 and WinWord 2003 have some advanced methods of recovering corrupted files. If you have access to either of those applications, try opening and performing a Save As on the file.

Open with OpenOffice

I've had success opening corrupted Word documents in OpenOffice. OpenOffice is a Unix-based application suite which requires an X Window System like Apple's X11. Copy the text to a new document.

Just the Text, Ma'am

As a last resort, you can use Word v.X or 2004's File/Open/Recover Text from Any File mode to recover just the text portion (usually along with some garbage that you'll need to remove):

Be aware that in Word v.X this is a "sticky" setting - you have to explicitly set the mode back to All Word Documents (or whatever) the next time you open a document using File/Open.

Valid XHTML 1.1Valid CSSMade on a Macintosh

Quick Links

Updated? Check Mactopia Downloads for the latest updates.

Figure out which v.X update you have.