Yet another MS Word issue

Track Changes used to have a sliding On-Off switch. Move to On, and Track Changes remained in effect even when exiting Word or closing the doc and reopening it. Where did the On-Off switch go? Now the options are “Just Mine” and “Everyone.” OK, fine. But, after closing and re-opening the doc, Just Mine is no longer selected, and new revisions do not show unless I first re-select Just Mine, which I always forget to do.

Is it Just Me?


Hello Simon,

I’m running Catalina, and the toggle switch is absent here as well.

I got bit by a different change that may have happened about the same time. You can no longer run a manual spellcheck if you are not in REVIEW mode. If you’re just using the default “HOME” mode, going to tools lets you turn HIDE SPELLING ERRORS off and on, but does not let you run a spellcheck. You can only run a manual spellcheck if you are in REVIEW mode, where Spelling & Grammar shows up on the left end of the top bar, and lets you do a manual spell check. This bug – “new feature” – was introduced in a recent upgrade, but I didn’t notice it at the time. It’s also really annoying because it broke how spellchecking had always worked for me, turning it off unless I used the “REVIEW” mode, which I also hadn’t noticed. Sneaking in new “features” that change functionality is nasty!

Are others seeing this? The only thing that I can think of that might affect me in particular is that I carefully turn off all Autocorrect features because I don’t like software changing words when I’m not looking.

Hello Jeff,

I think the deal is that MS changed the Classic Spell Checker to the “Editor,” and that’s the reason for the lost functionality. If not, don’t bother reading the remainder of this message.

You can get back the Classic Spell Checker with a macro described here:

It’s been three years since I tried it, and it took me quite a while because I don’t know anything about Word macros. So I had to find info elsewhere on how to create a macro. I ended up with this:

Sub SpellCheck()
' SpellCheck Macro
End Sub

It works. You will not get a new menu item; you have to assign a keyboard command to invoke the Classic Spell Checker.

Perhaps someone on the list knows about creating Word macros.


Thanks, Howard. I’m not sure it’s exactly the same thing because I can’t generate the Spellcheck dialog anywhere without being in the “Review” mode, but otherwise is sounds very similar.

I find it annoying, but not enough to go messing around with Macros to override it. What really bothers me is breaking essential functionality without warning users. I make my living writing, so I was turning in articles without thorough spellchecking because MS had essentially turned off the feature. It’s not just me; so far I’ve talked with two editors and it was new to both of them as well.

As a professional writer, I use Word only where I have to, which is for Change Tracking while working with editing, for using references, and for using formulas, but it’s becoming dysfunctional. Change tracking now slows editing down my typing is much faster than the response of my 2018 MacMini (a problem that only occurs with Change Tracking on). The Change Tracking/editing fonts are tiny and the display is sometimes unreadable because of their size – and I have a 27-inch screen. And my editors are grumbling about it as well.

And here’s another apparent MS word problem that seems to have popped up with the March 16 update

Something seems to have happened, either in a preference setting or some other flakiness, that causes Word to stop typing spaces after individual words. When I type one word after the next without making any editorial changes, I get exactly one space after a word, as I want. But when I go back to edit a word, Word usually will not enter a space when I want to start another word right after the first. So, for example if I start to enter a new word after “test” and I set the cursor after the final t, the cursor does not move when I enter a space and it gives me “testnew” instead of “test new”.

I am running Big Sur using Word version 16.59 (22031300) updated on March 16, 2022. I am not seeing that particular problem on any other application (e.g., Firefox and Nisus Writer Pro) but I did start using a new Kensington Pro Fit Ergo Wired Keyboard that sometimes starts inputting a series of spaces when I am not touching the keyboard in any application, --not just word – and not often or consistently.

Is anybody seeing this flakiness with Word, or has anyone seen something similar with a keyboard? The problem I’m seeing in Word is one of those ‘drives me nuts’ problems because it’s fairly repeatable and feels like it’s coded somewhere in the software, but I can’t be sure.

I tried it on my Mac (latest Big Sur, same version of Word) and I’m not seeing this problem.

I’m using an Apple USB wired keyboard on a 2018 Mac mini.

Thanks for checking. Now that I think of it, the problem originally showed up in the normal Word “Home” for writing, but did not show up in Review when I tried that just now. So maybe “editing” functions only work in Review? Or maybe it’s the keyboard, which is still giving problems after giving it a good spray of duster. I also wonder if I accidentally screwed up one of Word’s oft-enigmatic preferences.

The editor who commissioned the article encountered the problem when she tried to edit it, but she found a solution. She noted that the part of the article where the problem occurred contained multiple fonts and converted them all to 12 point Times New Roman, which made the problem go away so she could edit it. I had gotten into the habit of copying names from other articles to make sure I don’t bungle the spelling, and because the magazines I write for convert my words into the fonts they prefer, nobody had complained if I didn’t bother fixing the fonts. For the record, Lucida Grande was one if not the only troublesome font; I like its appearance, but have heard of potential problems.

What puzzles me why Word should misbehave if it hits certain fonts.

Oh, that doesn’t surprise me at all. Pasting lots of styled data into a document is a recipe for conflict and corruption. I strongly recommend using Paste and Match Formatting whenever bringing anything in from the Web.

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Good point; I hadn’t thought if it that way, but that would explain the brittleness I see in MS Word. It’s trying to do too many things, and with a heavy load of Change Tracking it can stall to a crawl. Once that happens I find myself typing faster than the Mac can think, which can cause all sorts of problems.

Yeah, whenever you see that kind of a problem, look for something to simplify. I recommend using named styles whenever possible and applying them ruthlessly, since that will eliminate a whole lot of individual character styling.

Plus, if you ever get into a situation where Word just isn’t working well with a file, try exporting it to RTF and bringing it back in. That can have the effect of eliminating unnecessary complexity or even corruption.

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Agreed, although in my case the easiest way to simplify most of my writing projects may be to use a single font that won’t cause trouble in a size that I can read easily and let the editors use their style of choice. Most publications I work with have house styles of their own, and they pay me for words, not formatting. And although cataract surgery a few years ago improved my vision in many ways, I still find small type on screens difficult to read. If I start serious self-publishing, I may need to learn how to use styles, but I’ll deal with that when the time comes.

It’s always interesting to see how people work with other publications. I would expect them to care about semantic styles, such as Heading 1, Heading 2, and Body, for instance, but to not care much at all what the actual look of those styles is during writing and editing. Then, whenever the document goes to its final destination (print, Web, whatever), the styles will specify the correct fonts and sizes.

When people are writing for TidBITS, we give them a Google Docs template that sets fonts we like for editing, but if someone really wanted to change them, they could. We’d just change them back when we had to take our passes. That’s super easy with properly set up styles.

This is an interesting discussion because it makes me think about how I write, and how it compares to what editors and other writers expect and do. I started writing on the Caltech student newspaper, but I learned professional writing on a laser industry trade magazine, set in two or three column pages, where layout was done by a compositor at the printer. We entered the main headline and subheads. Only many years later did trade magazines go to inset blurbs. I started freelancing on a typewriter in the early 80s, but soon moved to a Mac and online submission of ansci text files. The first books I wrote were typeset from my typed manuscripts, with computer printouts used into the 1990s. Eventually they started setting type from disk, but adding graphics and illustrations could be interesting, and layouts could become disasters.

I had a bad experience with Google Docs that put me off cloud editing. I found myself responding to editorial changes on one page at the same time the editor was working on another – and latency from the Google cloud was multiple seconds. Once I saw words changing at one point while I was editing at another point on the same screen, I realized this way lay madness and got off to wait for the editor to finish. I had a similar problems with autocorrect when it was first introduced, and now disable it in every word processor I use to give me control over style, which is very important when using scientific abbreviations like kHz or kW.

Otherwise, I like your idea of handing out templates, although you should give the writers instructions or make it hard for us to break the templates accidentally. You know how you want the pages to look. We all have learned things differently in this fast-changing world.

That’s surprising and not something I normally see, but I could see it happening a while back if you were either on a slow connection or in a browser that couldn’t keep up.

Regardless, I consider it problematic to have an author and editor in the document at the same time. We run into this regularly because Julio will write something, for instance, and some time later, I’ll start editing. He’ll get a notification that I’m making changes and will come in to accept them, not realizing that I’m not done. Since I often go back and forth in a document while editing, it’s confusing for me if he accepts my changes higher up in a document before I’m done. Communication about whose turn it is is essential, and we use Slack or email for that.

For us, Google Docs is great because it eliminates a huge amount of effort (and room for error) in transferring files, versioning files, and dealing with file corruption. There’s just one file, and anyone can work on it at any time.

Our “template” is also our author’s guide, so those who are new can just push all the help text down and write their article while referring to the guidance as necessary. Those who have written numerous articles for us just delete the help text and start.

I came to the same conclusion. I have written about backbone networks, and the experts say that more than half – as I recall well over half – is data rolling over between Cloud data centers. I don’t know the volume of cloud storage being rolled over or the total backbone bandwidth, so I am guessing it takes minutes to refresh the more active parts of the cloud. In my case, the editor was in Washington and I was in Boston, about 1400 kilometers or roughly 7 milliseconds for a round trip at the speed of light through fiber. I could see the characters change slowly. So having no more than one person in the file at a time is a very good idea.

With Google Docs, everything is in Google’s cloud and completely within Google’s control as to how changes are buffered and shown, so it’s impossible to know how it all ends up working. Regardless, this isn’t a first-person shooter game where performance and simultaneity matter—it just doesn’t make sense from a cognitive standpoint to have multiple people working on the same text at the same time. Even when we do write into the same document at the same time, we agree on sections, so each person has their own section and no one else wades into it until they’re ready. (Even while typing this paragraph, I’ve made changes in previous sentences multiple times—writing and editing simply aren’t linear tasks.)

Exactly what I do when I write, and why I very quickly realized I could not compose orally.

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