Got a version of Word that uses the menu interface (Word 97, Word 2000, Word 2002, or Word 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.
With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company.
Learn more about Allen...
There are times when opening a document in Word can be slow. For instance, if the document is quite large, or if it contains a lot of complex graphics, if it contains a lot of linked data from other sources, or if you have saved it quite often with Word's Fast Save feature turned on.
There are other times, however, when opening a document can be downright painful—for instance, when it takes four minutes (or longer) to open a document that is only 800 KB in size. In these instances, the reason for the slowness may not be immediately evident. This is where a little bit of detective work comes into play.
The first thing to check is whether the document is on your computer or not. If the document is on a different computer in your network, then the problem could be either the other computer or even the network itself. Sometimes, if the network is configured improperly, communication across the network can slow to a crawl. This type of slowdown should affect other programs on your computer, however, when you need to access remote data from those programs. Thus, if opening remote documents is slow in all of your programs, then you should check your network and the other computer. If you suspect this problem, you will need to chat with your network administrator to see what can be done.
If the problem is evident in all documents on your computer (they are all slow in opening), then you may want to check your virus protection software. It could be that it is slowing down opening files. The only way to determine if this is the case is to disable virus protection—at least for the length of your test—to see if the problem goes away. If it does, then you should either check with the publisher of the virus protection software for an update, or look at getting a different virus protection program.
There are other things to try if the problem is evident in all of the documents you open. When Word is not running, make sure you delete all the temporary files that Word may have left lying around various folders in your system. Look for files that end with the TMP extension, or files that being with the tilde (~) character. If your file folders become very cluttered with these temporary files, it can slow Word down immensely. You can find out more information about Word's temporary files at this Knowledge Base article:
Another thing to try is to start Word with the /a switch on the command line. This causes it to load without also loading different startup files such as add-ins and macros. If this fixes the problem, then you can bet that the slowdown is caused by one of those add-ins or macros. You might also rename the Normal.dot (or Normal.dotm) file; if it is corrupted then it can slow down response times. (Renaming the file causes Word to create a clean, fresh, empty one the next time you start the program.)
When the problem is limited to a single document, then there are a couple of things to try. First, is the file stored on some sort of removable media, such as a RAM drive or a floppy drive? Opening a file on some removable media can be excruciatingly slow. This is not only because reading the file is slow, but because Word also tries to create its own temporary files on the removable media. This may quickly fill up the media and cause very slow response times.
Next, open the file and check to see what template file is attached to the document. If the document is trying to use a non-existent template file, or one that is no longer accessible through a network connection, then Word may "stall" as it tries over and over again to find the template.
Finally, if the document still won't open quickly, it could be because the document itself is corrupted. You can check this out by following these general steps:
This should clear up any corruption problems associated with a document.
WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1328) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.
Tremendous Table Tips! We often take tables for granted, but Word includes some very powerful ways you can present your tabular data. Discover how to make your tables better, easier to understand, and more effective. Check out WordTips: Terrific Tables today!