Tag Archives: Microsoft

Microsoft Causes Inflation

This simple trick will cut your Word document down to size.

The Problem

Word LogoWord documents can suffer from bloat. An author tried to submit a 32-page Word file to us. The formatting was straightforward, but the file was a whopping 2.4 MB. Our on-line systems rejected the file (because why would we want a file that big?) The author saved it as a Rich Text Format (RTF) file of 600 kB and uploaded it. We imported it into Word and saved it as a .docx and low and behold, it was back to nearly 3 MB. Over 2 MB bigger without the addition of so much as a single comma. We reviewed the file and added some simple mark-up, and it blew up to well over 3MB.
After that, I applied this trick to the script and got it down to less than 90 kB – two orders of magnitude smaller. (And with five minutes work, it went to 80 kB.) So what’s going on?

The Cause

The frank answer is that I’m not sure. I know some of the causes, but Word is a complex tool, so attributing anything to a single cause is dubious, and I’m trying to approach this as a user, not as a product tester. Broadly, there are two issues. Firstly, Word tracks changes. Even if you declare an edition to be final, and stop tracking changes, Word seems not to discard the change data. It’s still hanging around somewhere, even though it’s not used. Secondly, if your document is edited by multiple users (or one user on several computers), it picks up template information from each instance without discarding the previous information, so it keeps adding unused data to the document. (There may also be an issue with using different versions of Word to edit one document, and certainly further issues with editing documents in a mix of Word and other word-processors.)

The Solution

The solution is to leave all the rubbish behind:-
Create a new blank document (preferably using a clean template that includes just the Styles you need). Now open your bloated document. Select all the contents (either by mouse or use a shortcut; Ctrl-A on a Windows computer). Click copy (Ctrl-C). Switch to your new blank document and Paste (Ctrl-V). Then Save. The new version will have left most of the dross behind and kept your text, your formatting and not a lot else.

(There is a minor additional tweak: that process will copy over all the Styles from the source document, including ones that are not actually in use. You can reduce the file size a little more by deleting unused Styles.)

Postscript – What If That Wasn’t My Problem

The other major cause of Word Bloat is embedded images. If you need pictures, you need them, but consider cropping and shrinking to a size appropriate for your purpose before you embed images in your document.

Why does Microsoft make things up?

An exercise for word-processing obsessives

Word LogoThis is a feature of Word 2007 and Word 2010, but not (pre-ribbon) Word 2002.
Try the following steps.

  • Start a new document in Word 2007 or Word 2010.
  • Write a short sentence or headline.
  • Select your text, then change the font to your favourite fancy font, increase the font size and make it italic.
  • Select the text, then click on the expander in the bottom right hand corner of the Styles box on the home page of the ribbon.  (That launches the pop-up Styles panel.)
  • At the bottom of the Styles panel, click on click on the New Style icon.  This should create a new style from your fancy text, and prompt you to give it a name.  Let’s call this style “Wanted”.  Click OK to create it.
  • The name of your new style should now appear in the Styles panel.
  • From the “Options…” link at the bottom of the Styles panel, under the “Select Formatting to Show As Styles” heading, select “paragraph level formatting”.  (That determines what shows-up in your Styles panel.)
  • Now go back to the short sentence that you’ve created in your “Wanted” style.  Put the cursor somewhere in the middle of that sentence and press Ctrl-Return.  That inserts a page break.

Did you spot what that last operation did?  In addition to the page break, it added something to your Styles panel.

What it added depends on which version of Word you’re using (and possibly the phase of the moon).  In Word 2010 it usually adds a new style called “After: <something descriptive of paragraph formatting>”.  In Word 2007 it adds a new style that describes details of the “Wanted” style.

Is this necessary?
To prove that, use the Styles panel to select all instances of the new (“Unwanted”) style and then apply the “Wanted” style to them.  Aside from the demise of the Unwanted style, nothing else happens in the document.  The Unwanted style was unnecessary.

Why does this matter?
Well, the point of Styles is to keep control of your document – to ensure that everything that should have the same format does have the same format.  To ensure that if you want to change the way particular parts of the document look, you can change the style – one style, one change – and the change will be applied consistently throughout the document.  By spewing out unnecessary styles, Microsoft makes it harder to format documents consistently.