Some random troubleshooting notes.

I don’t know why Word 2007 got cranky. My poor computer is working hard these days as I load it up with programs and services, so maybe it was my fault. A couple of days ago, Word developed three symptoms: it stopped opening when I clicked on a .DOCX file in Explorer; it stopped responding to mouse clicks in a document, although I could still type and move around with arrow keys; and it started crashing every time I saved a file or closed it.

I was suspicious of a recent program that I had installed even though I knew it was old and had compatibility problems, so I did a system restore to the day before the problem developed. No change.

Word 2007 can be opened without any add-ins by clicking on Start (Vista) or Start / Run (WinXP) and typing in

winword /a

(There are all kinds of switches to start Word in different modes – safe mode, without startup macros, with a particular template loaded, etc. Search for “startup switch” in the Word help file.)

When I turned off the add-ins, Word operated normally but still didn’t open when a .DOCX file was clicked on and still crashed when it was closed.

Word’s add-ins can be seen under Word Options / Add-Ins / Manage COM Add-Ins. I had three add-ins: an add-in to open and save files directly to Office Live Workspace, plus tools from Acrobat 8 and SnagIt 9. I uninstalled the Office Live Workspace add-in (not using it), and uninstalled the Office add-ins for the other two programs from Control Panel / Uninstall a Program (highlight each program and click “Change” to remove just the add-in but leave the rest of each program intact).

That helped Word behave more normally when it was open but didn’t get to the other problems.

Office 2007 has a “repair” function that works wonders. It’s always worth trying when the Office programs have difficult problems. Go to Control Panel / Uninstall a Program, highlight Microsoft Office 2007 and click on “Change” – you’ll see the option to repair the suite. It’s fully automated and safe to run. Office 2007 also adds a thorough diagnostic program that you can find on the Start menu or in each program under Options / Resources.)

Neither one helped.

I finally stumbled on a registry key that apparently can be safely deleted to resolve odd Word problems. I deleted

HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoft Office12.0WordData

Voila! Everything was back to normal. I reinstalled the Acrobat add-in with no difficulty. Just another completely senseless problem with no cause and no obvious solution – typical! All it took was two hours of headscratching and occasional weeping.

Obligatory warning: This is an interesting anecdote about the difficulty of solving odd problems, not an instruction manual. Careless registry editing can cause irreversible damage to your computer. Do you see the word “irreversible”? Do you have it clearly in mind? You can kill your computer in seconds by mucking around in the registry. Don’t go there unless you are 100% sure of what you’re doing.

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