Acrobat and Word: Tagging slows down PDF creation

February 20, 2019

An ex-colleague contacted me about a 220+ page Word document she was trying to PDF using Acrobat Pro. It was taking forever and seemed to be held up at the ‘tagging’ stage. I remembered that I’d encountered this problem many years ago, and the solution was to turn tagging off.

She was using Acrobat Pro DC, whereas I only have Acrobat Pro XI. But it seems the settings are very similar.

I asked her to turn off just one setting and try again. It worked, and she had her PDF within a few minutes.

That setting? In Acrobat Pro XI it’s: Edit > Preferences > Convert to PDF, select Microsoft Office Word, click Edit Settings, then uncheck the Enable accessibility and reflow checkbox. Click OK to exit the preferences screens and retry creating the PDF.


Word: Macro to autofit all tables to the window size

February 17, 2019

Some 11 years ago, I published a macro for setting all tables to autofit to the width of the page (i.e. within the page margins). Here’s a slightly different version written by Stefan Blom in 2012—his original macro was called SetFitToWin, but I’ve modified that for my purposes so I can easily see from the name what this macro does:

Sub SetTableToFitToWindow()
' From Stefan Blom (April 2012):
' https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/msoffice/forum/all/set-table-to-default-autofit-to-window/a0fffbad-0081-436c-b932-decf404cd88f
' Adapted title (was SetFitToWin), Rhonda Bracey, Cybertext Consulting, Feb 2019

    Dim t As Table
    For Each t In ActiveDocument.Tables
        t.AutoFitBehavior wdAutoFitWindow
    Next t
End Sub

The same caveats apply as per the original blog post in 2008—this changes ALL your tables, so test on a copy of your document first to make sure you don’t inadvertently change tables you didn’t want to change.

[Links last checked February 2019]


Word: Find and replace multiple asterisks used as separator lines

February 15, 2019

On one of my editing forums, someone had a situation where the author had used many long strings of asterisks to separate various parts of the document. The length of these asterisk ‘lines’ weren’t the same—sometimes the author had used 3 asterisks, other times they’d used 4 or 8 or 35 or some other random number of asterisks. How to get rid of them all at once? Enter Word’s wildcard find and replace feature!

  1. Press Ctrl+H to open the Find and Replace dialog box.
  2. Click the More button to show more find/replace options.
  3. Select the Use wildcards checkbox.
  4. In the Find what field, type: (^013)(*{2,50})(^013)
  5. In the Replace with field, type: \1\3
  6. Click Find Next to find the first instance, then Replace to replace the multiple asterisks with a paragraph mark.
  7. Repeat step 6 as many times as you need to be confident that it’s finding the right things. Once you’re confident, click Replace All to run through the whole document and fix all instances.

Explanation for how this works:

  • (^013) looks for a paragraph mark (this indicates the end of the previous line of text). This string defines the first section of the Find.
  • (*{2,50}) looks for two or more asterisks, up to 50 asterisks (yes, you can change the numbers inside the curly braces to suit your situation— if you think you might have some lines with 100 asterisks, then change the 50 to 100; if you don’t know what the upper limit is, then leave it empty [i.e. use *{2,}). This string defines the second section of the Find.
  • (^013) looks for a paragraph mark immediately following a string of asterisks. This string defines the third and last section of the Find.
  • \1 replaces the first part of the wildcard string with itself. In other words, the paragraph mark found is replaced with itself, so no change apparently occurs.
  • \3 replaces the third part of the wildcard string with itself. In other words, the paragraph mark found is replaced with itself, so no change apparently occurs.

A note about ^013: In an ordinary find/replace, you would use ^p for a paragraph mark, but this doesn’t work in a wildcard find/replace—instead, you have to use ^013.


Word: Can’t open a template in Office 365

February 15, 2019

I installed Office 365 on a test Windows 10 machine and wanted to change the language setting in the normal.dotm template from US English to Australian English (this determines which autocorrect [*.ACL] file is used for any documents based on that template).

But when I right-clicked on normal.dotm and selected Open, I got a message telling me that a default app hadn’t been associated with this file type and to do so in the Default Apps settings. When I went to those settings, I found that Word was already associated with *.dotm files, and there wasn’t anything more I could do about that. I also noticed that some usual document file types weren’t associated with Word and I couldn’t associate them either, no matter what I did in the Default Apps settings.

I thought something might have got scrambled when I installed Office 365 and then (on the advice of my IT guys) uninstalled Office 2016, which was already on that PC. So I contacted my IT guys, and they told me to run a quick repair of the Office installation to see if that fixed it. It did! Once the repair had been run, I could open normal.dotm and all my other Word templates without a problem.

Just a quick note about repairing Office 365—you don’t get a Repair option in the list of programs, despite the user interface text telling you so. Instead, you have to click on Change, say Yes to allow the app to make changes (if asked), then choose Quick Repair from the list. It only takes a few minutes. Once the repair was done, my IT guys told me to reboot the PC, which I did, then I tested the repair by successfully opening normal.dotm.

Windows 10 steps for repairing Office 365:

  1. Open Control Panel.
  2. Select Programs and Features.
  3. Select Microsoft Office 365.
  4. Click Change at the top of the list of programs.
  5. If asked, say Yes to allow the app to change the program.
  6. Select the Quick Repair option.
  7. Click Repair.
  8. When finished, restart your machine and test that what you were trying to fix has been fixed.

[Links last checked February 2019]


Word: Mixed messages from Microsoft about Word 2019 functions

February 13, 2019

I’m investigating whether to upgrade to Office 2019 (NOTE: Office 2019 requires Windows 10; it cannot be installed on Windows 7 or 8), so I went to the Microsoft website to find out about some of the features in Word 2019, in particular.

Good ol’ Microsoft—confusing users every single day! Check out these two screenshots I took from their website. Both clearly state that the function is available in Word 2019 (see my yellow highlights), but then state that it’s only for Office 365 subscribers. What?

And this one:



Spellcheck is useless against real words with different meanings

February 1, 2019

An example of where spellcheck is useless, and where you need human eyes to check your work before it goes out. I received a letter today from an Australia-wide company that conducts hearing checks. At the bottom of the letter was this set of boxes. I spotted two major errors straight away that spellcheck wouldn’t pick up (and no, one of them wasn’t ‘tick’ — Australians use ‘tick’ more than ‘check’ when referring to boxes, though a ‘the’ wouldn’t have gone astray in that instruction).

The errors I picked up were ‘everyday’ instead of ‘every day’, and ‘know’ instead of ‘no’. Neither instance would have been flagged by spellcheck. The message here — get someone else to check your work before it goes out to a national audience!


Monitoring bushfires

January 29, 2019

Nowhere in Australia is immune from bushfires, but some places are deemed safer than others. The block of land I live in south-western Western Australia is relatively safe (no trees near the house, lots of hardstand surrounding the house, etc.), but nearby (within one kilometre) are high-risk areas of bushland and homes on hilly land that is just covered in trees, grasses, and native plants. I have a fear of bushfires, so over summer I listen for aircraft activity beyond what’s normal (‘normal’ is maybe a couple of light aircraft a day) and check various websites etc. to assess the danger. The risk on some days is worse than on others—particularly those days with strong easterly winds and high temperatures, and if there’s been no rain for weeks. Once the wind swings around and comes from the west, I start to breathe easier as the danger to my property from that direction is much less.

Here are some of the local and national sites I use to check various conditions and situations, in case it helps others who live in Western Australia:

  • a weather site (wind speed and direction, temps)
  • the Emergency WA website (https://www.emergency.wa.gov.au/) for all sort of emergency reports in the state (the zoom-in feature is great)
  • the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (dfes_wa) Twitter feed for updates and links to emergency situations (https://twitter.com/dfes_wa)
  • occasionally the MyFireWatch website (http://myfirewatch.landgate.wa.gov.au/) and the Sentinel website (https://sentinel.ga.gov.au/)
  • FlightRadar24 (https://flightradar24.com; there’s an app too), which is a plane spotter’s goldmine, but which I use to identify planes and choppers going overhead (most are just standard light aircraft, the RFDS planes, and the rescue chopper), but occasionally they are firefighting aircraft.

This sort of monitoring was not possible just 20 years ago. Google Maps and the ability for services to overlay other satellite data and create instant warnings has changed the game. Technology working for good!

The image below is a screenshot I took from FlightRadar of two firefighting aircraft battling a bushfire near Collie on 20 January 2019. By clicking on the aircraft icons on the map, I get the information on the left about the aircraft and the flight paths for the past hour or so.

Flight paths of two firefighting aircraft helping put out a fire near Collie, Western Australia

Update 5 February 2019: We had a bushfire close to our place (within 5 km — too close for comfort!) and I found that the FlightRadar24 website gave me accurate, real-time information on what the firefighting aircraft (including the massive air crane, ‘Georgia Peach’ [N154AC]) were doing. The Emergency WA website was only being updated every few hours, but with FlightRadar24 I could see what sorts of resources were being deployed to control this fire. And from the flight tracking I got some questions answered, like whether ‘Georgia Peach’ could refill from the ocean (she could)—she actually refilled her 7500-gallon tank at least 10 times (it takes her about 45 seconds to do this, which is pretty amazing). In the first screenshot below, you can see ‘Georgia Peach’ heading down from Perth and taking on her first load of sea water just off Myalup. In the later screenshot, you can see that she’s made the first of many sorties to refill off Binningup. The two Dunn Aviation aircraft (yellow water bombers) can’t take on sea water, so had to return to Bunbury Airport each time to refill with their fire suppressant, adding precious time to their ability to be effective. The Rotowest chopper circled the whole time—I suspect it was the spotter aircraft guiding the others where to best deploy their loads.