Word 2007: Resizing a graphic makes it go really small

October 19, 2010

Since using Word 2007, I’ve noticed that some graphics go really small when you try to resize them by percentage. Until now, I hadn’t figured out why or how to overcome the problem. But I think I’ve stumbled on the reason and a solution.

I *think* the problem lies with where the graphics come from originally (e.g. Visio) and/or the file format they are saved to (e.g. gif, png, jpg, etc.). But it may be Word.

I had a Visio diagram that I saved to PNG. I inserted it into Word 2007 and it went in fine. But when I looked at its native size (right-click on the image, select Size), it was listed as 10% of the actual size even though it filled the page. I didn’t want it to fill the page, so needed to make it smaller. Instead of resizing the image outside Word (the file size was only about 300 KB), I decided to use the Size function to reduce it to 5% of the actual size thus halving the size of the displayed image on the page.

I entered 5% as the new value and clicked Close. The image shrunk down to less than the size of a postage stamp! It should’ve taken up about half the page. I went back to check what I’d typed, and saw that it was set to 1%. So I typed 50% this time — and double-checked it before clicking Close. It still showed as a postage stamp size and was listed as 1%. What was going on?

Back into the Size dialog box… where I noticed the tooltip below as I hovered over the Height and Width boxes: Enter a value from 1% to 0%. What?

Nothing I did with the values in that Scale area would allow me to set a value that Word would hold — it kept resetting to 1%.

Back to the drawing board — or, in this case, back to Visio. I saved the drawing as GIF and inserted it into the document in place of the PNG. When I checked the Size window for it, it showed as 100%, AND the tooltip said Enter a value from 1% to 200%. That was better.

So I solved the immediate problem by saving the image in a different file format and inserting it.

I’d have to do a bit more experimenting to see whether the problem is at the Word end, the Visio end, or if it’s the file format, or something else. I can’t recall ever seeing this issue in Word 2003, but then, I didn’t do a lot with Visio diagrams either. That said, something in the back of my memory is niggling at me now — I vaguely recall an issue where the Word output from Author-it would resize some graphics down to a really small size. I think those graphics may have been PNGs too… It didn’t happen often to me, but I do recall seeing it and I recall some people on the Author-it discussion group getting it more often than others. I was definitely using Word 2003 then. Hmmm. I’ll have to do some more investigating when I have time.


  1. Rhonda:

    I’m still using Word 2003, but my experience with inserting graphics into Word has been to ignore the percentages and to use actual dimensions. For instance, if the Visio diagram is too big, I check the lock aspect ratio option, then set the length dimension to the column width(such as 6.5 inches or the size I want), and let the height and percentages adjust themselves. I always ran into figures where setting the sizes by changing the percentages caused strange results.

    GIFs were the very first graphics format, and I think that GIF is still the only format that EVERY graphics program and text formatting program can import, export, and handle correctly. I know when I had issues with any other format, exporting the problem file as a GIF made it work in Word and in FrameMaker, too. Early versions of Frame were pretty picky about what graphics formats they’d handle.

  2. This can happen if the shape has a text box associated with it and the “Resize AutoShape to fit text” checkbox is checked.
    It would be in the Text Box tab of the Format dialog.

  3. I’ve had weird bugs showing up with the size setting in word. For example I’ve got a 69×69 pixel image, inlined, yet I cannot set it to be exactly 0.9 by 0.9 cm. Whether lock aspect ratio is on or off, changing the width makes the height change slightly (by .01 or .02 cm), and vice versa.

    The error is small enough to be neglected, but it’s annoying. Picture placement in Word is a nightmare in general.

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