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Word: Freaky field codes on display

September 6, 2011

One of my work colleagues emailed me asking ‘What happened to the template? It’s corrupt! I’ve got all this MERGEFORMAT stuff!’

He’d attached a screenshot of what he saw in all the headers:

Word's field codes on display

Word's field codes on display

He was panicking and freaking out because he’d never seen a field code in its raw state before, so he just assumed the document and/or the template was corrupt. It wasn’t.

He’d inadvertently turned on the option to display field codes. I don’t know whether he’d done this via the setting or via a keystroke combination that he hit without realizing it (most likely).

It was easy enough to turn off — and get his blood pressure down ;-) Here’s how:

  • Word 2003: Tools > Options > View tab > clear the Field codes check box
  • Word 2007: Office button > Word Options > Advanced > Show document content section > clear the Show field codes instead of their values check box
  • Word 2010: File > Options > Advanced > Show document content section > clear the Show field codes instead of their values check box
  • Or, even simpler, press Alt+F9 (thanks to Oli who offered that suggestion). It’s likely that this key combination was what toggled the setting for my colleague.

By the way, this setting applies to all Word documents on YOUR computer — it’s a computer setting for Word, not a per document setting. If he’d sent the document to me, I wouldn’t have seen what he was seeing as I don’t show field codes unless I choose to do so. He probably hadn’t noticed it in his other Word documents, either because he hadn’t opened any since seeing this one and freaking out, or because the others he opened didn’t use fields.

3 comments

  1. Hi Rhonda, why not include the keystroke (ALT+F9) to show/hide field codes in your explanation?


  2. Thanks Oli! I wasn’t aware of that one, so I’ll add it to the list above.

    –Rhonda


  3. Thanks, Rhonda and Oli, it was indeed a relief to learn of such a simple keystroke to get rid of a problem that had been pestering me for several days!



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