Word: Updating fields takes forever

August 10, 2012

Here’s a curly one. I had a client’s Word 2007 document to work on and the fields took FOREVER to update. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if they *did* update as I killed Word after an hour and a half of watching the ‘spinning wheel of death’… The author had had the same issue — it took more than an hour for the fields to update for him too. Neither of us had any error messages.

I tried a few things (listed below), and eventually I found the culprit — it was a linked Excel chart that couldn’t be found. Perhaps it had been deleted from the server, or moved, or renamed — any of these meant that it wasn’t where the link said it should be. Therefore, when Word tried to update the fields, it went looking for something that didn’t exist and got itself into an infinite loop of looking and looking.

Once I’d taken a screen capture of that chart (with the author’s permission) and inserted that into the document instead, the fields updated in just a few minutes, as they normally do for these client documents.

Here are some of the things I tried to eventually track down the offending object:

  • Turned on all field codes then skipped to each one to see if there was one that looked out of place. Nope — they all looked fine.
  • Right-clicked on each figure to see if it was a linked Visio diagram or Excel chart instead of an image. Again, all looked fine (including the nasty Excel chart — there was nothing to alert me that it was linked!).

Here’s how I found the culprit:

I copied the document to my PC with Word 2010 on it to see if that made any difference. Well, that was what alerted me to the offending object. When I tried to update the fields in Word 2010, I immediately got a message that a link couldn’t be found. I did NOT get that message in Word 2007.

This was an *excellent* error message — it told me the type of object that it couldn’t find (‘Chart’) and it told me where to go to see the links. Thanks Microsoft! (although it would be an even better message if there was a button to take you straight to that location…)

I went to that location (File > Info > Edit Links to Files at the bottom of the far right panel in Word 2010; it’s harder to find in Word 2007 — it’s under the Microsoft office button > Prepare > Edit Links to Files).

Scrolling through the list of links in the Links window showed one that wasn’t like all the rest. The info in the Source File column was different, there was nothing in the Item column, and the Type was ‘Chart’. It came after all the _Ref links (internal cross-references in the document) and before the bookmarks/fields that we use for the document properties, which meant it was very likely at the very end of the document (it was the only chart in the final appendix). And when I clicked on the suspect item in the Links window, the full source file information showed that it was an Excel file located on one of my client’s servers. I have access to that server, so the only explanation I can come up with is that the file had been moved, renamed, or deleted since it was originally inserted in the Word document.

I removed the chart from the appendix and ran the update fields again in Word 2010 — this time it was done in seconds and with no errors.

Back in Word 2007, I replaced the chart with an image of it and updated the fields again. This time it took a few minutes (which is usual for these documents as they have hundreds of fields), not well over an hour.

Problem solved! And the author was very happy too ;-)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: