Word 2007, DOCX Compatibility and Missing Spaces

Yesterday an issue related to Word 2007 surfaced online that is worth a closer look. A Microsoft Answers forum post discussed a defect in Word 2007 pertaining to DOCX files exchanged between Word 2010 and users of Word 2007. It had been reported that some Word 2007 users were experiencing a situation where spaces were “disappearing” when viewing or printing documents sent to them from users of Word 2010.

This is an issue related to how Word 2007 opened files. In other words, the issue is not with Word 2010, it was a defect in the file / open code of Word 2007 that caused the problem. Reports that Open XML caused this issue are not accurate.

We discovered and fixed the issue in Word 2007 as part of
a release that first appeared on September 25, 2008, well before shipping Office 2010. It was important enough for us to push the fix through the Automatic Update channel to reach the maximum number of users as quickly as possible. At Microsoft we were able to reproduce the problem on machines which did not have the patch installed for Word 2007, and we are unable to reproduce the problem on machines that have the patch installed.  It had also been suggested that Print Spooling services in Windows or the lack of an installed print driver in Word was the cause of the problem. In our testing, turning spooling services on and off did not affect the problem and the presence (or not) of a specific printer driver did not solve or cause the problem.

The easiest way to obtain the fix is to install
Office 2007 Service Pack 2.

Make sure Word 2007 users who will receive your documents have this important update for Office, either by installing the patch referenced in the link above or by turning on Automatic Updates.

Yesterday we re-tested this problem based on the information being reported in the forums and on various blogs. There are a few details worth noting:

·         If you have already saved the document in an un-patched version of Word 2007 and spaces are missing, unfortunately there is no way to recover them

·         Unpatched users who edit the document may cause the spaces to disappear.

We certainly regret any inconvenience this issue may have caused, and encourage all customers to enable Automatic Updates for Office.

We did a double-take upon seeing these reports because this is the type of issue that would normally surface prominently In this case we did not have a high volume of customer concerns. This is likely due the majority of Office users that enable Automatic Update, have installed SP2 or work in a managed IT environment where our updates are pushed to their desktops. People who are current on updates should not experience this problem. In any case, we wanted to take the time to communicate on this issue in hopes that folks who have not updated can do so.

If you patch your 2007 installation to the current update level, and you are authoring documents on patched versions of Word 2007 (or 2010), and you still experience this problem, please don't hesitate to contact us.

This is our Twitter stream:

You can send feedback or requests for help regarding files that submit this behavior (for patched versions of Word) via the email link on my blog
http://blogs.technet.com/gray_knowlton. We are very interested to know if users are still experiencing this problem after systems are patched.


Comments (6)

  1. Anil, thank you for the feedback. What would you propose the Word 2010 update do? As noted in the post, the spaces were being dropped by Word 2007, and we issued an update for that three years ago. Word 2010 is not the cause of the issue.

  2. Anil Shah says:

    I was very disappointed when many of my Customers using Word 2007 reported this issue. Now, given the fact that I can not change much at their end, I had to uninstall Office 2010 and go back to Office 2007.

    Microsoft has to come up with an update to Word 2010 only, to gain the confidence of users who want to upgrade to Office 2010. Otherwise the lack of confidence would kill plenty of market for Office 2010.

    Mr. Bill Gates, are you listening!!!

  3. Anil Shah says:

    Hi, Thanks for your comment.

    I agree that its not an issue of Word 2010. However, Word 2010 users will still have to send docs to other users who may not have updated Word 2007. Therefore, the compatibility issue will persist.

    That's the reason, I am suggesting that, if possible, some tweak can be made in Word 2010 through an update to ensure the compatibility.

    I liked the Office 2010 so much and feel sad to go back to Office 2007 just to ensure that the Word files are transmitted without any surprises.

  4. Ivan Lepeshkov says:

    You should most certainly make an update for Office 2010 and I think it's possible. A brief look at document.xml inside the docx file – and we can see that there is a difference between parts normally interpreted by Office 2007 and parts where spaces are missing. I think it's because for some reason each "missing" space is the only text in its XML tag. The next sentence written in its entirety in one XML tag and is interpreted by the Office 2007 normally. It may even be possible to write some kind of utility that ensures backward compatibility. But it's better for Microsoft to do it.

    I can't control every user of 2007, and they are not even beginning to disappear. Hell, even Office 2003 is still installed on many machines, but we're not having so much trouble with backward compatibility with that one.

    Microsoft should modify Office 2010 to output more compatible (and small, cause you don't need an enormous load of XML tags for a space) files.

  5. Marlieke says:

    The proposed download is no longer available. So how could i fix it ? ‘The easiest way to obtain the fix is to install Office 2007 Service Pack 2.’

    1. Hi Marlieke. Office service packs and monthly updates are cumulative, meaning that each one contains all the fixes that were in the previous one. So you can install Service Pack 3 to get the same fix: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=27838

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