Mac Forums

Mac Forums (
-   OS X - Apps and Games (
-   -   Word 2011 document changed to all asterisks! (

medwriter 01-10-2011 01:31 PM

Word 2011 document changed to all asterisks!
I was in the middle of an interview with a source and typing away on a Word 2011 document when the entire document switched to asterisks; undo does not change anything; I'm using Macbook Pro with snow leopard; all software is updated.

chscag 01-10-2011 03:59 PM

Moved to correct forum.

Use the Font to validate the fonts you're using. I've never seen that happen in any version of Word so I'm not even sure it's a font problem but that's a good place to start.

Note: Office 2008 and 2011 will install certain fonts that have already been installed by OS X but will not overwrite them. They will, however, show up as duplicates.

medwriter 01-17-2011 07:14 AM

asterisks again
I did check the fonts; no problem there. I was working on another document and it did it again! Also, although I have it set to automatically save every 1 minute, it had not been saving at all. Suggestions??

chscag 01-17-2011 10:05 PM

You've certainly got something odd going on. The asterisk problem almost has to have something to do with fonts.

Are you sure the auto backup is not working? How do you know it's not working? I'm not trying to test you here.... but the only time you will see the automatic backed up document is if you have a crash of Word. That's when the file recovery will take over from the last auto backup.

As a safety feature, you should also turn on "Make a backup of the document each time you open it". That will give you an actual copy of the document from when it was last edited.

Anyway, the asterisk problem might be some weird glitch with fonts. You may have to uninstall Office 2011 and reinstall to resolve it.

frustratedwrite 01-25-2011 03:30 AM


Did you find a solution to your problem? If so, could you please share? The same thing just happened to me -- I used to have 29 pages worth of text and I now have 29 pages worth of asterisks. I can recover some of it from a past save, but I still lost about 3 hours worth of work...

Please help!

chscag 01-25-2011 03:53 PM

Since this seems like some weird glitch, and as I stated above, I think it has something to do with fonts, I suggest taking this problem to the experts in the Microsoft Mac Office forum and see what they say.

Go to this LINK. You will have to register first. The Mac Office MVPs are very helpful and may be able to sort this out for you. Let us know.

And to frustratedwrite: Make sure you have autosave turned on and set for a minimum of 5 minutes. Losing three hours of work is unacceptable.

RyanS 06-08-2011 02:29 PM

a method to deal with this problem
One thing I did that limits the loss of data was to set the autosave to 1 minute, understand that is may autosave a page of asterisks depending on how long you wait or the cycle of autosave.However, I found that if within a few seconds of the 'asterisks attack' you force quit word without saving, the recovered version is normally a very recent autosave, not the page of asterisks. This technique, although far from perfect normally limits data loss to less than a minute, rather than an hour as would be seen using timemachine.

RavingMac 06-08-2011 03:59 PM

I haven't had this problem (don't use MS Office on my Mac) but was intrigued by this thread and no real answers, so I went to the Link Chscag gave and did some searching. Below are excerpts (quotes) from what I found:

FROM John McGhie on Jan 25th 2011: "This is a serious problem. I had an email last night from someone very senior in the development team. They have a major investigation underway, but currently they can't fix it because they do not know what is causing it.

The only protection from this bug is to set Word>Preferences>Save to
"Always create backup", then hit Command + s, to manually save each time
you pause to think.

If the problem happens, you then close the document WITHOUT saving, and
you will find the backup of it labelled "Backup of..." in the same
folder as the original document. That file will be undamaged and
complete to the point where you last saved.

Of course, you could also bring back your Time Machine copy of the file,
which should be no more than 15 minutes old.

Setting "Save AutoRecover information every 10 minutes" is completely

We have been trying to tell Microsoft that for 20 years. They will not

AutoRecover does NOT save the file, it saves only the "changes" to the
file. If the file has never been saved, or if the original file cannot
be read, AutoRecover cannot work. That's the situation you are in here:
AutoRecover can't recover; because it works only if Word knows it has
crashed, and it can read the original. In this case, Word doesn't know
it has crashed, and it can't read the original, so AutoRecover is
useless, which is what we've been trying to tell them for 20 years.

OK, now the fault is not all Microsoft's. In the past few years, users
have become overconfident about their computers, and do not take the
precautions that were simply a normal part of using a computer a few
years ago.

Well; that's not a good move Computers are MORE complex than they
were 20 years ago, and therefore, they are LESS reliable. They might be
"simpler to use", but the insides are much more complicated, there is
much more to go wrong, and it does!

We need to RUN Time Machine or some other backup, and we need to turn ON
Word>Preferences>Save>Always create backup. If we don't, every now and
again, we will lose data.

Last month, I turned my main MacPro workstation on and got an error on
the Data drive. 2.5 Terrabytes of data -- GONE! It still happens.

I repaired the problem, and restored from backup. I haven't lost a
single byte. Because I had a backup. I have had a backup for 30 years.
This is about the second time I have needed it in all that time. But
when you need it, you REALLY need it

People who are not experienced with computers sometimes do not
understand that when you lose data on a computer, you lose the lot.
Normal human beings think in terms of losing documents in a fire or
flood, where you may lose only "part" of a document, but the rest will
be readable. Computer data is not like that: you can either read the
whole of a file, or none at all.

Backup is well ahead of cleanliness, and right next to godliness. Any
computer geek will tell you that. Just don't stand downwind of him


On 26/01/11 7:33 AM, wrote:
> This happened to me twice and I DID have it set to automatically save
> every minute, but it did not save the file. I am not using Word 2011
> until it's fixed.


John McGhie, Microsoft MVP (Word, Mac Word), Consultant Technical

FROM John McGhie on Feb 19th 2011:
"Hi Russ:

No, it's not a virus. It's definitely a bug.

We need to have a discussion about this: EVERYONE should offer their
thoughts in this thread.

Because currently, Microsoft has NO CLUE to what is causing this. They
can't get it to happen in the test lab. There is no evidence in the
sample documents to suggest what the problem might be.

The "before" documents are perfectly normal. The "after" documents are
full of asterisks. Nothing to indicate what might have happened.

At first, I thought it was foreign language character sets being used.
But we have samples where they weren't.

Then I thought it might be Equations, Footnotes, Endnotes, Tables or
Bibliography, due to the high number of complex academic documents we
were losing. Then we had two samples with none of those.

For my next crazy idea: Fonts. This could be a "font" problem. Has
everyone "weeded" their fonts? Word:mac - Font Weeding

It may also be an interaction with other software! What's everybody
running (apart from Word...)?

If you're coming into this thread new, there is only ONE work-around to
this problem: BACKUPS.

1) Set Time-Machine to run every 15 minutes.

2) Go to Word>Preferences>Save and turn ON "Always create backup".

3) Hit Command + s every time you pause to think. If the bug hits,
your previous save is in a file labelled "Backup of " in
the same folder.

If you haven't hit Command + s, neither Time Machine nor "Always create
backup" can save you, because there's nothing on the disk to save.

Forget "AutoRecover": it's useless. If you HAVEN'T turned on Time
Machine and Backup, and the bug hits, do this:

1) IMMEDIATELY Quit Word. You have to get to this BEFORE the
AutoRecovery Save fires.

2) When Word offers to save YOU MUST say "NO". At this point, the
memory is full of asterisks, if you allow it to Save, you've lost your
document, there is no way to recover.

3) Reboot the machine. We have no idea what is causing this, but it
may be memory corruption: restart the OS and clear things out.

4) Re-open the document. If you were quick enough, you will get your
document back. If not, Word will offer you one full of asterisks
labelled "Recovered save of..."

5) Close the Recovered Document (it's useless, it's full of asterisks,

6) Re-open your document. If you prevented Word from saving, you will
get your original document back undamaged.

Note: The key to this is to prevent Word saving the document or the
auto-recovery file after the bug hits. If you can, the original file is
on the disk, undamaged.

Don't pfaff around wondering: if you're too slow, it will save and you
have lost it

Now: if ANYONE has ANY ideas as to what might be causing this, PLEASE
post them here.

We now have Microsoft Engineers closely studying this forum, looking for
anything that might give them a clue as to how the bug is happening.
They can't fix it until they FIND it

So PLEASE post your thoughts

Hope this helps"

This is getting long, so I will continue in another post if warranted, still reading the threads.

Link to the thread for anyone interested
Office for Mac Product Forums

RavingMac 06-08-2011 04:04 PM

This is interesting in that they seem to have come up with a preventative even though the cause is unknown at this point.

FROM John McGhie on Apr 10th 2011:

Hi Tom:

This is not really a good place to vent one's spleen, we're just fellow
users trying to help each other out, in here.

I realise the clatter of black helicopters in here is deafening, but
this is simply a small, rare bug that slipped through because it's so
rare it never showed up in testing or the beta program.

It's probably a one-line-of-code change. The problem is that we can't
FIND it. We still have no idea of the cause, so we don't know what to fix.

In the meantime, as Julie says, it does not seem to happen if you log
out of your computer at the end of each day, and re-start it once a week.

Closing the laptop lid (sleeping the OS) is not enough: you have to log
out, so the OS can run its housekeeping tasks.

If you do, chances are you will never see the bug: I have never seen it,
and I do long complex documents for a living.


EDIT: The last post I found on this issue was from Jun 1st 2011, as of that post they still hadn't determined the cause or ultimate soloution

vansmith 06-08-2011 04:43 PM

It seems like making sure backups are made of documents and restarting Word every day is the way to mitigate any problems that may arise. I made the changes earlier because I won't lie - this bug scares me. I haven't had this happen yet but I have some documents that are much too important for this to happen to them.

RavingMac 06-08-2011 04:57 PM

It seems to be a low frequency occurence in that very few people are affected, but those who are seem to have frequent reccurence without taking preventive steps.

Be interesting to see if they ever nail down a cause.

yewborn 06-11-2011 12:08 AM

same problem
Hi all,

I just had the same problem. An 50 page single spaced thesis transformed into asterisks after a single keystroke (was it the letter 'j'?). Fortunately I was paranoid about my thesis and had already taken the steps of creating automatic and manual backups.

It would be wonderful if Microsoft managed to find the line of code causing this. That said, it's kind of a cool error. It's just so classic. Was one of the programmers playing a joke?


Michelle M 06-14-2011 01:12 AM

Just had the asterisk thing happen to me!
I was just finishing up a chapter in a book I'm writing...over 20,000 words...I spent over 11 hours today finishing up two sections and was about to send it to my editor when suddenly my entire document turned to asterisks! Originally the document remained 60+ pages, but when it was done, I was down to three pages of asterisks - that's it. The auto-recovery version does not reflect any of the new changes and I closed the document without saving and when I reopened it the asterisks were gone, but all of the work I did today was gone as well. Quite honestly, this is outrageous.

chscag 06-14-2011 02:34 AM

Did you have "always make backup" and "auto backup" turned on in preferences? If you did, there's a good possibility you may be able to salvage some of your work.

BrianLachoreVPI 06-14-2011 09:20 AM

Wow - scary thread. I'm glad it's here though - I just made a calendar entry to remind myself to change my auto-save prefs - although - even as I type this - I may rethink that. I'd hate for it to auto-save after this bug hit. I'm a chronic cntrl-s or cmd-s'er. I always have been - so no worries there. Good to see the note though advising not to save should this happen.

Definitely reinforces the good practice of disciplined backups. Additionally - when drafting large docs - I tend to have them broken into small documents for a while - before starting the consolidation process.

Scary bug - but some good advice as to how to avoid.

I hope you are able to retrieve your document Michelle. I'd definitely recommend visiting the Office for Mac forum linked above in this thread and contributing to the bug thread Razor found.

All times are GMT -4. The time now is 06:03 PM.

Powered by vBulletin
Copyright ©2000 - 2015, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.