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  1. #1

    Member Since
    Jan 29, 2009
    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.

  2. #2

    chscag's Avatar
    Member Since
    Jan 23, 2008
    Keller, Texas
    Late 2013 27" iMac, iPad 3, iPhone 6s+, iPhone 7+, 3 iPods, Sierra
    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.

  3. #3

    Member Since
    Jan 29, 2009
    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??

  4. #4

    chscag's Avatar
    Member Since
    Jan 23, 2008
    Keller, Texas
    Late 2013 27" iMac, iPad 3, iPhone 6s+, iPhone 7+, 3 iPods, Sierra
    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.

  5. #5

    Member Since
    Jan 25, 2011

    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!

  6. #6

    chscag's Avatar
    Member Since
    Jan 23, 2008
    Keller, Texas
    Late 2013 27" iMac, iPad 3, iPhone 6s+, iPhone 7+, 3 iPods, Sierra
    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.

  7. #7

    Member Since
    Jun 08, 2011
    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.

  8. #8

    RavingMac's Avatar
    Member Since
    Jan 07, 2008
    In Denial
    16Gb Mac Mini 2012, 13" MBA, 15" MacBook Pro OSX 10.7, 32 GB iPhone 3GS, iPad2 64gb 3G
    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,
    and DO NOT SAVE IT).

    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
    I've always wanted to be smart, handsome and modest. But, I guess I'll have to be satisfied with two out of three . . .

  9. #9

    RavingMac's Avatar
    Member Since
    Jan 07, 2008
    In Denial
    16Gb Mac Mini 2012, 13" MBA, 15" MacBook Pro OSX 10.7, 32 GB iPhone 3GS, iPad2 64gb 3G
    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
    I've always wanted to be smart, handsome and modest. But, I guess I'll have to be satisfied with two out of three . . .

  10. #10

    vansmith's Avatar
    Member Since
    Oct 19, 2008
    Early 2015 13" rMBP
    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.
    Important Links: Community Guidelines : Use the reputation system if you've been helped.
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  11. #11

    RavingMac's Avatar
    Member Since
    Jan 07, 2008
    In Denial
    16Gb Mac Mini 2012, 13" MBA, 15" MacBook Pro OSX 10.7, 32 GB iPhone 3GS, iPad2 64gb 3G
    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.
    I've always wanted to be smart, handsome and modest. But, I guess I'll have to be satisfied with two out of three . . .

  12. #12

    Member Since
    Jun 11, 2011
    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?


  13. #13

    Member Since
    Jun 14, 2011
    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.

  14. #14

    chscag's Avatar
    Member Since
    Jan 23, 2008
    Keller, Texas
    Late 2013 27" iMac, iPad 3, iPhone 6s+, iPhone 7+, 3 iPods, Sierra
    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.

  15. #15

    BrianLachoreVPI's Avatar
    Member Since
    Feb 24, 2011
    March 2011 15" MBP 2.3GHz i7 Quad Core 8GB Ram | Mid 2011 27" iMac 3.4 GHz i7 16 GB RAM 2 TB HDD
    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.

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