Here are tips about backing up and recovering Word documents. The first way, and the way you’re probably already using, is to copy your Word docs onto an external drive, network drive, or some form of removable media, either manually or by using your file or drive backup software. But Word will also make backups as you go along, though it normally stores them in the same folder as the original. This guards against file corruption or accidental deletion of the original document, but not against damage to the drive—hence the value of the macro I’ll show you at the end of this newsletter.
Have Word Create Backup Copies
last saved version has to do with the way Word creates temporary files to save your changes until you actually close the document. When you turn on the backup copies, Word renames the temporary file as (filename).wbk and then creates a new temporary file until you hit “save” again. (Do I need to tell you to hit CTRL-S (or Command (Apple)-S on a Mac) at least once a paragraph, as well as enabling autosave?)
One thing to be aware of is that “Always create backup copy” is not compatible with “Allow fast saves,” which is another option you’ll find under Tools | Options | Save. Fast saving tends to bloat your files and it won’t actually be any faster than normal unless your machine is very slow or your file is extremely large. (Microsoft Newspeak at its best.)
Microsoft Office Application Recovery
If Word freezes or hangs, you can use Microsoft’s Application Recovery tool to rescue your data. This lurks in Start | All Programs | Microsoft Office 2003 | Microsoft Office Tools | Microsoft Office Application Recovery for Word 2003 and Start | All Programs | Microsoft Office Tools | Microsoft Office Application Recovery for Word XP. Once you start this tool, you’ll be given a dialog box with the following instructions: “Use Microsoft Office Application Recovery to exit an application which is not responding. You will be given the options to report the error to Microsoft and, if available, to recover your work.” The window shows you all open Office programs and provides the following choices in button form across the bottom: “Restart Application,” “End Application,” and “Cancel.”
If you use Word 2000, you don’t have this tool, but Word will still create an AutoRecover file and open it automatically once you can close and restart Word. To close any program that hangs up, press CTRL-ALT-DEL. Since I didn’t know about the Application Recovery tool until I read the Word Annoyances book but have known about CTRL-ALT-DEL since I first started using PCs, I can tell you from experience that if you use it on Word 2003 you will also be shown an AutoRecovery file when you restart Word.
Speaking of AutoRecover…
If you save your document manually on a frequent basis, you may find AutoRecover redundant and a waste of your computer’s resources (that is to say, RAM). I’ve often found that the “last saved by user” version of a document which was open when either Word or my machine shut down unexpectedly was more recent than the autosaved version.
If you don’t have tons of RAM and are tired of the little flickering delays, you can turn off AutoRecovery in Tools | Options | Save by un-checking the “Save AutoRecover info every ___ minutes” box. But if you type quickly and don’t save often, you should not only leave the box checked but shorten the save interval from 10 minutes to at most 5.
Unlike backup copies, AutoRecover documents are not saved in the same folder as the original document, but rather in your Documents and Settings folder under (username)\Application Data\Microsoft Word. They have the same name as the original document, but the file extension is .asd instead of .doc.
Open and Repair
There’s a drop-down menu in Word’s “Open” dialog box that I’ve always tended to overlook, but it’s useful to know about. If you click CTRL-O (or go to File | Open on the menu) and then select a Word doc, you’ll see a little down-arrow at the far right of the “Open” button. Click this and you’ll see the following available options: “Open,” “Open Read Only,” “Open as Copy,” and “Open and Repair.”
If a file won’t open normally, try the “Open and Repair” option. After a successful repair operation, you’ll get a dialog box which reads “Errors were detected in this file, but Word was able to open the file by making the repairs listed below. Save the file to make the repairs permanent” at the top and lists the errors by either type or description.
Save Local Copies of Network Documents
If you telecommute or work in a corporation, the originals of your documents may be stored on a network server. If your network connection goes down, your Word document may be lost or damaged. Also, if your connection is slow, working on a network document will also be slow.
To ensure that you always have a local copy of these network documents, go to Tools | Options | Save and select “Make local copy of files stored on network or removable drives.”
Sometimes this box won’t stay checked in Word 2002/XP, so you may want to download WDLocalCopy from the Microsoft Knowledge Base.
That’s all for this week. Next week—or perhaps later this week in the blog—you’ll get the bonus macro which instructs Word to save a backup copy of your document to another drive. And watch for an upcoming review of Uniblue’s WinBackup 2.0.