Speed-up Word 2016

17 June 2017, 05:58

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As a professional writer I use Microsoft Word a lot but Word 2016 has always been problematically and annoyingly slow once I get beyond a few pages of text. I find that there’s a delay when I type, so what I see on screen trails behind, and sometimes scrolling down pages mean they don’t redraw instantly, leaving with me a grey screen for a second or two. Sadly, there’s no sign of a fix from Microsoft despite numerous complaints.

So, I searched to find some solutions. If you have the same problem, any or indeed all of these tips might help.

Note: If your problem is Word 2016’s slow start-up from cold, and not slowdowns during editing, see this older tip.

Make it compatible
Look at the title of the document in the Word window. Does it read immediately afterwards [Compatibility Mode]? This means the document hasn’t been updated for take advantage of all Word 2016’s new features, and it seems this also causes slowdowns. The fix is to click File > Convert Document. You’ll see a warning about how the layout of the document might be adjusted, so you might choose to save a copy of the document beforehand. Note two things. First, if the file was a .doc file then will be switched to .docx. Saving the file will create a new .docx version of the file alongside the older .doc file. Secondly, this change might cause problems if you work with people running old versions of Word. If that’s the case then the best policy might be to get them to open one of your converted documents as a test, to see what happens.

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Switch to draft mode
Do you work in Print Layout view mode? I do, and have for years because I need to see when I’m filling up pages. However, switching to Draft (click the View menu and select the option) will very likely speed-up the document if you have a lot of text. Yes, you sacrifice WYSIWYG layout, and to me the whole thing looks a lot messier and… well, draft-like. But it’s definitely faster. Don’t forget you can adjust the zoom level using the slider on the status bar at the bottom right.

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Quit Dropbox
Dropbox integrates with Word nowadays and some people report that the integration has negative effects on Word 2016. Just try quitting Dropbox – hold down Option (Alt on some keyboards) and click the Dropbox menubar icon, then select Quit Dropbox. If your problems go away then you’ve identified the cause. It’s not clear how Dropbox integrates with Word but if you just can’t work without Dropbox running then you might choose to turn off Dropbox’s Accessibility integration with macOS. To do so, open System Preferences, click the Security & Privacy icon, and then click the Privacy tab. Then click the Accessibility icon at the left of the window, and remove the check/tick alongside Dropbox (you might need to click the padlock at the bottom left first to allow this system change). Note that this might also affect Dropbox’s visual integration with Finder, but everything else will work just fine.

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Turn off grammar checking
Allegedly, grammar checking can also slow down Word 2016, so to turn it off start by clicking the Word 2016 menu bar entry, and then Preferences (or simply tap Cmd+comma). In the preferences dialog box that appears, click the Spelling & Grammar icon, and the remove the check from Check Grammar As You Type.

Use Office 2011
My version of Word is provided as part of a business subscription so I’m not sure if the following is true but it certainly used to be the case that it was possible to downgrade to Office 2011 if you have a personal Office 365 subscription. Just head over to the download section of Office 365 and make the choice, or head over to MacAdmins, which lists all the official Office for Mac downloads (this is entirely legal – the downloads won’t work until you login with your Office 365 or work-supplied account details). Although not as pretty, Word 2011 is still a damn fine word processor and speedy to boot – it starts in the blink of an eye, and I’ve never experienced any slowdowns either. I know some people will suggest switching to LibreOffice, but in my tests it’s still not as polished as Microsoft’s products and you’ll still get those annoying file compatibility glitches. However, you might like to give it a try. Of course, there’s always Apple’s own Pages but for compatibility reasons – it can only export Word documents and not natively work with them – I’ve found it to be not useful.

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Unfortunately, Microsoft Word for Mac 2011 will NOT work with Mac OS High Sierra – the newest version of Mac OS coming in Fall 2016.

So if you want to continue using Microsoft Word, it will have to be with Microsoft Word 2016.

— James Katt · Jun 17, 09:36 PM · #