Line spacing in Word for Mac vs. Windows?
June 15, 2011 6:01 AM   Subscribe

Why does my one-pager in Word for Mac become a two-pager when I open it up in Word for Windows?

On my Macbook I run Word 2008 on OS X Snow Leopard. I also have Word 2007 on Windows 7 via Boot Camp on the same machine, as well as Word 2003 on Windows XP on my work laptop (which also has the why-am-I-still-using-this-IE-6. But I digress).

My question is, I have a document that I have edited on Word 08 on Mac to be exactly a page long, say, a resume, for instance. When I send it to either of my Windows machines and open it up in Word, in both 07 and 03 it runs over by two lines or so to the second page. Why is this?

For what it's worth, I have managed to fix the situation in Windows by adjusting the paragraph spacing to be "Exactly" instead of "Single." But this still doesn't make sense to me. Even if the paragraph spacing defaults for some reason are different between Word on my Mac and my PC (and I don't think so, never having adjusted this on either machine), if I create a document in Word for Mac and open it up in Word for Windows, shouldn't it look exactly the same? There is nothing fancy, no graphics or tables, just lines of text using tabs, and I've checked that the fonts and margins are the same.

Is there some way for me to deal with this admittedly minor but rather annoying issue? Or is this too much to ask and I should just put up with the whims of the computer gods?

(I have looked at other related threads but they don't seem to have this issue. The first is similar, but I'm not using Open Office/Pages. It's Microsoft software all around.)
posted by andrewesque to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
What font are you using? Could it be a PostScript to TrueType font issue?
posted by xingcat at 6:04 AM on June 15, 2011

Slight differences in how Word Mac/Windows reads headers/footers/margins?
posted by Thorzdad at 6:35 AM on June 15, 2011

Response by poster: @xingcat: It's Adobe Garamond Pro. I had copied the font files from a (different) PC to my Mac, and then onto the 7 on Bootcamp and XP on work machine computers, if that makes a difference.

@Thorzdad: I was afraid that it might be something like that, but it still frustrates me that an 0.5" margin on Mac doesn't equal an 0.5" margin on Word. It just seems like a lot of cross-platform issues could come up this way...
posted by andrewesque at 6:38 AM on June 15, 2011

Do you have Widow/Orphan Control set in one and not the other? That can do some funky things with formatting around a page break.

(Try looking in Format -> Paragraphs -> Line and Page Breaks, at least on the Mac version.)
posted by Georgina at 6:44 AM on June 15, 2011

I don't know the answer, but this happens to me all the time. The font doesn't seem to matter in my experience.
posted by 2ghouls at 6:55 AM on June 15, 2011

Once you've used Word to create the exact document you want, export to PDF to freeze it (the 'P' stands for 'portable'). Unless you really, really like poking around in options.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:02 AM on June 15, 2011

Response by poster: @Georgina: Thanks for the suggestion! I am unfortunately at work/away from my Mac at the moment but I will be sure to check when I get home.

@2ghouls: Sigh.

@benito.strauss: I know about PDFs (in fact I will PDF this file once I'm done with it) but the key here is that I have to keep editing it on different machines/operating systems, which is why I ask.

Thanks for all the replies so far!
posted by andrewesque at 7:31 AM on June 15, 2011

Are you formatting for the same printer? And if you are, are the printable areas the same? It doesn't take much of a difference to alter the way Word lays things out.
posted by tommasz at 8:27 AM on June 15, 2011

This same problem has happened to me in transferring Word files from one Mac to another. Like 2ghouls above, I don't know what the cause is, but I think you can rule out that it's a Mac/Windows problem.
posted by cribcage at 8:36 AM on June 15, 2011

Font sizes are not identical between Mac and Windows, even with the exact same font and exactly the same formatting and margins. If you need precision, the only reliable way is to do the formatting on the same machine you expect to print it from.
posted by ook at 8:37 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Most likely this is due to differences in the print drivers. This is perhaps understandable for completely different printers, but even for the same printer model its likely that the Mac and Windows drivers will have slightly different settings. Theres no good reason for this other than most print drivers suck.

Word will look at the settings of your default printer when laying out the page. If the print driver doesnt provide a value (such as printable width or height) then Word will make an educated guess.

One easy solution is to just set all 4 margins conservatively, move the top margin down by a line, the bottom margin up by a line etc. This is what I do for CVs then no matter which printer is used it should fit on one page.
posted by Lanark at 9:48 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yup, trying to transfer docs from Mac to Windows versions of Office and vice versa is horrible. They absolutely do not play nice with each other. I even had Microsoft technical support tell me that after some hair tearing out over a Powerpoint presentation that I was working on for a client.
posted by merocet at 11:41 AM on June 15, 2011

Best answer: Lanark said exactly what I was going to mention. We deal with this all the time in our print shop. We strongly prefer PDF for obvious reasons, but will take Word if that's all they have. Without exception, the document appears substantially different on our machine than it did on theirs. Usually it's because of print drivers. Word will "remember" the settings for the default printer on the computer that the document was created on. Usually it causes headaches for us with trying to pull from the wrong paper drawers, but Word also remembers the "printable page area" for that default printer. When you open the document on a different computer, it sort of "reflows" the text to fit the new printable page area, which can result in significant differences.

And this is just going from Word 2010 on one computer to Word 2010 on another computer. Crossing versions of Word, or going from Mac to Windows versions makes it even worse.

There are also differences in how Macs and PCs handle fonts, which can add weirdness as well.
posted by xedrik at 3:29 PM on June 15, 2011

Something often overlooked: is your Windows installation correctly localized? I often see Australian Windows boxes that still have the defaults all set up for the US, and one effect of that is that Word picks a default page size of US Letter instead of A4.
posted by flabdablet at 6:21 PM on June 15, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everybody for your answers! Guess I was too optimistic to think that all computers could play well together...
posted by andrewesque at 6:21 AM on June 16, 2011

You might have better results from getting your cross-platform incompatibility for free instead of paying hundreds of dollars for it.

If you do decide to give LibreOffice a whirl, then at some stage you will probably find yourself needing to convert between the .odt files it makes natively and .doc or .docx files for Word. LibreOffice Writer can both use and generate .doc and .docx files, but I have found that using Word 2010 (which is the first version I'm aware of that supports .odt - thank you NATO!) for the conversion job causes less formatting breakage, as you'd expect given that all of LibreOffice's support for Microsoft's proprietary formats has had to be reverse engineered.
posted by flabdablet at 12:02 AM on June 17, 2011

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