Bring back the .doc
May 9, 2012 12:00 PM   Subscribe

I am getting the following error when trying to save in .doc format in Microsoft Word 2011 for Mac (v. 14.2.0): "the save failed due to out of memory or disk space". I can open .docs, but can only save as .docx. This happens with brand new documents and old ones.

I have searched in vain for this issue. I see that others have had this problem, but none of the various solutions I have found have helped. I have repaired permissions, and trashed the Word plist.

I also get the same error when I try to save as .rtf. If I try to save as .txt, Word just crashes.

This is on a Macbook Pro running Lion (10.7.3), and I've been having the problem since at least some time in the fall. I would just default to .docx except that I have had students and some colleagues who cannot always open .docx files, so I need to be able to have the .doc available. Plus - what happened to .rtf??
posted by DiscourseMarker to Computers & Internet (18 answers total)
My colleagues and I work with 500-1000 page documents with hundreds of tables in them and used to get this error message (on a PC though) till we figured out that Word was creating hidden bookmarks. Removing those solved the problem with no adverse effects.

Google 'strip hidden bookmarks' for instructions.
posted by Dragonness at 12:07 PM on May 9, 2012

There's nothing specific in the update notes about a bug like this, but you could try updating to 14.2.2 to see if it changes anything.
posted by bcwinters at 12:10 PM on May 9, 2012

That error message sometimes appears when an application tries to overwrite a write-protected file, and in some queer instances, the app that is locking the file can even be the one trying to overwrite it.

I think I've gotten that problem in Word before, but in those cases, close/restart Word solved it, generally.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:14 PM on May 9, 2012

Response by poster: I found the instructions for stripping hidden bookmarks, but my documents have no bookmarks to strip. Like I said, I can open a new document, type one word, then try to save, and I cannot save in .doc, .rtf. or .txt formats. Word has been opened and closed multiple times, to no effect.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 12:40 PM on May 9, 2012

Response by poster: Updated Word to 14.2.2, created new document, same problem.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 1:02 PM on May 9, 2012

Is there something that might have precipitated this? Did you upgrade your OS last fall?

Do you have the install disks for Word?

Which prefs did you trash? The Plist or all of them? Go to /YourUser/Library/Preferences/Microsoft. I have found that trashing (well, move to desktop) Office 11 First Run and relaunching Word or any Office app will have the app run through a check of things like fonts and application support files. You could also trash the Microsoft Word file if you only trashed the Plist last time.
posted by MonsieurBon at 1:06 PM on May 9, 2012

Response by poster: I bought the laptop in July 2011, right around the same time Lion was released, so that is the only OS I've ever had installed. There was an update in Oct 2011 (10.7.2) that could be approximately around the same time as the problem started, though I haven't had much success finding anything about this problem on the Apple support forums if it is a Lion issue.

I trashed just the Word Plist, not the other Microsoft preferences, so I will try that next.

I do not have Word install disks, as my copy comes from a bulk license from my university. I just have a disk image downloaded from the university's software site.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 2:16 PM on May 9, 2012

Do you have a custom template or have you edited normal.doc?

Can you open a new, blank document, add one line of text and save as a .doc? Or does this fail as well?

I had a similar problem many, many, many versions back on Word - I think it was related to an automatic numbering of equations or references. The number was stored in a ridiculously small format (maybe just 8 bits) and was limited on save but not in usage. So I could create more than 255 of this entity, but then documents would not save and would throw the memory error...
posted by NoDef at 5:03 PM on May 9, 2012

Response by poster: Can you open a new, blank document, add one line of text and save as a .doc? Or does this fail as well?

This fails as well. I may have changed the default margins on the normal template, but I have no other custom templates installed.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 5:15 PM on May 9, 2012

Can you save a file to any other location, such as the desktop?

Do you have word set for automatic backup creation?

Have you run the and filtered for Microsoft Word and seen if any useful messages show up?
posted by Mad_Carew at 6:19 PM on May 9, 2012

Try this (from here:

1) Open the Microsoft for Mac Office folder.
2) Click the Word icon, press SHIFT, and then click Open on the File menu. This lets Word for Mac bypass all but the default settings when the program starts.
3) Try to create a new blank document from the Project Gallery, and then try to reproduce the issue again to see if the issue has been resolved.

If this works look at the link to see how to remove the normal.doc file...
posted by NoDef at 6:24 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: So.....NoDef your solution halfway fixed the problem. Holding shift while opening Word allows me to save in .doc. .rtf and .txt files. I deleted the normal.dotm file, restarted Word....and the problem came back :(

So it will only work if I shift-open. How do I make the fix permanent?
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:05 PM on May 9, 2012

OK, that last comment made me think...

Can you enter the Macro editor (Alt+F11), and if so, are there any macro module groups listed to the left besides "Normal" and the current Word file's name?

Holding down shift prevents macros from running at startup. Virus macros will typically either be uneditable, or prevent you from entering Word's macro editor at all.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:58 PM on May 10, 2012

Response by poster: Can you enter the Macro editor (Alt+F11), and if so, are there any macro module groups listed to the left besides "Normal" and the current Word file's name?

There is a "Word Commands" group with a ton of Macros. Are these things I can safely disable or delete?
posted by DiscourseMarker at 7:13 AM on May 11, 2012

Your macro editor should read "Microsoft Visual Basic" at the top, and look like this (the large grey area may be filled with subwindow(s) full of text). My example screenshot has four such macro containers (DOORSExporter, Normal, Project, and SaveCode), with hundreds of actual macros in them. ALL macro in every container (actually representing an open document, which may be hidden) should be deletable.

Since you've already deleted the normal.dotm file (which is where your personal settings reside), you can delete with impunity... I should mention, if you've installed something special (OED Dictionary, special MS Office integration software, etc), there may be something in there you will be destroying, but outside of work computers this is rare. Any legitimate sources of such macros will likely be *.dotm files residing alongside normal.dotm, so you could zip them all up safe somewhere first. (In my case, DOORSExporter is installed by my IT dept, and I don't normally have the authority to remove it - but it's an exceptional case, and I know where it came from.)
posted by IAmBroom at 1:21 PM on May 11, 2012

Response by poster: I am on a Mac, not Windows, and the only Macros menu I could find didn't look anything like that. I think it was under Tools>Macros. (alt-f11 doesn't do anything). I didn't see anything that said Microsoft Visual Basic. I know from experience that a lot of the menus are organized differently on Office for Mac vs. the Windows versions, but I've never used macros, so I don't know what the analogous settings are.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 7:47 PM on May 11, 2012

Ack, sorry; my familiarity dwindles there, then.

Tools>Macros is also the path in Windows, so that's useful.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:49 AM on May 14, 2012

Best answer: So after finding *more* problems with Word 2011 (this time with Endnote X5), I deleted the whole mess, downloaded a new disk image form my university, and reinstalled. So far, .doc and Endnote seem to be working. I guess my old install was just corrupted somehow.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:36 AM on June 1, 2012

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