Software

Office challenge: Why does my Word document look different on my home computer?

Learn the solution to last week's PowerPoint challenge and test your skills on this week's new Word challenge.

Many users like to work at home, but opening a Word document on another system can play havoc with a document's layout—I spent a lot of time formatting this document, but when I opened it at home, it looked different; the page breaks are different and the graphics aren't where I put them! This challenge has two parts: first, tell us why this happens and second, make recommendations for avoiding the problem.

Last week we asked…

How would you create a non-standard superscript or subscript format in PowerPoint? You can apply both superscript and subscript to text displayed in your PowerPoint slides, but PowerPoint goes a step further: you can control the offset. It's easier than you might think too:

  1. Select the text.
  2. Click the Home tab and then click the Font dialog launcher (the small arrow in the bottom-right corner). In PowerPoint 2003, choose Font from the Format menu.
  3. In the resulting dialog box, set an Offset value. The default superscript is 30; the default subscript is -25. The limits are 100 and -100.
  4. Click OK.

It really is that simple! You can control the placement of your superscript and subscript text by setting a simple property value!

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

25 comments
Art_Jeffries
Art_Jeffries

When I first approached this question, I was under the impression that it was about how the document looked on the screen, mainly. In any event, I have been reading about the infamous printer driver, which seems to be popular around here for an answer, but I cant convince myself of such. In my experience of 20+ years working with these things, I can tell you that I have right now (2011) certain Word documents that were conceived 10+ years ago (standard margins, of course, nothing fancy) in earlier versions of Office, different computers, different Windows OS, different languages, different countries, different printers (emphasis added), and today, these documents look just the same as 10 years ago, in new computers, new systems, latest Office suite and several new printers. The font used was standard Times New Roman, so everything is exactly where its supposed to be, no matter what. (Again, all the time using the regular margin as a new document offers it.) Now, adding to my initial answer, historically Microsoft Word has included a Compatibility tab, which can be found in Tools/Options, and has a plethora of options to adjust things in the document. If these options are enforced, things might look different in the document on-screen and/or in-print. For example, I remember back in the day of the dot matrix printers when we had to check some of those options in order to have the tables printed out right (the same tables that looked perfectly fine in the screen).

Peter.Martin
Peter.Martin

In my experience, word documents, containing non-supported fonts, are displayed differently because PC print driver uses the default font, not the font on the other PC. Note: Gill Sans fonts must be purchased and installed on a printer server or PC supporting these fonts to print correctly. I recommend the word template (normal.dot) default font be set to Arial 12. This should display and print all documents correctly.

tech
tech

All of the answers so far are correct to one degree or another with different styles being defined with the same names (and therefore part of the normal.dot) making the biggest differnces with non-standard fonts being used in the original doc coming next closely followed by small differences being caused by printer definitions.

eedenbeste
eedenbeste

Could be the print drivers for one printer was set as PCL and the other one setup in Postscript. Times New Roman 12 point is not quite the same size. Another reasaon they are not the same is how did they place the text. Did they use spaces, tabs, or text alignment.

Old-Timer
Old-Timer

I didn't see anyone suggest that the Normal.dot (default settings) sent along with the document.

sarileenorton
sarileenorton

Layout view, fonts, different printers, paper size and special tweaks the writer may have used to get a particular effect can also contribute to changing the appearance. To lessen the problem, set styles and use them consistently, avoid hard page breaks, use compatibility options if different versions of Word may be used and create your file as a PDF to send to someone else or view on another computer. Sare

VosaBz
VosaBz

I think the cause should be not different printer but a different template, too. Create a template and transfer it to different computer together with the document. VosaBz

rgray
rgray

This occurs because the attached template is normal, the document contains the same style names with different definitions and the option "Automatically update document styles" is checked. To resolve the problem, simply remove the check mark for this option. In Office 2003 and earlier, select Tools, Templates and Add-Ins and uncheck the option. If Office 2007 and 2010, select Add-Ins on the Developer tab and uncheck the option.

pgit
pgit

Different versions of office, perhaps even openoffice, different default settings: margins, fonts, font sizes, templates, footnotes, headers, paragraph and line spacing... And it could be a matter of the way you were displaying on the computer you created the document on versus the one at home. If the display was to fit to screen, and the resolution of the hardware at home is different, that particular view optimization could (most likely will) alter the formatting. As for print driver, that would only effect the printed page, would it not? I don't see how that would effect the display...

ppg
ppg

The method suggested does allow you to adjust the position of sub and superscripts but it is of limited value if you have to do it for every subscript in the presentation. Is there a way to make the changes permanent?

70074512
70074512

Well, I know this sounds silly but I do think that the problem is because of a wrong chosen layout view, since the page breaks are different, then it's not a margin problem. And since there are no font changes, then it's not the cause... Now because there's an option called "layout view" (I remember it was on the lower right corner in office 2003) the user at the office has probably chosen a different layout view than that of the one at home....

cvorwerk
cvorwerk

Maybe not an issue in the USA but elsewhere. Work PC uses A4 page settings, home PC uses MS default of Letter-sized. A4 is narrower and longer that Letter-sized paper.

asjeff
asjeff

If, say, the Document was completed using the Normal.dot as the attached template and that template has the same named styles on both machines but with different formatting, that could cause the styles to update thus throwing out the formatting.

SamKirk
SamKirk

Agreed. Different printers and drivers are usually the culprit. Seen it numerous times. User can work on textual content at home and work with the graphics and layout at the office where the final document will be printed.

Ron_007
Ron_007

Ryk is right. Office apps interact with the printer driver to set printable margins and display fonts. Solutions: 1. use the same printer driver. For example you may not actually want to print the doc, so you could use a printer driver for a printer you do not actually have. Download from the printer manufacturer web site 2. Use the same printer driver: one that prints to PDF 3. Print to PDF. If you print or save the file into PDF format, installed fonts are irrelevant, formatting is static. Document is not editable Art also hit on a possible cause. But it is less likely because most people use fonts that are common to most Windows installations. Solutions: 1. Change to font(s) that exist on both machines 2. embed the font into the file. MS Word allows this option. 3. Print to PDF. If you print or save the file into PDF format, installed fonts are irrelevant, formatting is static. Document is not editable

Zahra B.
Zahra B.

First, make sure you are using the same version in both places. Second, margins are a concern (Ryk has a good point, even though I've never personally noticed the issue), try not to mess with them to the point that your image is 0,05" from the border of the page. Keep some margin (pun intended) for error. Third, never, ever align text by using additional space or enter strokes. Use tabulations (learn how to set custom ones, it'll be handy), increased line spacing, spacing before and after paragraphs, and forced page breaks. Fourth, as Art_Jeffries said, use standard fonts if you're going to carry a document from place A to place B (or make sure both places use the same font and this is even more important if you are bringing a Powerpoint presentation with you... unless you like giving a presentation in Wingdings). As for graphics moving, make sure you use the setting that keeps it aligned with the text, and then, *respect its limitations*. Yes, that means keeping the graphic within the margins, and it may mean that the graphic needs to move somewhere farther away from the text it concerns. So basically, good habits will hold you in good stead and prevent a host of problems.

Art_Jeffries
Art_Jeffries

Although I don???t claim that the following is the only cause, I know that all the symptoms described in the problem can be caused, directly or indirectly, by one thing: fonts. If the document was conceived in Computer A, using a font only installed in that machine, rest assure that the document will not look right in any other computer where this particular font is not installed. Usually Office advises the user of the issue and replaces the offending font with a generic one (like Courier, for example). Now, due to the vast differences in kerning and spacing peculiar to each set of fonts, the text will now appear different, occupying a different amount of space (usually larger), and consequently, repositioning every picture that was inserted along with the text; this goes so far as throwing pictures into the next page if there is no enough space in the previous one.

Ryk
Ryk

This happens because the printer driver used by the default printer in the two locations is different. The only solution that comes to mind is to pick conservative margin settings that are supported by both printers, otherwise it'll re-flow text to accommodate the more restrictive margin settings.

Ryk
Ryk

...use the print layout view, like many people do. If you're not using print layout view, you don't see what the printed output looks like until you either print it or specifically go to Print-Preview.

ssharkins
ssharkins

I wish I could be more helpful, but I don't know of any way to change the default value for this setting.

Meadowsong
Meadowsong

I agree with asjeff! Variances in normal.dot can wreak havoc on a document. My personal nemesis is variances in line spacing (space after/before or both at 6 pt) whereas I prefer single with zero before and zero after.

jamesski
jamesski

I'd bet this is the answer!

tjackson
tjackson

For me - it is usually the layout view settings. I always use Print Layout. If you don't - and you use lots of tabs, spaces to align - it looks okay UNTIL you switch to print layout - then you see it is really NOT lined up LOL

pgit
pgit

I never used the print layout in the main window before. I've used print preview but not all the while creating the document. I've often had to go to a certain page to add or remove a couple of empty lines and make sure I 'isolate' all the following pages from the changes, after printing and noticing something is out of whack.

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