Missing “Hyphenation” Menu Entry in Microsoft Word due to Corrupted Normal File

December 7th, 2009

Recently, I upgraded to Microsoft Office for Mac 2008 from the 2004 edition. Overall, it turned out to be a welcome improvement, amongst others because it doesn’t crash the WindowServer any more.

However, one issue puzzled me: the “Hyphenation…” menu entry was simply missing from the Tools menu. Simply not there. Nowhere to be seen. In effect, it turned out to be impossible to have Word hyphenate documents.

So I tried everything: I trashed all preference files under ~/Library/Preferences/Microsoft/ and the ~/Library/Preferences/com.microsoft.* files. I trashed all files under ~/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office/, which contains the Normal.dotm file. I reinstalled Office. To no avail.

Finally, I turned to Microsoft’s support. Their first working assumption seems to be that anything not working is due to corrupted preferences. So they basically made me repeat all those steps I had performed before. In particular, they suggested trashing ~/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office/Normal(.dotm), which I had done. I got a gnawing feeling that this support incident wouldn’t be going anywhere.

Enter fs_usage.

So I traced Word’s startup process using fs_usage and found out that Microsoft’s support has somewhat of a good support script, but it lacks a small but important detail: Microsoft Word looks not in one, but in seven possible locations for a Normal.xxx file, namely:

  1. ~/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Normal
  2. ~/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office/User Templates/Normal
  3. ~/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office/User Templates/Normal.dotm
  4. /Applications/Microsoft Office 2008/Normal
  5. /Applications/Microsoft Office 2008/Normal.dotm
  6. /Applications/Microsoft Office 2008/Office/Media/Templates/Normal
  7. /Applications/Microsoft Office 2008/Office/Media/Templates/Normal.dotm

In my case, there was an old Normal file, probably left behind by Word 2004, in ~/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Normal! After I removed it (and the file ~/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office/User Templates/Normal.dotm, which apparently had become “infected” by the same issue that plagued the old Normal file), the Hyphenation… menu item reappeared!

So there’s two takeaways here:

First, there’s a bug in Microsoft Word 2008 that makes the Hyphenation menu item disappear if the Normal(.dotm) is corrupted in a particular fashion. What exactly is to blame, I don’t know. I only know this is a bug.

Second, whenever you suspect that Word may be misbehaving due to a corrupted Normal file, you should look not only in the default location ~/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office/User Templates/Normal.dotm, but in all the seven possible locations mentioned above.

Unfortunately, the only goal of Microsoft’s support seems to be to close incidents as quickly as possible with as little complications as possible. So they didn’t acknowledge that this is quite certainly a bug in Microsoft Office, nor did they seem to be willing to forward any information to the development team at the MacBU, nor did they acknowledge that their support scripts were lacking. Too bad for a missed opportunity to improve future customer support and satisfaction.

Categories: ms office

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