My morning started with a ticket assigned before I got here, scheduled for first thing after the morning “huddle.” The dispatcher pitched me to the client as “the best person at this sort of thing,” having wholly misunderstood the nature of the call. (They thought it was a backup-restore situation, when in fact it was an Office Behaving Badly situation. D’oh.)

I was, in fact, able to quickly recover the desired information from Word’s auto-recovery files. This made the client very happy. Unfortunately, unless we could figure out why Word was crashing so reliably (as it were) in one particular set of documents, the problem was going to come back again and again. In one location on the network could be found eight similar Word DOCX files.

The symptom: Open a file, scroll down into the numbered lists, go to the end of a line of text and press the Enter key to initiate a new numbered line. Word 2013 immediately crashes.

The things we tried:

  • Open the document in Word 2010: No problems at all.
  • Use Word 2010 to save into 2003-compatible DOC format: Word 2013 still crashed.
  • Launch Word 2013 in Safe Mode: Word 2013 still crashed.
  • Use Word 2013 to open-and-repair the file: Word 2013 still crashed.
  • Repair Office 2013: Word 2013 still crashed.
  • Copy & paste the document contents into a whole new file and save (into either 2003-style DOC or 2007+ DOCX): Word 2013 still crashed.

I lost an hour and a half on this just of my own time, and then brought in a couple members of my team to bash on it as well. One of them figured out the problem:

The numbered list formatting was broken, somehow, in a way that only Word 2013 had a problem with. If we select the document contents and simply choose another numbered list format/style preset… the problem vanishes.

Yep. Seriously.

So, that was a fun way to spend the first half of a Friday!