Word X: Disk Is Full bug not fixed

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
March 7th, 2004 • 1:24 am

Last week, I had a long discussion with Microsoft’s Rick Schaut. This discussion covered a great number of issues. In particular, Rick said that the “Disk Is Full” bug that has been affecting every version of Word since Word 98 had “been fixed for quite some time“, but that he didn’t know whether the fix has “made it into [Word] 10.1.5“.

Well, I am sorry to report that it obviously didn’t make it. Here’s a snapshot that I took today, while working on a translation with Word X 10.1.5:

Disk Is Full dialog

Of course, in order to make things even more user-friendly, Word X promptly crashed right after I took the snap shot, making sure that I definitely lost all the work that I had done since the last document save and that I wouldn’t have been able to use the other “fix” that Rick Schaut mentioned during the course of the discussion either.

But I am not supposed to become exasperated. This bug has been with us for 6 years. It has, once again, caused me to lose some important data. But no, I am not supposed to become exasperated. I am supposed to understand that it is all a matter of “opportunity cost” and software development priorities.

Since the fix didn’t make it into 10.1.5 and it doesn’t look like there’ll ever be a Word X 10.1.6, I suppose that the only option now is to pray that the issue will be fixed in Word 2004, and start saving the cash needed to purchase the upgrade.

All this makes me feel much better about Microsoft. Thanks for everything, Rick.

12 Responses to “Word X: Disk Is Full bug not fixed”

  1. Paul Robertson says:

    Hi Pierre,

    Just got round to reading your exchange with Rick, pretty interesting stuff.

    I would consider myself within the 70% of users that use Word essentially as a typewriter – for me the single most annoying issue – “stalls while I am typing text”, how MS could release a product with this bug is beyond me.

    Why can’t Rick understand that these are the type of issues that need to be addressed as a matter of urgency as opposed to c**p like introducing features like “Project Centre” and the “Notebook”? I believe that most people would swap such features for a real improvement in the reliability of Word’s most basic features.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    If the stalls bother you a lot (they bother me a lot) and if you frequently use AutoCorrect/AutoText entries for common phrases, I highly recommend Spell Catcher X 10.1. One of its added benefits is that the glossary feature (which replaces the one provided by Word) uses a special trick with invisible mouse movements to work around the stalls when expanding shorthand abbreviations. Of course, it’s an additional expense, but it’s well worth the price as far as I am concerned. And anything that enables the user to rely less on Microsoft’s software seems to be a good idea these days.

  3. Bill Hutchinson says:

    Hi Pierre,

    Yesterday I was hit with the dreaded “Disk is Full” bug. This is the first time it has happened since switching to OSX over a year ago. I thought the bug was fixed.

    The name escapes me, but under OS9 there was a small utility designed to help combat crashes from this bug. It would indicate when the disk was becoming full and I could quit and restart Word without fear of losing data. Hardly a “fix,” but useful nonetheless. Do you know of a similar utility designed for OSX?

    I just wish Microsoft would forget about ever-confusing bells and whistles and concentrate on stabilizing Office. I won’t begin….



  4. Pierre Igot says:

    Bill: The OS 8/9 utility was provided by Alsoft and gave a count of the number of files currently open. But the utility was OS 8/9-only and was just for monitoring purposes. In fact, in OS 9 itself, if I remember correctly, Apple bumped the open files limit to several thousand, effectively making the issue of the open files count system-wide obsolete.

    However, the “Too many files open / Disk is full” bug persisted in Word 2001 (and then in Word X), which is obviously an indication that the problem was not just caused by the limit on the number of open files imposed by OS 8, but rather by something internal in Word.

    There is no Alsoft “Open Files” utility for OS X. However, if you launch the Activity Monitor (in Panther) and get the information on the Word process (or any process for that matter), you’ll see that there is an “Open Files” tab that appears to provide a list of open files. It doesn’t give an Open Files count, but it might be worth monitoring just the same.

  5. Grant Erickson says:

    At both home and work, I recently updated Office 2004 to the latest update (11.1) and am displeased to report that this problem has rampantly started plaguing me in Word. I happily admit that prior to 11.1, I never saw this problem and I have been using every version of Word–aggressively at that–since about version 2.0 back in the day.

    I agree with the person that expressed frustration over features like “Project Center” when basic improvements would have a much better payoff for me. FrameMaker, may it rest in peace, is a more pleasurable document composition environment despite its high cost and high learning curve.

  6. Pierre Igot says:

    Grant: Are you saying you are getting the “Disk is Full” alert in Word 2004 SP1? Can you describe the circumstances?

  7. Grant Erickson says:

    Pierre, I am saying precisely that. The circumstances under which this happens are:

    1. Duplicate from the Finder a previously-saved meeting minute or status report document “template” (it’s not actually a .dot file).

    2. Open said copy.

    3. Start editing away, saving periodically.

    4. After some series of saves (auto-saves?), the Disk is Full error pops up. I am unable to save the file in .doc format to any other disk drive, network drive, iPod, flash drive, Zip drive, or whatever. The ONLY way to get out of the situtation is to save the document as an RTF or Text file and then re-save it as Word file.

  8. Pierre Igot says:

    Grant: Sorry it took me so long to respond. Was away on vacation :). Obviously, this is a bit difficult to reproduce. What I find strange, however, is that, according to you, even after the ‘Disk Is Full’ error has popped up, it is still possible to save the document as an RTF file. In my experience, with the Disk Is Full error, once it occurs, there is no way to save the document before closing it, unless you have other documents open at the same time and you can close these other documents without saving them, thereby freeing up some “open file” slots that Word can use to save the offending file.

    Can you confirm that you are indeed able to save as RTF even after the error message has appeared, without having to close other files currently open in Word? That would represent another “flavour” of the error, then.

  9. Pierre Igot says:

    Thanks for the update. Glad to hear that you were able to solve your problem. I too have yet to encounter a virus in Mac OS X, but am relying on Microsoft’s built-in (and often overzealous) macro virus checking feature. I am assuming that you had this feature on on your machine as well, yet it didn’t catch this particular virus. That has to be a source of concern. Any idea where you might have got the virus from?

  10. Grant Erickson says:

    Pierre: I can, indeed, confirm that there was no need to close any other files in order to save as an RTF. In fact, the document that generated the error was the only document open.

    After further debugging, the culprit seems to have been that the Normal template was infected with W97.Maker macro virus, as evidenced by things such as “Are You Surprised?”, “LSK” and something about “Shankar’s birthday” in the properties fields for the document.

    After running Virex on the system and cleaning that one file, the problem seems to have disappeared entirely.

    This, unfortunately, has been my first, in 20+ years of Macintosh use, run-in with a virus on the Mac. Even though the virus isn’t directly Microsoft’s fault, I cannot help but be left a bit angered and frustrated in light of productivity lost on all this debugging that they don’t have a more robust file format and that Word, internally, isn’t better able to detect infection of its own files.

  11. Ricardo Azevedo says:

    Word X? This bug isn’t fixed in Word 11.1 either! I had never experienced it before (I’ve used every version of Word for Mac since 5.0) but when I got it today I Googled the error message and quickly hit your blog. Interestingly I’ve recently converted to LaTeX and am only using Word when it’s absolutely necessary — like now when I’m writing a paper with someone who prefers to use Word.

    While I’m on the subject of this delightful software, has anyone experienced the following? When I scroll a long document with a mouse wheel the scrolling occasionally freezes and I can only release it by clicking on the document. I noticed this for the first time in Word X and it’s driving me crazy.

    (No prizes for guessing what software I’ll be going back to next…)

  12. Pierre Igot says:

    I am afraid I am not surprised that this bug is not completely gone. I haven’t experienced it myself in a long time, but that doesn’t mean anything Your experience would suggest that there are still some scenarios in Word 2004 (11.x) that can trigger the bug.

    As for the scrolling issues, they are even worse in Word 2004 than they were in Word X. Word 2004 suffers from horrendous performance issues, even on very fast machines. The scrolling behaviour is just one of the most obvious.

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