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Overlaid Text Display Problem

07/04/2009

I came across a bizarre issue today in Microsoft Word. A user had a document containing a set of information laid out in a tabular format where the text in each cell was being condensed and overlaid so that the text was all being placed one character on top of another. The image shown here illustrates how “Hello world” looks when the characters are overlaid one on top of another.

compressed-font

Plain text and all the letters on top of one another

Copying and pasting the text out of a cell into the main body did not resolve the overlay issue.  Pasting the text into notepad did however prove that the text was indeed intact.  Therefore the issue was something that related to lay out.

There were no style or formatting settings that seemed to affect the character spacing in the way I expected so I then tried changing the font.  Originally it was set to Times New Roman, but changing it to another font restored the text to a legible format.  Changing it back to Times New Roman again incurred the overlay issue.  This suggested a font corruption.

I also tried adjusting the size of the text.  It then turned out that any size other than 12 pt resulted in the text being disaplyed correctly.  So anything but Times New Roman 12 pt was displayed correctly.

I had a quick look at the font file (found in the fonts applet in control panel in Windows XP) and the 12 pt size loked okay which suggested that it was something else affecting the way in which Word was laying it out on the page.  The page layout view was being used and this is built from the parameters of the current printer driver.

I changed the printer from the network HP printer located a few desks away to a CutePDF printer … and lo and behold the text appeared as normal.  I set it back to the HP printer and the overlay issue returned.  It seems a corruption in the printer driver was causing the issue.

I deleted the HP printer and then reinstalled it.  The text in the document was once again visible in Times New Roman 12 pt and the user also succeeded in printing out the document (which had previously suffered from the same issue as that seenon screen).

So if you have a bizarre layout issue in Microsoft Word that changing style based settings doesn’t seem to clear, try changing or reinstalling your printer.

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