Word went weird with field codes

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A reader writes in with a problem related to field codes in Word.

An old friend – I last saw him at Comdex when Comdex was Comdex, if ya know what I mean – wrote with an interesting question:

“As usual, I have a weird Word question that’s baffling me, so I figured I’d go right to the source. About five or so days ago, I began to notice that text that I had cut and pasted into Word documents from the Web is displaying in very weird ways. For example, I pasted the following text from the Web several weeks ago:

Open Fonts in Control Panel.

It read that way for weeks. Now, however, it’s changed how it displays, and it reads like this:

Open { HYPERLINK “ms-its:C:WINDOWSHelpfonts.chm::/windows_fonts_print.htmEXEC=,cont rol.exe,%20fonts%20CHM=ntshared.chm%20FILE=alt_url_windows_component.htm ” o “” } in Control Panel.

I can’t get it to display properly. I’m sure I’ve changed some kind of oddball setting without realizing it, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what or where it is. Any thoughts?”


I wrote back to him and explained that he must’ve told Word to start showing field codes. If you’ve never worked with field codes, the sudden appearance of those little critters can be a very eye-opening experience.

If you know what’s happening, the solution is easy: almost always if you click the backwards-P “Show/Hide P” icon on the Standard toolbar, the field code goes away and the text comes back. (In fact, that’s how my friend came to be staring at his field codes – he accidentally clicked that infernal “Show/Hide P” button. He didn’t mention it – he’s a polite guy – but Word was also putting dots on the screen wherever it saw a space. A most dreadful situation.)

Once in a very blue moon, clicking the backwards-P icon doesn’t work and you have to dig into Word and get rid of the Field Codes. That’s easy, too – if you know how to do it. (It’s a lead-pipe bear if you don’t know what’s happening.) To get bring back the Field results, click Tools | Options | View and uncheck the box marked Field Codes.


I’ve discussed field codes in these newsletters before, many times, but it’s hard to understand that when you see a mess like { HYPERLINK blah blah blah }, you’re actually looking at a bit of under-the-covers work by Word to go out, retrieve something and stick it in your document. That’s what fields do. They go out, grab something, and put it in the doc – and most of the time you don’t even know that they did their thing. Field codes lie at the heart of automatically updated dates, page numbers, Table of Contents entries, hyperlinks, linked pictures, and dozens (maybe hundreds!) of features that you probably use fairly frequently.

This particular field code is interesting because it’s a hyperlink to a Control Panel applet, the applet that you see if you click on Start | Control Panel | Appearance and Themes | Fonts. The field code was copied directly from the Windows XP Help and Support Center topic “To print a font sample.” And… it doesn’t work in Word! If you click on the hyperlink (Ctrl+Click in Word 2002 or 2003), Internet Explorer says it can’t find the location.

Ah well.

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