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Why Does Word Tell Me a Document Changed When It Hasn’t?

Changes you didn’t make.

Microsoft Word
(Screenshot: askleo.com)
It's sometimes hard to tell why Word thinks a document changed even though you haven't done anything. I'll look at a few clues.

Hey Leo, what can I do, when I close out of an existing saved Word document, to stop the “Do you want to save changes to your document?” window from coming up every time, even when I haven’t made changes or touched a thing?

Word thinks your document changed.

Chances it’s correct, even if all you did was look.

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Different printers can cause Word to repaginate or otherwise consider a document to have been laid out differently, and thus changed. Features such as fields can be used to include in the document information that changes automatically, even when viewed. Macros and Add-ins can make unexpected changes as well.

Save Changes dialog
(Screenshot: askleo.com)

Printers and printing

Some versions of Microsoft Word include a feature called “background repagination”, meaning that when you open a document Word goes through it and calculates all the appropriate page breaks for whatever printer you currently have set as default.

Even without that feature, the fact that you might have a different printer than the one originally present when the document was last edited might be enough for Word to consider the document has changed. It’s also one reason documents can look different on different machines.

Fields

Another common cause is something called “fields”, which are in essence calculated results.

For example, you can insert a field into your document including the date the document was last saved or printed. The problem arises when some fields are recalculated just by looking. Fields including date and time are often culprits, though in complex documents there are several approaches that could result in Word thinking the document has changed.

It’s difficult to say exactly which because it will vary based on the document in question.

Add-ins

Macros and Add-Ins can also cause Word to think something has changed. Macros can be set to trigger when a document is opened or at other seemingly random times. Add-Ins similarly can make subtle changes that may not visibly affect the document but can cause Word to think it’s changed.

Document changed

The bottom line is it can be hard to tell why Word might consider a document to have changed even though you haven’t done anything since opening or last saving it.

Hopefully, knowing that it happens and some of the reasons helps.

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10 comments on “Why Does Word Tell Me a Document Changed When It Hasn’t?”

  1. I have got a different problem, word files appear with dates of “last time this document was opened”, that are impossible. For example, the computer will tell that such a word document was opened at such hour when nobody was home, and the computer was disconnected.

    Have any clues?, Virus? Bug? Bios batery?

    Strange stuff.

    Thanks,

    Jcm

    Reply
  2. I get the same msg, but only on some documents. My problem is that I can click yes when it asks if I want to save the changes, but when immediately reopen it, and do nothing but close it, it asks once again if I want to save changes. I’ve checked this with nothing else running, no other document open, etc., and it still asks if I want to save the changes. This really is annoying. I would appreciate any help anyone could give. Thanks.

    Reply
  3. I had the same problem and created a new file line by line until I got the “do you want to save” etc. The lines forcing the save for me were dates that were assigned smart tags. When you put the cursor over the date you get an I icon with a drop down that gives you the clue.
    So if this is what is getting you then you can go to Tools then autocorrect options and select smart tags. At this point I just disabled the “label text with smart tags” then clicked on Remove smart tags and I no longer am having the problem. You might want to check out this possibility.

    Reply
  4. I had the same problem and I knew that it had to be a setting in Word because I could open and close the same document on one computer without any prompting, but on the other it would ALWAYS prompt me to save. The solution was to uncheck the “embed smart tags” in the tools -> options -> save tab. I am glad I found that. What a pain.

    Reply
  5. After days of frustration and hours of trawling through Google with different search phrases….at last….the solution. Unticked the “EMBEDED SMART TAGS” box and resaved the template…….et voila! Thank you.

    Reply
  6. Much appreciated. I was able to correct this problem by going to “Insert”, then “AutoText”, then “Smart Tags” and disabling the “Label text with smart tags” box. Though I don’t know why the problem occurred with some Word files but not with others. So thanks all.

    Reply

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