Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Deleting Freezes Computer.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 11, 2021)
Sharon reports that a rectangle with two lines dissecting to form an X (like the back of an envelope) has appeared in her Word document. When she right-clicks on the thing to delete it, her computer freezes up.
There are several things to check on your system. First, the rectangle could be a "placeholder" for a linked graphic, and Word is having troubles locating the graphic. If Word thinks the graphic is on a network drive and it is having problems making the connection to the drive, then you may see the symptoms that appear when you try to delete the graphic. If this is the case, then the "freeze" isn't really a freeze; Word is simply trying, behind the scenes, to touch base with the missing graphic. Eventually the attempts will time out and Word should, once again, become responsive.
If the graphic is linked using a field, you could display the field codes in the document to see what underlies the rectangle. Press Alt+F9 and, if the rectangle is replaced with some codes within field braces, you can then try to figure out what the field code is doing. You can also delete the field braces, with the code contained therein, to see if the problem goes away. When you are done looking at the field codes, simply press Alt+F9 again.
If the X in the rectangle is red, then it is possible that the cause could be due to the graphic itself—it could be because it is too complex for Word to display or it could be corrupted in some way. Here is an article by Word MVP Suzanne Barnhill that explains the problem and some possible solutions:
Finally, it could be that the document itself is corrupted. If this is the case, then you should open a new, blank document and copy the original document (only the portions before and after the rectangle) to the new document.
WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (9188) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Deleting Freezes Computer.
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