This morning I had a plea for help with the computer in our Church Office. Our Parish Administrator had tried four times to send a Microsoft Word document to my fellow Churchwarden, and every time it had come back with a weird failure message. Taking a look I tried resending the message, and after about five minutes of disk thrashing and network traffic it again produced the error message, saying that the upstream mail server had broken the connection.
What was slightly more weird was that other messages were being sent and received without problem, so I took a look at what was actually being sent. On the surface it seemed relatively innocuous – a little bit of an accompanying message, along with a four page word document. The document included a couple of pictures and some clip art, but nothing out of the ordinary. Then I looked at the size of the file – 16MB!
A quick dig around the options on the install of Microsoft Word found the problem – ‘Allow Fast Saves’ was turned on.
A bit of explanation, Fast Saves is a feature in Word that does exactly what it says on the tin – makes saving your document faster. The way it does this is pretty simple, rather than recreating your entire document file from scratch, it instead attaches a new block to the end of the file detailing the changes you have made since the last save. If you’ve got a very big document, and only make small changes it’s quite a neat little trick, however conversely if you have a relatively small document that changes a lot, the file can get significantly bigger, and here’s the rub – our Parish Administrator was trying to send a document that goes out monthly, and the way she does it is by taking the document from last month, and changing it – and this month she’d done quite a lot of inserting and removing graphics, all of which were embedded in the document. As a result, when I turned off the ‘Allow Fast Saves’ option the file size plummeted from 16MB to a paltry 73k – over a 99% reduction in the size of the file!
So, if you’re not writing vast multi-page documents in Microsoft Word – and really most people don’t – it’s worth going into your Options panel, looking under the Save options, and if ‘Allow Fast Saves’ is checked, turning it off.
One other thing to consider about what Fast Saves does too, especially if you’re dealing in company confidential data, nothing you delete from a document is every really deleted if it is turned on, it’s all still sitting there in the old data that sits around in the document, and can quite easily be retrieved…