Changing Word's Memory Allocation

Editors are often afraid to work on big documents in Microsoft Word. I routinely work on documents larger than 300 pages, so I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. I do believe in having plenty of RAM (random access memory) on a computer (at least 256 megabytes), so that helps. Also, most of my documents don’t include graphics, which I know can bog things down in Word.

If you need to work on big documents with lots of graphics and find that Word often runs slowly or locks up, you may appreciate a tip from Word guru Woody Leonhard:

On page 270 of his book “Word 97 Annoyances,” Woody explains how to change Word’s memory allocation. Here are the basic instructions:

1. Run Regedit (Start > Run > Regedit).

2. Find HKEY_CURRENT-USERSoftwareMicrosoftOffice8.0WordOptions. [You might have a different version number, such as 9.0.]

3. Double-click on the key and back it up by clicking Registry > Export Registry File. If something goes wrong, this will let you restore the existing settings later.

4. Click Edit > New > String Value. Type in the name “CacheSize” and hit Enter twice. Type in 2048 and hit Enter.

5. Click Edit > New > String Value. Type in the name “BitMapMemory” and hit Enter twice. Type in 2048 and hit Enter.

6. Click File > Exit to leave the registry and save your changes.

What this does is tell Word to reserve 2048 KB of memory (instead of the meager default of 64) for documents (CacheSize) and graphics (BitMapMemory).

You don’t have to use 2048, either; you can use lesser amounts, such as 1024. It’s up to you. But the more you use, the less memory will be available for other programs that are running.

Don’t mess with anything else in the registry. Doing so can cause all kinds of problems. And even for these settings, you change them at your own risk.

Macintosh users should simply be able to change the memory allocation for Microsoft Word.

Interested in learning more about Woody Leonhard’s classic book “Word 97 Annoyances”? You can check it out here:



After reading the article “Show Me the Menu,” Michael C. Coleman wrote:

Another trick for viewing the full menu is to double-click the menu headings.

Terri Svilar wrote:

My question has to do with publishing a document created in Word that contains color. Is there a way to separate the color from the text? I work at a small community college, and every semester we publish a course schedule. Most of the text is not highlighted, but there are certain entries that are highlighted with a light yellow so that students can easily find them.

It takes the person who gets this ready to be sent to the publisher a considerable amount of time to convert from Word to a format the printers can use. What takes her the most time is the highlighting, and then sometimes the highlighting doesn’t match the printed words.

I responded:

The best way to approach this, in my opinion, is to use character styles to format the words that need to be in color. If you don’t know about character styles, Word’s Help file will tell you about them. You could create a character style named something like “Highlight” and apply it to the words in question. Then, when the file goes to the printer, it can be imported into QuarkXPress (or some other typesetting program), and the character styles can be formatted in color as needed in the typesetting program.

If your files currently use Word’s built-in highlighting rather than character styles, you can use Word’s Find and Replace feature to find highlighting and replace it with your character style.

Many thanks to Michael and Terri for their messages.



A few weeks ago this newsletter included a notice for a presentation by expert word whacker Hilary Powers to the Bay Area Editors’ Forum. The notes and tipsheet for the presentation, “Electronic Editing: With Your Computer, Not Just On It,” are now available online here:

Click “Forum Index” (on the right) and “Work Support & Tools (on the left),” and you’ll see the titles in the alphabetical list (in the middle).

Don’t miss this incredible resource! Hilary really knows her stuff, and the notes and tipsheet include tons of truly useful information that can save you hours of work and frustration.

While you’re there, check out the other resources and articles available from the Bay Area Editors’ Forum.

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