Getting that brilliant sentence back when Word crashes

“Mr. Jones, are we ready to release our new software?”
“Yes, sir. As requested, it’s full of bugs, which means people will be forced to upgrade for years.”
Elliot Carver and Jones in “James Bond: Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997)

Microsoft Word is pretty much the only program I (have to) use that still crashes randomly — or rather it’s pretty much the only program I use that crashes at all. And this despite owning a legal copy of the 2011 version for Mac with the current update.

As a consequence, the cmd + s move is more or less automatic every few seconds like in this great PhD Comic here (it’s a three part series, use the next-button next to the comic panel). I also use incremental saving every now and then (save the file under a new name, e.g., project_x_1.docx, project_x_2.docx, project_x_3.docx), to ensure that I still have a working file if the crash takes the Word document with it. It can happen occasionally, meaning that you cannot reopen your crashed document, so it’s useful to have one you can go back to.

But this only ensures that you have your text until the last save. What about that brilliant sentence you wrote between the last save and Word crashing?

You’re in luck if it’s still visible, because the Application only hangs and takes some time until it quits by itself (if ever) — then you can take a screenshot. On Mac, use Grab (press cmd + space to get Spotlight, then type “Grab”). Grab is a Mac application that allows you to take screenshots. Go to Capture => Screen or press cmd + z and then click on the screen outside of the information window. If you use Windows, simply press “Print” on the keyboard, open your graphic application and insert from Clipboard. This screenshot might not contain everything, but at least you have saved some parts, perhaps even the crucial ones. Next either type it again or use OCR to copy&paste the text in the image (usually difficult, because the resolution is quite low). This way you get parts of your unsaved work back.

Sure, it should be possible to remember what you have written, but often the tiny difference between what you had written and what you have re-written now makes a huge difference in the effect the sentence has, and personally, the frustration of Word crashing usually deletes whatever I had in mind. In the case that the whole system is frozen (never had it so far), you can use your cellphone camera to take a snapshot of the screen.

Of course, this is one reason why I love Scrivener, given that it saves the work every 2 seconds without you even noticing it.

Happy weekend writing 🙂