How to fix images not displaying in Microsoft Word 2007

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Recently I’ve been hit by a bug (or what I thought was a bug) in Microsoft Word 2007: images embedded in the document did not display in any mode other than “Full Screen Reading”. And since the editing ribbons are not available in that mode, it’s hard to get work done. This all started when Word crashed on me one time; ever since then, images simply haven’t been displaying correctly. I get a border where the image should be and white space inside. But when I send the file to other people and they open it, they can view the images just fine. I can even add images to documents; I just can’t see them.

So I performed a Google search on this issue, but the only relevant “solution” was behind a paywall over at ExpertSexchange. After a few minutes of trying to figure it out on my own, I stumbled upon the solution, and to save everyone from the hell that is ExpertSexchange, here it is:

Click the Office Button (it’s in the upper left corner of Word), select “Word Options”, select “Advanced” in the left pane, scroll down to the “Show document content” subsection, and uncheck the “Show picture placeholders” option. Yes, it’s that simple. Somehow, when Word crashes, this option can get turned on all by itself. It’s really annoying because there’s no clue that Word is intentionally hiding images from you; it just feels like a bug. And the reason for this insane option?

Word 2007 Options dialog

That’s right, it’s for performance. And it improves performance only at the expense of severely crippling usability. You’d think this option should never be able to get turned on accidentally, yet there it is. At least you know the solution now.