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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Double-Clicked Documents Slow to Open In Word

I've seen a mysterious problem crop up to many Microsoft Word users: you double-click a Document (or even Excel spreadsheet, PowerPoint presentation, etc.), and the computer hangs for a a little bit, and then the document opens. Equally irritating is that opening the document from File > Open inside of Word is usually nice and snappy. Fingers have been pointed at (insert name of Office application here), Windows, networks, printers, and antivirus software.

Well, the short answer is this: they're all suspect. Here's how to try to track down this problem:

This is the most common scapegoat. People think, "that dumb antivirus is stealing my precious time while trying to scan my document." Well, that may or may not be true. Norton has a historically problematic Office antivirus addin (officeav.dll), but that has improved over the last couple of years. Still, you might try disabling your antivirus and then try opening another document. If the problem goes away, then you know who's to blame. Try a reinstall of your AV, or look for a better solution.

I guess this one makes sense. Word uses the printer to gather information about layout, etc. Some people have noticed this because they say that they document looks different on different computers. This is (usually) because the printer driver is different. So, here's how to fix this problem:
folder options for fixing printer and network drive selection problem

  1. Open Control Panel (Start > Control Panel on XP)
  2. Open Folder Options
  3. Click the View tab
  4. In the Advanced Settings list, uncheck "Automatically search for network folders and printers"
  5. Click OK
  6. Double-click a document
If the problem is gone, then you don't have to go any further. Even if it's not gone, you'll likely see an overall performance increase in Windows with this disabled.

Well, I'm not a network admin. But, here's some interesting information that I gathered from a help forum the other day.
  1. During the long hanging period, the user did this at the command line (Start > run > type cmd and hit enter):
  • exec netstat -a
  • look for a line with "SYN_SENT"
  1. the user found an IP address to an old network share
  2. the user did a find in the registry (Start > Run > type regedit and hit enter > Edit > Find) for the IP address. After finding and deleting several keys with that obsolete network share address (and closing the Registry Editor), the problem was gone.
This was a more obscure problem that I hadn't considered. I read on a support forum that DDE (Dynamic Data Exchange) could become corrupted, like most things in Windows. DDE has never been reliable, but has always been relied on in Office. This is a big part of Office's instability. It's used to facilitate interoperability between Office components/applications, and Windows. For example, in Office 97, it was the primary mechanism for connecting mail merge data sources and main documents. Anyway, here's how to disable it for opening Word documents:
Picture of custom action dialog
  1. Go to Control Panel > Folder Options > File Types
  2. Find and select Word Documents (DOC)
  3. Click the Advanced button
  4. Select Open in the Actions section
  5. Click the Edit button
  6. Uncheck "Use DDE"
  7. Put your cursor on the "Application used to perform action:" box

  8. Arrow all the way to the right and put in "%1" (include the quote marks)picture of custom action dialog box
  9. If there is a /dde remove it
  10. Click OK, then OK, then OK
  11. Try to open another document
If that works, then you may want to repeat the steps for other Office document types (xls, ppt, docm (if using Office 2007), etc.).

[UPDATE! 08/15/2008]
There have been great comments with little tweaks about how people got this working for them. Thank you all so much for your comments! I'd like to highlight one in particular as it presents a whole new level of troubleshooting. I won't go into detail about the steps, but I think advanced users will want to experiment with this a little bit (I've added a few URLs to help):

It works but with side effect. Doubleclick opens new instance of excel, word ... Better solution is to find out what application causes this delay. I use ddespy.exe that shows all dde messages sent. If there is a problem, the list stops after certain message sent and waits. You can see HWND handle of the window that causes the delay (in dde message). After that you need to find process or application that this window belongs to. I use "Windows Modifier". Then uninstall this application and that's all.
In my case it was Toshiba Bluetooth driver that caused the delay in starting office documents.

If any of these steps fixed the problem, consider yourself lucky and happy. If not, then at least you know what didn't work. If these these steps don't solve the problem, but you do figure out another solution, then post it in the comments!


Anonymous said...

I got the same problem ...
Problem solve with the solution in the Windows part ...
I added the "%1" for .DOC and .XLS ...
Now it's working fine !!!


Dave said...

I'm glad it worked for you!

Anonymous said...

Did the DDE thing - and now I am lickity split.



Anonymous said...

Did the DDE thing and now I am licktiy split



Dave said...


Anonymous said...

Thanks, the DDE trick fixed my problem.


Anonymous said...

Thanks! We were experiencing long wait times for users with roaming profiles but now that DDE is disables it's faster then 10 kittens on a mitten!


Anonymous said...

OMG, you rock! You helped me to diagnose and fix about 400 pc's for my company. I did the netstat -a during a file open command. Found out that an old Ghost server we ran the image off was entered in the registry, well that server was turned off last week. Low and behold it was looking for it! Hung up office and pdf's for 45-60 sec! Thanks so much again.

Anonymous said...

It works but with side effect. Doubleclick opens new instance of excel, word ... Better solution is to find out what application causes this delay. I use ddespy.exe that shows all dde messages sent. If there is a problem, the list stops after certain message sent and waits. You can see HWND handle of the window that causes the delay (in dde message). After that you need to find process or application that this window belongs to. I use "Windows Modifier". Then uninstall this application and that's all.
In my case it was Toshiba Bluetooth driver that caused the delay in starting office documents.

Anonymous said...

Well, I have to add a Big Thanks to the "Slow DC Docs fix"! It worked with a little modification. So many of you had it work, I thought it might work for me, but, Not at First! I found my fix (after a few Trial & Errors) by adding the "%1" right after the DDE and left the DDE checked. Hope this helps someone! PS I am using Windows XP with MSO 2003 on a Dell XPS 410.

LuckyJohn said...

I also needed to modify the solution to get it to work on my machine (Dell Dimension 2400, running Windows XP with MSO 2003.

In the application box I inserted at the right:

--started-from-file "%1"

This also works for Excel. It doesn't seem to matter whether "use DDE" is checked or not.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dave DDE solution fixed my Excel :)

Dave said...

Everyone! Thanks for your comments! I love to see the feedback and additional tips! Keep 'em comin'!

Anonymous said...

Great article! It looks like DDESpy is part of a larger Microsoft suite. Is there a way to get it separately or are you aware of a similar (hopefull free)tool?

Many thanks,


Claus T said...

Wow - struggled with this problem for days, fixed it with the DDE modification to the file type. You are my hero for the day!

Anonymous said...

I have battled this problem for almost a year. I was told the %1 fix by a guy I paid to remotely diagnose my computer. He also had me add [rem see command line] in the DDE message. It worked for a while. Then a Windows update would change them all again and I'd have to reenter them. Unchecking "use DDE" only sticks for five seconds and then it rechecks itself. Sometimes one fix will work; sometimes another; sometimes you give up and just go through the program if you really need to get a document open.

Today nothing makes Excel documents open from icons -- the edit, turning off DDE, nada. I get a series of error screens saying "NAME.xlsx" could not be found. Check the spelling of the file name, and verify that the file location is correct. If you are trying to open the file from your most recently used files, make sure that the file has not been renamed, moved, or deleted. Then it repeats it over and over again with every word in the file name. I registered and unregistered excel.exe without success. This whole mess takes Outlook and IE down with it.

I have given up. My new notebook has Tbird on it and Open Office. I'm scared to death to even try to load the 2007 Office Suite on it. After literally hundreds of hours of lost productivity and reboots, I'm out of patience.

But for those the fixes work, it's great when they do!! I'm sure a lot of people appreciate you giving them some answers. It's a shame Microsoft can't figure this out and tell people how to fix it -- or, better yet, keep it from happening at all.

Anonymous said...

DDE trick is teats!!!

Anonymous said...

I go to the Folders selection and it wants to only open .DOC and .XLS with the respective "viewer" applications. If I change to the actual Word and Excel files it no longer has the Advanced function to modify! The Advanced button is changed to a Reset button. Any ideas?

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

Started having that problem once I changed from Office 2003 to Office 2007. Now the 2003 documents opens much faster.
Thank you very much for your solution.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Dave,
I had the same problem and the DDE worked fine with me.
You are my hero!
If I were female I would have promiscuous sex with you!!


Anonymous said...

crazy .... we investigated the last month and found out step by step:
- turn off DDE with folder options
- change DDE settings in Excel ( tools-options-General, uncheck "ignore other applications"
- turn of Bluetooth Manager

Now armed with the right keywords..i found this Blog ;)

However, uninstalling Toshiba Bluetooth is not a solution for everybody, an intermediate solution could be to remove the BlueTooth Manager from the Startup menu and start Bluetooth only if needed ( i do not synchronize my Mobile every hour )
Otherwise .... if multiple instances of Excel are the only side effects .... they are not the worst one. I know a lot of persons which were angry about closing all Excel sheets just by clicking the wrong x ;). Therefore it's an additional benefit of the DDE solution :) if this is also gone.


Dave said...

I'm glad to see so many people finding good solutions here, and offering some well-intentioned rewards...

I'm sure there's a better solution that just disabling the DDE option. One thing that might be worth trying is to update your MDAC (Microsoft Data Access Components). It doesn't directly update DDE (since DDE is just an interface protocol between applications and hasn't changed in a long time), but whatever is managing DDE could be fixed with an MDAC update:

Here's more info than you could shake a stick at about DDE:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dave. As it turns out it was a network problem. Typing netstat -a while you're waiting for a file to open points out the SYN_SENT message. We replaced a server last week. The PC was still looking for it. I went into REGEDIT and deleted all references to the old server until my files started opening faster.

Anonymous said...

Problem solved with the solution in the Windows part for me too. You guys are the best!!!!

Anonymous said...

OH my god! finally. I've been ready to pull my hair out forever with this problem! Now it's fixed. I did the printer thing as well at the dde fix. Between the two of them it seemed to fix it. I can't thank you enough. btw, i have an HP photosmart C7280. Anybody else have problems and have that printer as well?

Dave said...

Happy to help!

Anonymous said...

Like many others here I've used the method of unchecking the "Use DDE" box and amending the "Application used to perform" line, and it has worked, but every time Microsoft throw any updates at me the fix is nullified. It's becoming a real pain having to do this time after time after time.

Dave said...

Sorry for your frustration! The DDE "fix" is most certainly not a fix, but a workaround. I think the actual cause (and therefore fix) will be different for everyone. You might look at the update information about ddespy, and see if you can identify the root of the problem. If you do, let us know. Perhaps others are having the problem from the same root cause.

Sony said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sony said...

Here is how we fixed the problem after finding your blog

On the computer that was having issues we ran

netstat -a

in a command window.

Then we quickly double click a document on a network share that was opening slowly.

We then waited for the command window to finish running the command. Once finished we looked for SYN_SENT at the end of a line.

When we found it will looked for the network computer name the entry was referring. When we pinged the name of the computer we found that it wasn't responding.

Next we looked through the registry for the offending name and found that it was being referred to a few times.

(It was being refered to in a path to Illustrator execuables but not sure if this was relevent)

When the entries were deleted all documents opened up straight away.

Thanks for the blog

Dave said...


That's a great walkthrough on how to use netstat to solve this problem!

Thanks for the update!

Helga "Lisa" said...

I had the same "slow .doc" issue, this worked for me:
(From Windows tech supp)
Reset the Word data key in the Windows Registry
Important This section, method, or task contains steps that tell you how to modify the registry. However, serious problems might occur if you modify the registry incorrectly. Therefore, make sure that you follow these steps carefully. For added protection, back up the registry before you modify it. Then, you can restore the registry if a problem occurs. For more information about how to back up and restore the registry, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
322756 ( ) How to back up and restore the registry in Windows

If Word is installed on your computer but the program was once running from the network and there is a long delay when you open documents when you are not connected to the network, try the following procedure.

The Word Data key stores information that is specific to the printer that is installed. To remove this printer information from Word, rename or delete the Word Data key in the Windows registry. When you restart Microsoft Word, Word recreates the Word Data key automatically.

Note After you rename or delete the Word data key, some settings in Microsoft Word are reset to their default settings.

To rename or delete the Word data key in the Windows registry, follow these steps:
Quit all Windows programs.
Click Start and then click Run.
In the Open box, type Regedit and then click OK.
Open the following registry key that is for your version of Word:

Word 2003

Word 2002
Word 2000
Under the Word key, click the Data subkey.
On the Edit menu, click Rename or Delete.
Click Yes if the following message appears:
Are you sure you want to delete this key?
On the Registry menu, click Exit.
Start Word.

Dave said...

It's good to see that Word support is still using canned templates for their emails :)

The data key actually does a lot, though no one except for the developers know exactly what (and they're not sharing). Removing the Data key is a very common step in troubleshooting (see my "how to clean word" post). I suppose that's the first thing that everyone should do when they start having problems in Word: clean it up!

BKdigi said...

Removing the data key solved the problem. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Happy! Happy! Happy!

Chandra said...

I noticed in Excel that the dde message was shorter than in Word. Anyway both now say [open("%1")] in the DDE Message field. Works like a charm! Thanks for the help!!

TrueCures said...

Outstanding! Removed the DDE and replaced the "%1" and fixed the problem. Went blind 5 months ago trying to find the fix online. Tried everything I found but none where the same steps here. For some reason problem went away and came back a few days ago but this time my search brought me here. Thank you very much!


Pauly said...

I have had this problem with a couple of machines in my office. Tried everything and nothing was working. The DDE fix did the trick! Thanks so much for this.

Alex said...

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sauvesean said...

I tried all of these tweaks and workarounds but nothing helped. What eventually solved the problem was removing old printers, disabling all hp software with msconfig.exe, and scouring regeidt for all of the old, left-over printer entries and deleting them. Also, turn off "Automatically search for network folders and printers" as listed above.

I am sure there is a better way to clean the registry, but the packaged cleaners I have used are not able to pick up on them.

Suresh said...

This is fantastic guys.. tracked down the issue is with the network, trying to connect to an obsolete network drive..
netstat -a and removing the dead ip resolved the issue.

Thanks all..

Dave said...

Glad that there's still some value here!

Don said...

I know this post is late, but it could benefit the next person that comes along.
I too had the same issue and my issue was related to the network. I have a laptop that has both wireless and wired connections. The wireless connection was not turning off when i plugged in my network connection. When i manually turned off my wireless so that i am just using the wired connection, the issue was resolved.

dwdeclare said...

you rock! thank you so much. the windows solution worked like a charm for me.

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