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Office v.X (Word) and CPU usage Apps
After picking up Office v.X on Sunday afternoon, I'm in the midst of converting the source for the OS X Guidebook into Word (primarily to support higher res images, but also adding some new hints; look for a release by the weekend as a new PDF download). In working with Word (which I generally love, BTW), I've noticed that it's an extremely CPU-intensive application, even when just sitting in the background. With the Guidebook open (about a 3.5mb file), Word takes 40% - 60% of my CPU, whether it's in the foreground or the background. While working on the document, this isn't a problem, but it can be a bit of a problem when I've put Word into the background to do something else.

After some experimentation, I found a solution. It's not ideal, but it works. Simply close the document before switching applications. When I do this, Word's CPU usage drops to basically zero. It's also close to zero with a new blank document open. Somewhere between the blank document and my 3.5mb file, though, Word becomes quite CPU hungry -- and this is on a G4/733 with 1.2gb of RAM.

So if you want a responsive system, remember to close any large documents that you may have opened in Word before putting it in the background. I have not done any testing with Excel or PowerPoint to see if this same issue extends to those applications or not.

UPDATE: Based on an email from Philip D., I tweaked some settings and appear to have eliminated the problem (at least based on what's happening now). I have Word in the background with the 3.5mb file open, and it's using less than 1% of the CPU. What changes did I make? I turned off "Check spelling as you type" and "Check grammar as you type" in the "Spelling and Grammar" preferences tab. I also turned off "Show live word count" in the "Window" portion of the "View" preferences. This seems to have reduced Word's appetite for background CPU power to nearly zero.
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Office v.X (Word) and CPU usage | 4 comments | Create New Account
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Long Standing Microsoft issue
Authored by: Panjandrum on Dec 04, '01 09:24:47AM

This has actually been a long-standing Microsoft issue, not just a new one under Mac OS X. If you ever used "Peek A Boo" or a similar utility to monitor processor load under older versions of the OS, you will find that certain Microsoft products will do this in the background. IE 4.5 would even do this with no windows open. Hmmmm. Seems odd that they can continually produce products for the Mac that either suck CPU cycles, or just plain suck. Gives us just one more good reason not to use their products.



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Not only Word X ...
Authored by: ed on Dec 04, '01 02:43:04PM

I have found several other programs to waste CPU cycles. Namely, earlier builds of Mozilla browser (which was because of this banned from my machine) and unfortunately also Virtual PC, which takes anywhere from 30% to 50% even when no session is emulated and application is in the background.

Ed



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Spinning spinning spinning
Authored by: thinkyhead on Dec 04, '01 10:27:11PM
Spinning the CPU is *very bad* under a pre-emptive multitasking, but most older Mac programs are notorious for doing this. Procedures like this are common in MacOS code:
while (!button())
{
  // do something
}
In a cooperative multitasking environment this code is bad because it completely blocks other processes from running. Under PMT this kind of code is worse because it steals cycles away from other programs, wastes CPU cycles, and noticeably shortens the life of batteries in laptops. MS can easily fix this by "sleeping" the application when it's in the "background." Let's hope they do!

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A macro word count toggle
Authored by: jamesmac on Dec 20, '01 10:10:18AM
With a bit of further exploration I've discovered that (at least on my iBook 600) the live word count feature is the one causing most of the problem. With that turned off top reports Word's background CPU usage to drop from 26% to 8%. Unfortunately turning off the live word count is not a good option for me. As I write for a living, I find it a very useful feature. To get around the problem (as Word doesn't provide a simple command to do the job), I've written a simple macro that toggles live word count and can be mapped to a button, menu or keystroke. Here's how... In Word choose 'Macros...' from the 'Macro' submenu in the 'Tools' menu. Type a name for your macro and click the 'Create' button. Then copy in the following code between Sub macroname() and End Sub. Note it should be a single line (it's on three here for easy reading).
If Options.LiveWordCount = False Then
Options.LiveWordCount = True Else
Options.LiveWordCount = False
Then choose 'Close and Return to Microsoft Word' from the 'Word' menu and choose 'Customize' from the Tools menu and click on 'Macros' in the 'Categories' list box. You should then see your new Macro which can then be assigned to a button, menu or keystroke. James Maclaurin

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