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Blank (Invisible Font) MS Office 2011 Documents Apps
Upgrade from an older version of MS Office (at least V.x, 2004) and documents opened in MS Office 2011 may appear to be blank or empty. Sometimes closing (not quitting the application) and re-opening the document allows you to see the content. The crux of the problem seems to be a problem with multiple copies of fonts.

  • Use Font Book to resolve duplicate fonts.
  • Manually remove the older versions of duplicated font files from ~/Library/Fonts.
  • Restart the Mac.
I recently upgraded several machines to Snow Leopard (10.6.8) and simultaneously moved them from MS Office v.X to the latest version of Office 2011 -- admittedly a big leap. Suddenly, everyone was complaining that their documents appeared to be blank when opened. All the text was missing (or simply not displayed) in Word documents and Excel spreadsheets. A very frustrating thing, when you know you spent hours creating it.

A little web research pointed me in the direction of a font problem -- a genuine bug in font handling within the MS Office 2011 suite. The work-arounds all mentioned using Font Book to resolve duplicates and even use the Reveal In Finder feature to locate and completely delete the older font files. Sadly, these steps, while necessary, do not completely solve the problem. Another step is required.

MS Office v.X (and 2004) had a bad habit of installing it's own fonts in each user's Library folder: ~/Library/Fonts. That means that copies of the fonts would be installed for each user account on a machine, leading not only to some duplicates with system fonts, but also multiple, user-specific copies of the same font, wasting disk space.

Font Book in 10.6.8 does not seem to really disable duplicate fonts located in the ~/Library/Fonts folder, or perhaps, MS Office just searches for them there anyway. To really resolve the duplicate fonts, I had to go to the ~/Library/Fonts folder and manually delete about a dozen older version font files that had newer versions already present in the /Library/Fonts folder, such as: multiple Arial files (the single largest problem since it is a common default font in Excel), Comic Sans MS, Edwardian Script ITC, Lucida Handwriting, Tahoma, Times New Roman, Wingdings and more.

After clearing out the duplicates, a restart is required to get the system to rebuild its font cache. When launched, MS Office will compare it's own font cache to the system's and upon finding a mismatch will rebuild it's own font cache, taking several long seconds while showing a 'blank' document.

Once those old version font files are gone, the documents all display correctly when first opened, and stay that way.

[crarko adds: This brings back horrible memories. I recall older versions of Adobe software did something like this as well, and resolving the font conflicts and/or rebuilding the font cache felt like it was a full-time occupation.]
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Blank (Invisible Font) MS Office 2011 Documents
Authored by: tharrison on Oct 19, '12 06:46:49AM

Great tip. I followed your suggestions and it fixed this problem, which had been driving me nuts for quite some time. Thanks!

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Blank (Invisible Font) MS Office 2011 Documents
Authored by: Steve Whiting on Nov 06, '12 09:15:59AM
I spent months (on and off) trying to crack this one and, for me, the problem lay not only in the duplicate fonts but the fact that Microsoft Office prefers to use its own fonts, ONLY the ones in the Microsoft Fonts folder and not those in the system or user library. Ended-up having to delete the system fonts and rely on the MS Office installed fonts. For those that want or need to read more, I documented the sorry saga here: The Mysterious Case of The Invisible Fonts.

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