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TechNote #74: Last modified: 11/01/2016

Equations Are Displayed as Empty or Shaded Boxes in Microsoft Word


The information in this document applies to:

MathType 6.x (Windows & Mac)
Microsoft Equation Editor (Windows & Mac)

Microsoft Word 2008-2011 (Mac)
Microsoft Word 2007 and later (Windows)

Issue

Many users become concerned when their equations are replaced with empty boxes or appear in gray-shaded boxes. Double-clicking these boxes will launch MathType and display the equation, and the equations will print correctly, but the equations are not displayed properly in Microsoft Word.


Reason

The 'empty boxes' behavior is actually a feature in Microsoft Word called "Picture (or Image) Placeholders" designed to conserve RAM. The Picture Placeholders option helps minimize the amount of computer resources required to display a page and helps Word scroll multiple pages faster on-screen.  So long as your computer does not have insufficient RAM, you can toggle this setting so that the equations in your document display on-screen.

The 'gray-shading' behavior is a setting called "Field Shading" designed to make finding equations and other OLE objects easier when they can be difficult to see amongst surrounding content.


Solution

As these are features of Word, it is advisable to refer to Word's Help files to learn more about them and how they are activated.


If none of the equations or other graphics in your document display

If you find that all of the graphics in your document are not being displayed, Picture (or Image) Placeholders is probably enabled. To turn this option off, do the following:

  1. Launch Word.
  2. Select
    • Tools | Options (Word 2002, 2003)
    • Office button | Word Options | Advanced |Show document content (Word 2007)
    • File tab | Options | Advanced | Show document content (Word 2010 and later)
    • Word | Preferences | View (Mac Word 2008-2011)
  3. Uncheck the box for Image Placeholders or Picture Placeholders.
  4. Press OK.

If this was the cause, unchecking this option will cause all the objects in the document to be displayed again.


If some or all of the equations or other graphics in your document display in a gray-shaded box

If you find that some or all of the graphics in your document display in gray (or striped) boxes, Field Shading is probably enabled. To turn this option off, do the following:

  1. Launch Word.
  2. Select
    • Tools | Options (Word 2002-2003)
    • File tab | Options | Advanced | Show document content (Word 2010 and later)
    • Word | Preferences (Mac Word 2008-2011).
  3. Under Field Shading, select Never from the pull-down menu.
  4. Press OK.

If this was the cause, setting this option to Never will cause all the objects in the document to be displayed properly again.


If equations in the beginning of your document display and later ones do not

If you find that equations in the beginning portion of your document display, but that equations towards the end do not, your machine may not have sufficient available RAM to display all of the graphics in your Word document. As a result, Word automatically will disable the display of these objects. To get around this situation, you can do one (or more) of the following:

  1. Close any running applications other than Word to free up some memory.
  2. Split the document into multiple smaller documents.
  3. Install additional RAM in your computer.

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