John from Cincinnati, OH writes

“What gives with Microsoft Word previewer? I can start my computer, open Word, and in the selection window select a document, and an image of the document will appear in the right hand portion of the window. Then I can do almost anything — print, edit, select a different document — and I get the message, “This file cannot be previewed because of an error in the Microsoft Word previewer.” If I reboot, I can again use the previewer, but only once. The same thing happens when I look at Word documents in Microsoft Windows Explorer.  This also happens for Microsoft Excel previewer, but it’s a little more robust; I cannot remember not being able to use it in Windows Explorer.  I’m using Windows 7 (up-to-date) and Microsoft Office 2010 (also up-to-date).  THANKS for your help!”

Hi, John.  Thanks for the great question.

First off, let me say that this is, what we call in techspeak, a KNOWN ISSUE.  In other words, Microsoft knows that it’s a problem and is working on it. The problem is caused by trying to preview the file in a second instance of the same program.  In the meantime, there is a work-around. 

You do this by previewing the document in Windows Explorer.  If you have Windows 7, the first thing that you need to do is to make sure that the preview pane is turned on (it is off by default).  In order to do this, open an Explorer window.  This can be pretty much anything from pictures to documents.  After you do, click on ORGANIZE then LAYOUT and make sure that PREVIEW PANE is checked.  If it is, you’re good to go.  If it’s not, check it and THEN you’re good to go. 

Now, select the file that you want to preview by bringing up the directory in Windows Explorer and single-click on it.  For the sake of demonstration, I have chosen one of the pictures from this article.  The file will preview in a frame to the right. 

You can make the preview pane larger or smaller by clicking on the thin line between the files pane and the previewer pane and dragging left or right.  You have stated that you had the same problem in Windows Explorer, but I was, unfortunately, unable to replicate this problem.

Another thing that you might want to do is to periodically check for Windows Updates.  Updates for your Office programs are included in the Windows updates, and as soon as a patch is available, Microsoft will include in their updates.  Microsoft does updates automatically, but the reason that you might want to check manually is to get the update before the automatic download.  The way to do this is to click START, followed by ALL PROGRAMS and then WINDOWS UPDATE.

I hope that this helps!

~ Randal Schaffer