Preventing Charts and Graphs from Going POOF

Earlier this week, I sent a draft report to a client. Figure 19 looked something like this:

My client edited and sent it back, and when I opened it, it now looked like this:

Much had changed, and none of it good. My theory is that many rounds of editing had somehow trashed the link between the graph and the Excel file where it was born. I have a feeling that the F9 key (update links) was involved, since I’d seen this kind of thing happen before. Ultimately, it was faster to completely recreate the graph than to try to resuscitate it.

The problem is that this sort of thing never happens to me when I’m the only one working on a report. It almost always happens, however, once a client has edited the report. I can’t be sure what the client is doing, but the result isn’t healthy for linked charts.

If this sort of thing ever happens to you, there is a defensive strategy you can employ. First, save a copy of each and every version of products you send out for editing and review. Second, you can explicitly break the links so that the charts become impervious to accidental F9 updates. How do you do this?

Caution: Do not do this if you think you’ll need to link back to the source ever again!

Still here? Okay. Proceed with caution. Note: I do this all the time—without regrets. But, this comes after years of seeing charts, graphs, and other items trashed. So, it’s a well-honed defensive strategy for me. But, we’re all different, and you might not be as fed up with this sort of thing as I am (yet). When you reach that point, however… That’s what this article is for.

In Word 2010, click File, and in the lower right side of Info tab’s panel, look for Edit Links to Files.

Click that sucker. This will bring up the Links dialog. There, select all of the Charts (or whatever else you might want to inoculate against malignant updates), and click Break Link. Word will ask if you’re sure. If you are sure (I am), then click Yes.

The source files will now all say NULL.

And… you’ll be protected against this particular kind of disaster.

What about locking the links?

That’s certainly an option—and one you see right there. If you’re sure a client won’t unlock it, go for it. I’ve had them unlocked, however. So, I’m at the next step in my defensive journey.

May the force be with you.

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