Wrong toolbar icons in Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, etc) for Mac

I came across a really bizarre issue on my Mac regarding the toolbar icons in Word (and Excel). For example, the save button now contained an icon of scissors and the up arrow on the scroll bar was now the spell check icon. Needless to say, this mix-up is less than convenient.

I did a bit of research online and found several threads talking about the issue:

You can read about each proposed solution in detail by visiting the respective link above, however what did the trick for me was the following one:

  • Ensure all Microsoft products are quit, including Outlook, Word, Excel, Communicator, etc.
  • Launch Terminal: Applications > Utilities > Terminal.app
  • Type in cd /Library and press ENTER.
  • Type in sudo mv Automator Automator_Old, hit ENTER.
  • Enter your Mac password and hit ENTER again.
  • Launch Microsoft Word.
  • Go to: Help > Check for Updates and then press the “Check for Updates” button.
  • You should now see an update; for me it was update 14.2.5.
  • Quit Microsoft Word and install the update.
  • Go back to Terminal and type: sudo mv Automator_Old Automator followed by your password again.
  • Launch Microsoft Word and your icons should be restored.

I think Microsoft Office tried to update some time ago, but failed. I didn’t worry much about it then, but that could have been the catalyst for the icons getting mixed up. By temporarily moving the Automator folder, it will download and install the update again. After that’s completed, we just move the Automator folder back.

I hope this helps someone else. It definitely beats reinstalling and reconfiguring all Microsoft products again — especially Outlook.

23 thoughts on “Wrong toolbar icons in Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, etc) for Mac

  1. Andy T

    This is awesome! Thank you so very much. Even on the Microsoft sites, I couldn’t find this helpful information.

  2. Alan Crombie

    Thanks from sunny Scotland. Your instructions worked spot-on and the scissors on Save etc. have disappeared.

    I was pointed here by a colleague so I’m off to thank him too


  3. KShack

    Oh, my gosh, I hope you can help me. I followed your instructions. Like Matt, it told me everything was up to date. Then when I tried to open a document, Word crashed. All the Office apps crashed. I tried uninstalling and then re-installing from the disc. Then I went back in my Time Machine and reverted to the Office I was using earlier in the day.

    I assume I messed something up on a more global level and it’s not allowing office to run at all now. I am a professor and I need to use my Office for a living! Can you help?

    Thanks, Karen

    1. Ryan Sechrest Post author

      What I would try next is:
      (1) Close all Microsoft programs.
      (2) Go to Username > Library > Preferences using Finder, copy all files starting with com.microsoft out of there (to back them up), and then delete them from the Preferences folder. If the Library folder is not visible in your home directory, click on Go up in the menu and hold down the Option key– Library should appear in the menu now.
      (3) Go to your Documents folder and rename the Microsoft User Data folder.
      (4) Try starting Microsoft Word, for example, and see if it crashes.

  4. KShack

    Thanks, Ryan. I did what you said. And then my husband also found this helpful link on Microsoft’s web site: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2398768 Basically, it says that there are lots of other microsoft files elsewhere and you have to go through about 11 steps to remove them. I did all this and then reinstalled Office from the disk. It then prompted me to download an update, which I also did. Now I have Office working and my Save icon is back to being a floppy disc. Whew! Thanks for posting a response so quickly – I definitely lost some sleep over this and it was great to see such a quick response. Karen

  5. Jan Oldenburg

    Thanks for posting this! It worked for me like a charm–I thought it was associated with the most recent update I loaded, and couldn’t find a thread associated with that. This, like so many things about Office for Microsoft, should be fixable within the app.

  6. Pauline

    Worked perfectly for me too! I didn’t have any updates but I manually ran the one that my office was supposedly on (14.4.8).

  7. Henry

    AWESOME!!! Thank you so much. Worked liked a charm. Scary when it says you may lose data but worth the effort

  8. Laura

    Mine did not prompt me for a password the 2nd time. Exited the terminal window instead, and everything was working fine. Fixed icons in PPT even though I did the update through Word.


  9. Coen

    Thanks a million for posting this clear solution. It helped me to restore my icons after them beeing weirdly mixed up. This happened after installing and deleting MS Outlook on my mac.

    Best Regards.



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