This is the exact same Word document on two different laptops and OS's.

Image - Example of the issue:

Example of issue

With a later OSX edition of Word 2016, rendering is different.

enter image description here

Explanation of the issue:

On the left is a Word doc as I see it in OSX Word 2011 (v14.5.9). The image on the right is the same document, printed from a Windows version of Word, then scanned and returned to me.

The tick boxes are empty on my version (left), yet if sent (or so it would appear) to a Windows version of Word, the same Word document will render the tick boxes with ticks (right), as if I have agreed to these items.

Also there is difference in the grey shade rendering between the two. (Not significant here.) A product of printing and scanning it would seem, looking closely.

Given this is a legal document to be signed and returned, the legal implications of this technical issue are evident and concerning.

I have done a Google, and Superuser site search. So far I find no reference to this issue being previously identified.

This suggests to me this could be either (a) a local laptop configuration issue my side, or (b) a sneaky issue that has existed for some time unidentified.

If you find a reference to this issue elsewhere - do add a link in a comment so I can follow up on it.

I uncovered this issue today by chance while sharing a legal agreement as a Word Doc with family. The agreement was received by both family members in a single CC Email. Family are in two different physical locations, so the same copy was printed out at the other end on a Windows laptop, while I have the same copy on my OSX laptop.

Without the family discussion I would have had no way to become aware of this font translation issue. I would have sent this document as a signed agreement to the other party (using Windows), understanding I had not given consent. Where in fact, with this translation issue, the legal document at their end would be indicating that I have signed to give consent.

If this issue is more general, how many people have ended up unknowingly consenting to things they had no intention to.

Hence, I raise this as a concerning issue generally.

I understand with legal documents such as this, the work around option is to provide the response as a pdf doc. However, that is not the point. Rather is this a general issue unknown to most users? Many OSX users may not be in the precautionary habit of returning significant docs in pdf form.

Solving the technical basis of the issue. (Seeking confirmation or other answer.)

I have made some progress but have not resolved the cause of the issue.

I have confirmed in my OSX version of Word, and also in the Windows version of Word with the other family member, that the tick box character is formatted in both documents as Arial 12 font.

OSX Word font image

If I, in OSX, copy this tick box character to OSX TextEdit, for some reason the font is changed to Apple Symbol font, and I can not format it as Arial 12 font. In this font it shows as a tick box with a tick inside.

enter image description here

Going back to my OSX version of Word, highlighting this one character and choosing Apple Symbols as font, it again shows as a tick box with tick. This reproduces what is shown in the Windows version of Word.

enter image description here

Yet the Windows version of Word still shows this tick box with tick when the selected font is Arial 12, not Apple Symbol???

From further research, it would seem that the empty tick box is:

Glyph 401 U+25A1 White Square.

enter image description here

And the filled ticked box is described as: Glyph 53 (U+0052 LATIN CAPITAL LETTER R U+F052)

[![enter image description here][8]][8]

From the title of the second Glyph, perhaps it is a combination of two Glyphs, and OSX does not render both together in that version of Word, but it does in the Windows version. I am not sure if this is the technical cause of this issue. If it is correct, it is a technical issue with serious implications.

Seeking an understanding from other Superusers more expert.


I understand that there is, in some minds, a "user error" for how this document was constructed. (See comments below.) The receiver of such documents has no control over this, and no opportunity to anticipate this font translation issue. Such use of these fonts is, I imagine, fairly tempting and common practice for non technical users of Word.

Hence still seeking technical understanding of what is happening behind this issue. Hope someone has the skill and knowledge to provide explanation.

Also I have now established that this issue on OSX does not occur with Word 2016, as opposed to Word 2011.

  • 1
    It seems that you are not using Form to get input from user. Instead you just want a place where user can put tick mark to provide approval. Instead of box, you are using currently, you can either leave the place as is (without box) and allow user to mark tick or you can insert a rectangle shape to have same design. – Sandeep Jun 15 '18 at 12:20
  • Thanks @Sandeep. I am not the originator of the form. Many people get agreements as simple Word docs. Appreciate your suggestion if I were the creator of forms but, that sort of missed the core point of concern here. – Cam_Aust Jun 15 '18 at 13:10
  • 1
    The core concern should be that who ever created that form is using an ill suited format and even further is using the worst possible option to design it. If you're using word why would you not use the actual checkbox form element? Who ever thinks that a legal document should be returned to the sender in a freely editable form should probably think some more about what he's doing. You're right that you likely found some kind of bug but you'd have to talk to Microsoft about it. – Seth Jun 15 '18 at 13:21
  • Seth, reinforcing Sandeep, strongly argued. Yes. I remain interested in the basis of the issue for anyone that can elucidate it. Perhaps there is a fix for the more ordinary casual users, including small business, that may either use a word doc this way or receive one in this way. Technically I agree. But we are here on SE as technical people. The majority of people are not, and I can see why they may do a legal letter in this way. Thanks, do hear you. – Cam_Aust Jun 15 '18 at 13:56
  • Still hoping someone can explain the technical issue here, confirming my speculation or offering more correct explanation. – Cam_Aust Jun 17 '18 at 4:23

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