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Seeing Blank Boxes Instead of Pasted Pictures in MS Word

Friday, March 2nd, 2012 by | Filed Under: MS Office Help, MS Word

Recently a reader wrote in asking about a problem when pasting pictures in MS Word:

When I do a print screen of my desktop and paste in Word, I get a blank box with dashes, yet it works perfectly when I paste in Outlook. Is there any particular reason for this?

Since systems always vary, it could be a multitude of issues but the most common reason I’ve run across is in the options of Word.

Basically there’s a setting that will have Word load pictures as a simple placeholder.


Why would anyone use this?

The most common reason is to speed things up when working on a document with a lot of pictures. The scrolling is much, much faster if Word is not trying to load the pictures every time you scroll through the document.

That being said the next logical thought is to wonder how to change that setting.

As I mentioned before, it’s a setting found in Word’ options. Depending upon the version of Word you’re running they are accessed via the Tools menu (for versions older than 2007), the Office Button (Word 2007) or the File tab of the Ribbon (Word 2010).

Once you’re into the Options dialog box you’ll need to locate the settings for what content Word displays – looking for a reference to picture placeholders.

In the newer versions, you’ll find that in the Advanced Options / Show Document Content section.


Deselect the “Show Picture Placeholders” option and click OK.

That should do the trick – pictures should now be visible in your documents from this point forward.

~ April

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24 Responses to “Seeing Blank Boxes Instead of Pasted Pictures in MS Word”

  1. Vicky says:

    Wow!! You answered the question I just posted!!It was driving me c-r-a-z-y…
    All I had to do was uncheck that blasted “Placeholders” box and the problem was solved.
    Thank you WorldStart!!!!

  2. jm says:

    wow great thanks

  3. linda law says:

    Thank you…this was driving me nuts too…

  4. Mizuki says:

    OMG, thank you soo much, it was driving me crazy because i have an design exam tomorrow and i needed as much info as possible! thank you so much! =)

  5. Audrey says:

    This is happening to me, but picture placeholders was never checked in the first place. What do I do?

  6. Prissy says:

    I am have the same issue as Audrey. This option was never checked yet I am still getting blank pictures. I’ve even tried checking and unchecking the placeholder box. The drawing box underneath is checked as well. I tried changing my resolution on my computer, but I can’t figure it out. And this couldn’t happen at the worst possible time. I’m sure it started happening with a recent update because this hasn’t been happening forever. I’m running Windows 8.1 with MS Word 2013. This is so frustrating! Please help!

  7. kamran says:

    Having same problem as Prissy. Sometimes placeholders go away, then come back later. Not related to any settings I can see. Inserting from desktop works fine – only when copy – paste from web does this happen. I’m also on 8.1 but in word2010.

  8. David says:

    I activated this by accident. A keyboard shortcut?

  9. Becky says:

    Wow, thanks. It was getting to be very frustrating with the placeholder and not the picture. Thanks!!

  10. wajahat says:

    perfect solution great dear !!!! :)

  11. Dave Maddox says:

    I had a similar but slightly different problem. The picture box was black. I found that it was a compatability problem migrating from PC to MAC. I resolved it using the compatability report, which is next to the likes of dictionary/thesaurus. I hope this helps somebody as I’m no expert either.

  12. Pam says:

    I have MS 2013 – your solution isn’t even available. My IT staff doesn’t even know how to do this. Give me a break! Helpdesk my A$$

    • cynthia says:

      Pam, I’m looking at Word 2013 and that solution is indeed there. Go to the File Tab then choose Options – then advanced options. Scroll down to Show document content and Show Picture placeholders is the third thing down in the list under Show document content.

  13. Garat says:

    facing similar issue in on MAC 2011, Word 2011- any thoughts ?

  14. Caleb_W says:

    When I have a photo or other graphic on the clipboard that will not show up in my Word 2010 document, I use this cumbersome work around I discovered for this problem. I go to >Insert>Object. I will get a dialog, and I chose “Bitmap” which will open a Paint window with a blank object. When I hit the paste button in the upper left, the item becomes a bitmap. Then in the ribbon to the left of the “home” tab is a tab in blue, presumably the “file” tab, and under there you’ll find the “Update document” command. You may get a dialog that says you can’t do what you are doing, and sometimes I have to paste the graphic into a different location and delete the original place holder, but I still manage to get the graphic in there. Good luck!

    RANT: for all the effort this corporation put into creating this whole “ribbon” concert, they really did a poor job designing this interface. It was meant to be more intuitive, but all they did was hide functionality that I used on a regular basis. I miss the original interface. …Just sayin’!

  15. bruceR says:

    A thousand kisses to yopu. I have struggled with this problems for a year& all it needed was an untick & you! You are assured a place in heaven. Thanks a lot. x

  16. Bill says:

    Pam – I’m with you. Using MS2013 and there is no such option available under File / options / advanced options. specifically I am inserting Tif pictures and sometimes the “Bring Forward” and “Send Back” functionalities seem to work in reverse and sometimes even the placeholders don’t show up – but if you click where you know they are, then the placeholders will show up. But I cannot seem to get the actual PICTURE to be visible.

  17. Gary says:

    Thanks this worked for me too!

  18. Rajaram Vasu says:

    Thank you very much. The solution worked for me. Good Job….:)

  19. Shah says:

    it helped me as well………..

  20. Colin says:

    HI, One of our users (I’m in IT support) is having the same problem as Audrey & Prissy:
    If she copies content from the web (Text & images) (Ctrl+C or Right Click-Copy) and then pastes into Word the text displays but the image does not. Clicking on where the image should be shows the placeholder box.

    The System is Windows 7 & Word 2010.

    The Show placeholders option is unticked (tried ticking then unticking too).

    Any suggestions anyone?


    • Dan says:

      I think my problem was that I was opening a document in Word 2013 that was created in Word 2010, so there were compatibility issues. I clicked File>Info>Inspect Document>Check Compatibility. Then all the pictures and linked excel charts displayed correctly. I hope this help those who don’t have the “placeholders” box checked but still can’t see pictures in Word 2013.

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