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Pressing the Escape key to cancel a buffer operation, after clicking the Buffer Wizard's Finish button, and before the Buffer Wizard's progress bar appears, can cause ArcMap to crash.
Pressing the Escape key after clicking Finish, and before the actual buffering takes place, instructs ArcMap to cancel an operation that is not controlled by the buffer function. This may cause the application to crash.
This issue has been addressed in ArcGIS Version 8.1.2.
In ArcGIS 8.1, to cancel a buffer operation, press the Escape key instead of clicking Finish, or after the Buffer wizard progress bar appears.