MS-Word / General Formatting

Putting an existing file into a master document

If you (or your buddies) have already created a bunch of smaller files that you want to combine into one larger publication, you can plug each file into a master document as a subdocument. Then you can create a table of contents or an index for the whole publication or print the publication with uninterrupted page numbers.

Follow these steps to create a master document and insert existing documents into it as subdocuments:

  1. (Optional) Using the My Computer window or Windows Explorer, copy the various files you need into a single folder.
    This step isn't strictly necessary; creating a master document from subdocuments spread throughout your hard drive is acceptable. But life is simpler if the master document and all its subdocuments live together in harmony.
  2. Start Word if it isn't already open and then choose File → New → Blank Document → Create or press Ctrl+N.
  3. On the View tab in the Document Views group, click the Outline button. Alternatively, press Ctrl+Alt+O.
    The Outlining tab shows up on the Ribbon. You can also open Outline view by clicking the Outline button in the lower-right corner of the status bar. The button is second to the left of the Zoom slider.
  4. Click the Insert button in the Master Document group on the Outlining tab.
    An Insert Subdocument dialog box appears. This dialog box is identical to the Open dialog box except for its name.
  5. Find the file you want to insert as a subdocument, choose it, and click Open.
    The file is inserted into the master document as a subdocument. Word creates section breaks before and after it.
  6. Repeat Steps 4 and 5 for any other subdocuments you want to insert.
  7. Save the master document by clicking the Save button on the Quick Access toolbar.
  8. You're finished.

Here are a few points to ponder when you insert subdocuments into a master document:

  • Inserting a subdocument doesn't change the subdocument file's name or folder location.
  • When you click the Insert Subdocument button, the subdocument is inserted at the position of the insertion point. Make sure that the insertion point is either at the beginning or end of the master document or between two previously inserted subdocuments. If the insertion point is within a subdocument when you click the Insert Subdocument button, the subdocument you select is inserted within the subdocument, not within the master document. If you're not careful, you can create subdocuments within subdocuments within subdocuments.
Remember: The contents of the subdocument file don't copy into the master document. Instead, a link to the subdocument file is created so that whenever you open the master document, you access the subdocument file also. You can still open the subdocument file separately, apart from the master document.

Break it up!

Sometimes a project just gets out of hand. It starts out as a half-page memo about where to keep spare pencils and ends up as a 300-page officeprocedures manual. You obviously wouldn't use a master document for the half-page memo (unless you're bored), but somewhere around page 100 you might wish that you had. No problem! Just bust up the big document into two or more subdocuments.

Follow these steps to break a large document into smaller subdocuments:

  1. Open the document.
  2. On the View tab in the Document Views group, click the Outline button or press Ctrl+Alt+O to add the Outlining tab to the Ribbon.
  3. Change the headings to make each section of text that you want to become a subdocument begin with a Heading 2 style.
    The most logical thing is to format the document title as Heading 1 and each subdocument as Heading 2. You might have to use the Promote and Demote buttons to accomplish this task. The buttons are in the Outline Tools group on the Outlining tab on the Ribbon.
  4. Select the range of text you want to convert into subdocuments, beginning with the heading for the first subdocument and ending with the last paragraph of the last subdocument.
  5. Click the Create button in the Master Document group on the Outlining tab on the Ribbon.
    Word breaks the document into smaller subdocuments based on the heading paragraphs and inserts section breaks before and after each subdocument.
  6. Save your work by using one of the many options (Quick Access toolbar, File → Save, Ctrl+S, or whatever).
    Word saves the master document and all subdocuments. Word retains the name of the original file for the master document and makes up names for the subdocuments, using the text from the first heading in each subdocument if possible.
  7. You're finished!
    Celebrate by taking the rest of the day off.
Tip: You can promote or demote all headings in a document by selecting the entire document (press Ctrl+A) and then clicking the Promote or Demote buttons in the Outline Tools group on the Outlining tab on the Ribbon.
One problem that people run into with master-subdocument relationships is that they put section formatting into the master document - you want all content placed in subdocuments and certainly no special formatting in the master document.

Numbering pages in subdocuments

When you use a master document, you can number all pages of your publication consecutively. In other words, the first page of a subdocument is one greater than the last page of the subdocument that precedes it.

These steps show you the procedure:

  1. Open the master document.
    You can work in Print Layout view or Outline view, but you have to be working with the master document, not with an individual subdocument.
  2. To add the page numbers to the header, click the Header button in the Header & Footer group on the Insert tab on the Ribbon and then select Edit Header from the drop-down list.
    Word temporarily switches to Page Layout view and adds the Header & Footer Tools Design contextual tab to the Ribbon.
    To add page numbers to the footer, choose the Edit Footer option from the drop-down list of the Footer button in the Header & Footer group on the Insert tab on the Ribbon.
  3. Format the header or footer to include a page number.
    Add or change whatever text you want to include in the header or footer. To add a page number, click the Page Number button in the Header & Footer group (located on the Header & Footer Tools Design contextual tab) and use the options in the drop-down list.
  4. Click the Close Header and Footer button in the Close group on the Header & Footer Tools Design contextual tab when you're happy with the header or footer.
    Word returns you to Print Layout or Outline view.
  5. Print the master document and check its page numbers.
Tip: If you want each subdocument to begin on a new page, add a page break to the Heading 2 style's Paragraph format (or whichever style you use for the title of each subdocument). You can find the Breaks drop-down list in the Page Setup group on the Page Layout tab on the Ribbon.
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