MS-Word / General Formatting

Whipping up a master document

If none of the documents you want to combine by using a master document are created yet, the best way to begin is to create the master document and all its subdocuments at the same time. Then you can open each subdocument individually to fill in the missing chapters of your book.

These steps show you the procedure for creating a master document and its subdocuments from scratch:

  1. Start Word if it isn't already open and choose File → New → Blank Document → Create. Or, press Ctrl+N.
  2. On the View tab in the Document Views group, click the Outline button.
    The Outlining tab appears on the Ribbon. You can also open Outline view by clicking the Outline button in the lower-right corner of the status bar (it's second to the left of the Zoom slider) or by pressing Ctrl+Alt+O.
  3. Click the Show Document button in the Master Document group on the Outlining tab.
    The Master Document group of the Outlining tab expands.
  4. Create a Heading 1 paragraph for the title of the master document.
    If you're creating a book, for example, type the book's title as a Heading 1 paragraph.
  5. Create a Heading 2 paragraph for each subdocument you want to create. If each subdocument represents a chapter, type the chapter titles as Heading 2 paragraphs.
  6. Select the Heading 2 paragraphs.
    Select them by dragging the mouse over them or by holding down the Shift key while you move the cursor with the arrow keys. Each Heading 2 paragraph you select converts to a separate subdocument in the next step. (Make sure not to select any part of the Heading 1 paragraph at the beginning of the document.)
  7. Click the Create button in the Master Document group on the Outlining tab.
    Clicking this button tells Word to break the selected heading paragraphs into smaller subdocuments.
  8. Admire your handiwork.
  9. Save the files by choosing File → Save, pressing Ctrl+S, or clicking the Save button on the Quick Access toolbar.
    You have to provide the name and location of the master document. Word makes up names for all subdocuments, using the first heading paragraph if possible.
  10. You're finished.
    Well, not quite. All you have is the outline of a book with a bunch of empty subdocuments. You still have to write the chapters!

Keep a few thoughts in mind when you're creating a master document from scratch:

  • You don't have to use the Heading 1 style for the master document title and Heading 2 for the subdocument titles. But doing so makes sense. Word examines the text you selected before you click the Create button to find the first Heading paragraph. Then it creates a separate subdocument for each paragraph in the selected text that's formatted with the same heading style as the first heading. If the first heading paragraph is formatted with the Heading 3 style, Word creates a separate subdocument for each Heading 3 paragraph. Most of the time, using Heading 1 for the master document title and Heading 2 for each subdocument title makes sense. Alternatively, you can use the Title style for the document and then have Heading 1 paragraphs for each subdocument.
  • The subdocuments aren't saved until you save the master document. Then Word automatically saves all subdocuments in the same folder as the master document.
  • After you create a subdocument, you can edit it by double-clicking the little subdocument icon next to the subdocument heading. This action opens the subdocument in a separate window and leaves the master document open in its own window, too. After you finish editing the subdocument, save it and close the window to return to the master document window.
  • When you open an existing master document, subdocuments are shown as hyperlinks. Then, to edit a subdocument, press Ctrl while clicking the link to the subdocument you want to edit.
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