Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Understanding Master and Subdocuments.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 4, 2018)
You may not have heard about master and subdocuments in Word before. They are a feature that has been available for some time, but are not widely used by many people. They are used as a way to develop smaller documents and then combine them together into a larger document. The classic example is chapters in a book. Each chapter might be in its own document, but can be combined together, using a master document, into a larger whole that represents the entire book.
Perhaps it is best to view a master document as a container. You can put information directly within the container, but you can also put other containers within the container. These containers, in turn, contain other information. A master document is nothing but a container for text and graphics (like a regular document), but also pointers to individual documents called subdocuments. When you are working with the master document, it appears to contain all the information within the subdocuments, even though the subdocuments are individual files.
There are several advantages to working with master and subdocuments:
Even though there are advantages to working with master and subdocuments, there are also drawbacks. This is to be expected, since managing documents in this manner adds another layer of technological complexity to your documents. Any time this happens, it seems there is always a greater chance of things "getting messed up." This is the first and potentially most serious drawback—that you could end up messing up your document because of the increased complexity.
Another drawback is that it is harder to move the documents to a different location. With regular documents, you can simply move or copy them to a different location. With master and subdocuments you need to go through a specific process, as described in another tip.
WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (12634) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Understanding Master and Subdocuments.
Do More in Less Time! Are you ready to harness the full power of Word 2013 to create professional documents? In this comprehensive guide you'll learn the skills and techniques for efficiently building the documents you need for your professional and your personal life. Check out Word 2013 In Depth today!
Antonyms are words that have opposite meanings. The grammar tools available in Word can suggest antonyms for some words. ...Discover More
When you instruct Word to tell you how many words are in a document, it treats hyphenated words or phrases as if they are ...Discover More
If you use a lot of acronyms in your documents, you may want a quick way to compile those acronyms and their definitions ...Discover More
FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."
Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.