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: Moving Master and Subdocuments.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 15, 2018)
Word includes a feature whereby you can create a master document and then insert subdocuments within the master. Unfortunately, Word does not allow you to easily move the master and subdocuments from one place to another. If you do, you will get an error the next time you open the master document and Word attempts to then open the referenced subdocuments.
This happens because Word (for whatever reason) keeps the internal references to subdocuments in pretty much an absolute format, in relation to the master. For instance, let's say that you have a master and five subdocuments. If these are all in the same directory, you can easily move them to another single directory anywhere you desire. All you need to do is move them.
Similarly, let's say you have the master document and then the subdocuments are contained in a directory called Chapters, and that the Chapters directory is a subdirectory contained in the same directory where the master document is located. If you move the master document and the entire Chapters subdirectory to another drive or another directory, you will have no problem. This is because you have not disturbed the relative position of the subdocuments in relation to the master.
The problem comes in when you want to change the relative positions. For example, if you wanted to leave the master document where it was but change the Chapters subdirectory to a different drive. In this instance, Word would not be able to locate the subdocuments when you opened the master.
To correct this problem, don't move the files directly. Instead, you have to go through this process:
There are also some third-party solutions available for moving or managing subdocuments. If you do a lot of moving of subdocuments, you may want to investigate those solutions. Simply go to any good software source on the Internet and search for the terms "Word" and "subdocument."
WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (12636) 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: Moving Master and Subdocuments.
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