Creating a Single Index from Multiple Documents

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 20, 2020)


Maurice has five Word documents, each of which is rather large. He needs to create a single index that covers all five documents, so he wonders if there is a way to do it without merging the five documents. He doesn't want to merge them because of their sizes.

There are two main ways you can do this. The first way is to create a master document that contains references to subdocuments, and then generate the index using the master document. (Both approaches covered here assume that your documents already have the index field codes inserted within them. In other words, this tip covers just the actual generation of the index, not the creation of the index entries.)

To create the master document, follow these steps:

  1. Create a brand-new document. Make sure that it uses the same template as the documents for which you want an index.
  2. Display the document in Outline view. (Display the View tab of the ribbon and click the Outline tool in the Views group.)
  3. Make sure the Outlining tab of the ribbon is displayed. (It should be displayed by default when you switch to Outline view.)
  4. In the Master Document group, click the Show Document tool. Word expands the tools in the Master Document group.
  5. Click the Insert tool, which is visible in the Master Document group. Word displays the Insert Subdocument dialog box. (This dialog box looks very similar to a standard Open dialog box.)
  6. Using the controls in the dialog box, locate and select the first document you want included in your index.
  7. Click Open. Word inserts the contents of the document, surrounded by section breaks.
  8. Repeat steps 2 through 9 for each of the other documents you want included.
  9. Generate your index as you normally would.

The second way to create the index is to use fields to combine the documents into a single document. Follow these steps:

  1. Create a brand-new document. Make sure that it uses the same template as the documents for which you want an index. You should make sure the insertion point is at the beginning of the document.
  2. Display the Insert tab of the ribbon.
  3. Click the Quick Parts tool in the Text group. Word displays some choices below the tool.
  4. Click Field. Word displays the Field dialog box.
  5. Choose Indexes and Tables from the Categories list (top left corner of the dialog box). (See Figure 1.)
  6. Figure 1. The Field dialog box.

  7. Select RD from the Field Names list. Word adjusts the appearance of the dialog box to include a Filename or URL box.
  8. In the Filename or URL box enter the name of the first file you want included in the index.
  9. Click OK. Word inserts the field into the document.
  10. Press Enter once.
  11. Repeat steps 2 through 9 for each of the other documents you want included.
  12. Generate your index as you normally would.

The RD fields cause Word to reference each of the specified documents and include them in your index. If desired, you could also add the fields to the end of your fifth document rather than creating a blank document for the index. (If you do this you won't need to include a field for the fifth document itself; only the first four.) This assumes, of course, that you want the index to appear at the end of the fifth document.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13128) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is three less than 9?

2019-01-11 03:52:10


Dear all,

I have successfully created an index over 3 documents as per this tip. All indexed keywords appear. My challenge now is how to know in which file to find the referenced keyword(s).

Any suggestions?


2016-12-30 15:27:28


i an suffering the same issue Penny asked about on 05 Apr 2016. The only reply posted was by Peter--to use Master Document method. Were there other replies? and Penny-- did you do that and did it work?

2016-04-05 09:56:36



Did you try the master document method?


2015-02-02 17:19:04

Penny Kelly

Creating an index in Word used to be a breeze and you ended up with a beautiful index. But I cannot get the process to work now. I write books - 300 pages in as many as 30 documents. When I create a document, add RD fields, and try to generate the Index, I get the same response again and again - cannot find the RD files. The computer keeps looking for the files in F: drive rather than the folder they're in. I've moved files all over the hard drive and it still can't find them. What's wrong???

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