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Microsoft Word 2010 : Working with Outlines - Working with Master Documents

10/19/2012 6:02:25 PM
THE OLD PHRASE “too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the soup” can also apply when you have too many people trying to put together a single document. You may have some people doing the same job, making ineffective use of time. Perhaps some of the related documents become lost and you have to start over, or maybe while delegating areas, an important topic gets lost in the diversion.

It doesn’t have to work that way. Word’s Master Document feature offers a system of organization for larger documents. A master document works as a container for smaller subdocuments. A book is a good example for using a master document. Think of the book title as the master document, and each book chapter is a subdocument. Working with the Master Document feature makes the longer document much more manageable.

Creating a Master Document

The basic principal behind a master document begins with a master document outline. The major headings become the subdocuments, which Word creates and saves into its own document and places hyperlinks in the master document. You, or someone else, then enters the chapter content into each individual subdocument.

  1. Choose View > Document Views > Outline, which switches you to Outline view and displays the Outlining tab.

  2. Choose Outlining > Master Document > Show Document. The Outlining tab expands with additional choices, as shown in Figure 1.

    Figure 1. Master Document options on the Outlining tab.

    Create Auxiliary Items

    You can create a table of contents, index, and cross-references for all of the subdocuments in a master document. 

  3. At the document beginning, type the first heading or the document title and then press Enter. Word creates the first heading and applies a Heading 1 style.


    For best results, use the Level 1 heading for the document title and Level 2 headings for subdocuments.

  4. Press the Tab key, which shifts the second line to a Level 2 heading, and type the first document major topic.

  5. Press Enter and continue typing document topics. If desired, you can use the Demote and Promote buttons to organize your topics into major topics and minor topics. See Figure 2 for an example.

Figure 2. Creating the Master Document outline.

Working with Subdocuments

Now that you have the basic structure defined, it’s time to assign which headings are subdocuments. You can create the subdocuments from the headings in your outline, or you can indicate existing documents.

Creating Subdocuments

By creating the outline and specifying it’s a Master Document, you’re only a mouse click away from creating the subdocument. Click anywhere in the first topic you want as a subdocument, and then click Outlining > Master Document > Create. Word puts a border around the topic and places a subdocument icon to the left. (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3. Creating a subdocument.

Click the Save icon on the Quick Access Toolbar or press Ctrl+S to save the master document. Word also then saves the subtopic as its own Word document. This step is very important, as it creates the connections between the master and any subdocuments.

File Locations

Word stores all subdocuments in the same folder as the master document. When you first save the master document, it’s a good idea to save it in its own folder so all related documents are kept together.

The subdocument icon, which looks like a small piece of paper, represents the link to the subdocument. Double-click the icon, and Word opens the subdocument shown in Figure 4. Notice the document title is the same as the text in the document, which is also the heading you used in the master document.

Figure 4. Viewing a subdocument.

Any detail or text that needs to be entered should be entered and saved in the subdocument. See Figure 5 for an example.

Figure 5. Text in the subdocument.

Text that you entered in the subdocument shows up as body text in the master document, as shown in Figure 6. You can hide the body text by clicking the plus sign (+) next to the heading. Continue creating subdocuments as needed. Be sure to frequently save the master document.

Figure 6. Subdocument text in the master document.

Inserting Subdocuments

If you have already created some or all of the documents you want as subdocuments, you can easily insert them into the master document. For example, perhaps you’re writing a book and your biography information is already saved. You don’t need to recreate and retype the biographical information. You simply tell the master document where you’ve saved the biography. You don’t actually insert the document; you insert a link to the subdocument. Follow these steps:

Subdocument Heading

For best and easiest results, make sure the already created subdocument has a level heading at the beginning. So if you are working with Level 1 headings, the first line in the subdocument should be a Level 1 heading.

  1. From the Outline view, click the insertion point in a blank line where you want the already created subdocument.

  2. Click Outlining > Master Document > Insert. The Insert Subdocument dialog box shown in Figure 7 appears.

    Figure 7. Inserting existing documents.
  3. Locate and select the document you want and click the Open button. You may see a message about style formatting. Click Yes to All.

  4. Save the master document. Word saves the link between the master and subdocument.

  5. Continue inserting additional subdocuments if needed. Be sure to frequently save the master document.

Expanding and Collapsing Subdocuments

In the master document, when subdocuments display in expanded mode, you see the text expanded from the subdocuments. If you double-click the plus sign next to the subdocument heading, you can collapse the subheading. From there, you see the subdocument link icon and the heading itself, but no body text.

However, if you choose Outlining > Master Document > Collapse Subheadings, you see the actual links to the subdocuments. When you click the Collapse Subheadings button, Word may prompt you to save the master document. Click Yes.

Your document then looks similar to the one shown in Figure 8, in that the Collapse Subdocuments button turns into the Expand Subdocuments button. Instead of the headings, you see the link to the subdocuments including the drive and folder location. You also have the subdocument icon on the left side. You can still access the subdocuments by double-clicking the subdocument icon or by holding down the Ctrl key and clicking on the actual file link.

Figure 8. Collapsing the subdocuments.

To expand the master document back to where you see the headings, choose Outlining > Master Document > Expand Subdocuments.

Rearranging Subdocuments

You select the subdocument you want to move by clicking its subdocument icon. If you want to move multiple adjacent subdocuments, click the first icon, and then hold down the Shift key as you click the last icon in the group you want to move.

Drag the subdocument icon up or down the master document outline. As you drag the mouse, a gray line appears as shown in Figure 9. Release the mouse when the line indicates where you want the subdocument moved.

Figure 9. Moving subdocuments.

Merging Subdocuments

As you work on a larger document, you may discover two or more topics you want to combine into a single topic. For this, you need to use the Master Document Merge feature.

First of all, the two topics you want to combine must be located together. If the subdocuments are not listed together, you must rearrange one of them. (See the previous section for rearranging topics.)

Select the first topic’s subdocument icon, which highlights the entire topic, then hold down the Shift key and click the second topic. Both topics are now highlighted. (See Figure 10.)

Figure 10. Selecting multiple subdocuments.

Finally, click Outlining > Master Document > Merge. The two topics combine into one, as shown in Figure 11. When you combine subdocuments, the first one that you selected before merging them is the file into which Word inserts the contents of the second document. The second subdocument file is still stored on your disk drive, but you can safely delete it if you want to. 

Figure 11. Merging subdocuments.

Splitting Subdocuments

On the reverse side of merging subdocuments, you may find you need to split the subdocuments up even more. Perhaps you decided that a particular topic was just too long. As easily as you can merge subdocuments, you can split them.

Open the subtopic document you want to split by double-clicking the subdocument icon. In the document, place a comparable heading level (usually a Level 2) as the other subtopic headings and then save and close the subdocument.

In the master document, select the new heading. The heading and all text below it is highlighted.

Choose Outlining > Master Document > Split. Word moves the selected text into its own section. In Figure 12, I want to split the subdocument Payroll into “Payroll” and “Tax Setup.” In the sub-document, the newly created heading and any text below it are moved and saved into a separate file, just like all the other subdocuments.

Figure 12. Splitting subdocuments.

Deleting Subdocuments

If you decide you don’t want to include a subdocument in the master document, you can easily delete it. When you delete a subdocument, you’re not deleting the original document, only the connection between the documents is deleted. The original file remains on your disk drive.

To delete a subdocument, from the master document, click anywhere in the subdocument heading and choose Outlining > Master Document > Unlink. The heading remains in the document, but the connection to the saved file is eliminated. Since the deleted file is still stored on your disk drive, you can safely delete it if you want to. 

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