Working with Master Document and Subdocument Files

After you've created your master document and subdocuments, the next step is to begin working with them. In the following sections, we'll show you the fundamentals of opening, saving, and editing master documents and subdocuments. Then, later in the chapter, you'll learn essential techniques for reorganizing them.

Saving a Master Document

You can save a master document the same way you save any other Word file: by clicking the Save button, pressing Ctrl+S, or choosing File, Save.

When you save a master document that contains new subdocuments, Word creates new files for each subdocument and stores them in the same folder as the master document. Word automatically names your subdocuments, using the first letters or phrase at the beginning of each subdocument. If the names of more than one subdocument would be identical, or if another identical filename already exists in the same folder, Word adds a number to distinguish the files. For example, if the subdocuments all start with the word "Chapter," they would be named


Word is capable of creating subdocument names that are exceptionally long: up to 229 characters. However, Word will stop a subdocument name whenever it encounters punctuation?even an apostrophe. The result? You can have one subdocument name that is a full sentence long, and another one named Don, from a heading that starts with the word "Don't."


Double-check the filenames Word chooses to make sure that they're appropriate. If you save a subdocument named Section 1 to a folder that already has a file named Section1, Word renames your file Section2. Then it names your Section 2 subdocument Section3. The result could be confusing.

If you create your master document from a clean outline, by default, the master document itself will be named after the first Heading 1 entry. If that Heading 1 entry is "Chapter 1," the first subdocument may be called Chapter 2 even if it contains the first chapter on your document. If you want, you can choose a different name when you save the master document.

If Word ever chooses a subdocument name that you don't like, open the subdocument from within the master document, choose File, Save As, and rename it. The master document will then contain the renamed file.

If you insert an existing document into a master document?making it a subdocument?Word retains the existing document's name instead of assigning it a new one when you save the master document and all subdocuments.

The existing document also stays in its previous location on your hard disk or network. To simplify management of the document, you should copy the existing document into the master document folder before you insert it into your master document. By doing so, you can ensure that all subdocuments in your master document remain in the same folder. This makes it easier to track your master document, makes it less likely that you will misplace or lose the subdocument, and makes it easier to ensure that all appropriate users have access to the subdocuments they need to work with.

To avoid this problem, consider setting up a new folder that will contain both your master document and your subdocuments.

To learn more about working with subdocuments from within a master document, see "Editing a Subdocument from Within the Master Document," p. 665.

Saving a Subdocument

When you save a master document, Word also saves all subdocuments. You can also save any individual subdocument you have opened from within the master document, using any of Word's tools for saving files (the Save button on the Standard toolbar, the Ctrl+S keyboard shortcut, or the File, Save menu command).

After you create and save a subdocument, Word stores its contents in the subdocument?not in the master document. This has two important implications.

First, as you'll see shortly, it means that you (or a colleague) can edit a subdocument without opening the master document. You simply open the subdocument as you would any other Word document. Assuming that nobody else is using the file, nothing tells you you're working on a subdocument rather than a normal document.

Second, it means that if you delete a subdocument, move it, or rename it?without doing so from within the master document?the subdocument will disappear from the master document. The link will still appear in the master document, but when you try to expand the subdocument to view its contents, Word will display a message that the file is missing.


Users who don't realize they are working on subdocuments can cause problems for others who are responsible for managing a master document containing those subdocuments. For example, a user may rename a file or save it somewhere else, and, suddenly,a gap appears in the master document. Or worse, the user?working outside the master document?resaves the file under another name. Then, the old version of the file stays in the master document (because a link to that file still exists)?and nobody ever realizes that there's a newer, revised version.

Opening a Master Document

After you create, save, and close a master document, you can open it the same way you open any other document. When you first open a master document, however, rather than headings that correspond to the top-level headings of each subdocument, you see hyperlinks that show the name and location of each subdocument in your master document (see Figure 19.6).

Figure 19.6. When you reopen a master document, you see hyperlinks to each subdocument contained in it.


If you prefer to see formatted headings and text rather than hyperlinks, click the Expand Subdocuments button. You can then use Outlining toolbar buttons such as Show Heading 1 and Show Heading 2 to control how much detail you see in your subdocuments.

Editing a Subdocument from Within the Master Document

After you've opened the master document, you can either edit individual subdocuments from within the master document or display only the subdocument for editing.


For reliability reasons, some Word experts recommend opening subdocuments through File, Open whenever possible, not from the master document. However, as discussed throughout this section, at times you will have little practical alternative but to work through the master document.

To display an individual subdocument file for editing, Ctrl+click on the hyperlink. The subdocument now appears in its own window. Section breaks appear at the end of the document, as discussed earlier. The original master document remains open even while you're editing a subdocument this way. If you are using Word 2003's default "single document interface," in which each open document gets its own taskbar icon, you can view the original master document at any time by clicking its taskbar icon (see Figure 19.7).

Figure 19.7. You can switch from a subdocument to a master document by clicking on the master document's icon in the taskbar.



Hyperlinks in a master document change color from blue to magenta after you Ctrl+click them once to open them. However, when you close the master document, they revert to blue and will appear blue the next time you open it. Moreover, if you edit and save a subdocument, its hyperlink also reverts to blue.

Sometimes, you may prefer to edit a subdocument with the rest of the master document's contents visible. For example, you may want to move text from one subdocument to another, or to create references to text in another subdocument. To view the contents of the entire master document, click Expand Subdocuments and then use Word's Outlining toolbar buttons to focus on the specific areas of text you want to edit.

No matter how you open a subdocument, you're not limited to viewing and editing it in Outline view. Select whatever view makes the most sense for the editing you need to do.


If you have both a subdocument and its master document open, you cannot edit the subdocument's text in the master document?you will find it locked. You must click the subdocument icon on the taskbar and edit the subdocument directly.

Editing Subdocuments Outside the Master Document

As you've learned, you don't have to open a master document to edit one of its subdocuments. You can open the subdocument directly, by using the Open dialog box or by double-clicking on its icon in Windows Explorer. If you're using master documents to manage a document with several authors, this is how your colleagues typically open the subdocuments you delegate to them.

Here's a rule of thumb: Open subdocuments separately when you intend to make changes that affect only the subdocument. For example, it's fine to open the subdocument separately if you plan to do any of the following:

  • Edit text within the subdocument

  • Create footnotes to appear at the bottom of the page or at the end of the subdocument

  • Create temporary headers or footers that you only want to print from within the subdocument

  • Check spelling within the subdocument

  • Print only the subdocument


You might add a subdocument footer that includes the words PRELIMINARY DRAFT. This footer prints whenever you open the subdocument on its own. However, the "official" master document footer you establish for your final document appears instead whenever the subdocument is printed from the master document.

For more information about creating headers and footers, see Chapter 5, "Controlling Page Features," p. 157.

On the other hand, if you plan to make organizational, formatting, or editing changes that affect the entire document, open the subdocument from within the master document as described previously.

After you've completed work on the subdocument, you can save and close it the same way you would save any normal Word document.


Never rename or move a subdocument that you've opened outside the master document. Word has no way of tracking the change. The next time you open the master document, the renamed or moved subdocument will be missing.

To rename or move a subdocument, open it from within the master document; choose File, Save As; enter the new name or location in the Save As dialog box; and click Save.

Don't forget, this leaves the obsolete file on your hard drive in its original location. If you're responsible for managing a master document, you may want to manually delete or move the obsolete file so that others will not inadvertently edit it, assuming that it is still current.

    Part I: Word Basics: Get Productive Fast
    Part II: Building Slicker Documents Faster
    Part III: The Visual Word: Making Documents Look Great
    Part IV: Industrial-Strength Document Production Techniques
    Part VI: The Corporate Word