I bet that you’ve been creating some larger document at least once in your life. It may have had 50 pages or 100, or even more. Regardless of the volume, from some point, working with your document becomes uncomfortable. Lots of scrolling, longer saving and opening times, etc. And if you are collaborating with others to create your document, it becomes even more challenging. Fortunately Microsoft Word 2007 gives you an awesome tool to handle such situations. It’s called a Master Document.

Master Documents

A Master Document is a regular document, but can have some other documents included in it. That’s cool, you may say, but why not just copy the other documents and paste them to my Master Document? Well, you may do that, but the so called Sub-Documents of your Master Document, while changed, reflect these changes in a Master Document. That’s the power of this mechanism. The Sub-Documents are independent, and the Master Document just gathers and organises their contents.

Create a Master Document

Right, so we know there is such thing as a Master Document and Sub-Documents. How do we use them, then? The secret lies in changing the MS Word 2007 view of your document to so called Outline. You can do that either by going to “View” Ribbon and from the section “Document Views” pick “Outline”, or by clicking the “Outline” icon on the lower-right part of MS Word 2007 window.

Changing to Outline view

The Outline View brings in the new Ribbon called “Outlining”. Basically, you can design the structure of your document here. What we’ll use from this Ribbon is the “Master Document” section.

The Outlining Tab

So far this section should allow just one option “Show Document”, lets click it. You should see the following expanded section now.

Expanding Master Document section

Now you can say that a Master Document is created. So far it has no Sub-Documents, so let’s create some. 

Adding Sub-Documents

If you’d like to add a new Sub-Document, just click the “Create” button in the “Master Document” section. It’ll create a specific frame in the outline view of your document. This frame depicts the part added by the Sub-Document. In the upper-left corner of this frame there is a tiny icon of a document. Double-click it to open a Sub-Document as a separate MS Word 2007 window. You can now save your Sub-Document with any chosen name.

Note, that the changes you make in your Sub-Document appear in a master document also (after saving a Sub-Document).

This way you can build a Master Document having for example some introduction and conclusion, create a Sub-Document for each chapter and give the Sub-Documents to your colleagues to fill them. As a result you’ll get a complete document, updated any time there is a change in any of the Sub-Documents.
That’s the simplest approach to Master Documents. Should be enough to start working with them, but as usual, there are some tricks worth learning. Keep reading to learn them.

Using existing documents as Sub-Documents

So far, we were creating new Sub-Document by hand. Then filling them out and this way our Master Document grew. But what if you already have some documents created? No problem. Just instead of “Create” pick an “Insert” option in the “Master Document” section of the Outlining Ribbon. The window for picking files will appear and the files you choose will be inserted in your Master Document. But that’s still not everything. Microsoft Word 2007 can create your Sub-Documents for you. To do that, all you need to do is create some headings in the Outline View, select them, and use the “Create” button in the “Master Document” section. You’ll see that all the headings become surrounded by the frames indicating they are Sub-Documents now. Couldn’t be easier, right?

Reopening and Exporting a Master Document

That’s quite all about creating Master Documents and Sub-Documents. However, there are two more topics to cover: reopening and exporting a Master Document.

You’ll see that after reopening a Master Document, there are no contents of your Sub-Documents, but just some hyperlinks instead. That’s ok, don’t worry. These hyperlinks direct to your Sub-Documents. If you'd like to see the whole contents of your Master Document, just go to the Outlining Ribbon (you need to enter the Outline View to see the Ribbon) and in the “Master Document” section click the “Expand Documents” button. And voila! All contents of your Sub-Documents are visible again.
Finally, is there a possibility of creating a regular document (one with all the contents but no Sub-Documents) from a Master Document? Sure there is. You have to select every Sub-Document in the Outline View and clik the “Unlink” button in the “Master Document” section. Remember to save your document then with different filename. not to overwrite the Master Document.


And that’s about all. I hope you’ll find the Master Documents useful in your everyday work. They surely have the potential to help you with better organisation of your work. They also require less memory and processing power which may become useful to those of you that have slower machines. Good luck with your work.