Master Documents Feature in Microsoft Word

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How can I best use the Master Document feature?

This page last revised: 01 Oct 2014 10:27:38 -0500 .

General Answer: With Word 95-Word 2013, don't use it. It has serious bugs and will corrupt your entire document at the most inconvenient time possible. (This advice to not use Master Documents reported as correct through Word 2013.) John McGhie put it succinctly when he said that "there are two kinds of Master Documents: Those that are corrupt and those that will be corrupt soon." It was reported fixed in Word 2007, but "The jury is in: The Master Document feature in Word 2010 remains word processing's answer to Conan the Destroyer. Use it only if you enjoy pain and frustration." Microsoft Word 2010 Bible by Herb Tyson, MVP. "Since its inception, the Master Documents feature has been a bit quirky and buggy, and that fact hasn't changed with Word 2010, unfortunately." Microsoft Word 2010 In Depth by Faithe Wempen, p. 681

I don't have a pithy quotation yet for Word 2013. See the following links for details and war stories. This feature has been reported to trash books and theses. It can mess up parts that are not even open.

http://www.word.mvps.org/FAQs/General/WhyMasterDocsCorrupt.htm

http://www.word.mvps.org/FAQs/General/RecoverMasterDocs.htm

Keep in mind that Word will handle fairly large documents, assuming you have the processor and RAM to deal with it. Second, there are reasonable work-arounds available.

The general rule might better be phrased "Don't edit Master Documents!" You can use the feature to generate something to print. You can use it to get Word to split up result documents from mail merge into separate files. But when you are done with the Master Document it should be deleted before it corrupts your subs.

Steve Hudson (aka the Word Heretic) has apparently mastered Master Documents and provides detailed instructions on when their use is appropriate, how do to it, with strict rules to follow. These are only for those who are willing and able to follow the instructions. If you are inclined to skip steps or ignore his warnings see the general answer above.

MVP Dian Chapman has a great page on using RD fields instead. Note that RD fields in Word 2013 is reported to be buggy as well (although it won't destroy your work).

MVP Shauna Kelly's #4 on her page on creating tables of contents is instructive.

Woody's Office for Mere Mortals disagrees and says that Master Documents work fine in Word 2007-2013. I have great regard for these folks but I would not put anything into a Master Document that I didn't have backed up on a separate (off line) disk and would not do any editing of sub documents from within the Master Document frame. I trust Herb Tyson more. He says that the Word beta team told him that any fixes had been deferred. He often has corruption occur within a couple of days.
 

 

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Using Date Fields in Microsoft Word
Calculated Dates
Booklet Formatting and Printing in Microsoft Word
Changing the Default Font in Microsoft Word
Document linked to Printer in Microsoft Word
Fonts Missing from Menu in Microsoft Word
How can I get a different header / footer on the second page?
More on Headers and Footers in Word
Letterhead
Weird Lines and Borders
Macros and VBA
Master Documents Feature in Microsoft Word
Moving (Sharing) Customizations in Microsoft Word
Global StyleSheet?
MVP means?
Naming Files - A System is the Key
Posting tips in the Microsoft Word Forums
Getting rid of that (*)#"@^ paperclip! - Taming the Office Assistant
Page X of Y doesn't work in Microsoft Word!
Save Changes to the Global Template? Keeps Popping Up
Templates in Microsoft Word
Global Templates
Too Many Icons on the Taskbar in Microsoft Word 2000
Getting Rid of the Web Toolbar in Microsoft Word
Word for Word Perfect Users
Favorite Documents Menu
Work Menu in Microsoft Word
Templates Menu in Microsoft Word
What books have been recommended about Microsoft Word?
Where can I find more templates?
Word Links

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