With Word 95-Word 2021, 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 2021.) 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." by Faithe Wempen, p. 681 This comment has been
updated without change (other than the year) in
Microsoft Word 2013 In Depth and
Microsoft Word 2016 In Depth.
I don't have a pithy quotation yet for Word 2013-2021(365). 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!
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.
MVP Graham Mayor created a powerful
utility that can replace Master Documents for some purposes:
Boiler - Insert a
selection of documents by Graham Mayor, MVP
MVP John Korchok recommends creating
Master Documents to print and then throwing them away. I agree that is a
viable use of this feature.
I would recommend creating a new folder for this purpose and copying
anything to go into the MD to this folder, never use your original documents
as part of a MD.
I have posted a request on UserVoice
addressing these concerns. You can add your vote if you wish.
Create One Table of Contents from Multiple Word 2010
MVP Dian Chapman has a great
page on using
RD fields instead.
MVP Shauna Kelly's #4 on
her page on creating tables of contents is instructive.
MVP Jonathan West has a
with code on Creating a Table of Contents Spanning Multiple Documents.
Office for Mere Mortals disagrees and says that Master Documents work
fine in Word 2007-2019. 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.
The opening statement may be too strong.
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
Heretic) has apparently mastered
Master Documents and provides
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. If using his work, please see
my supplemental page.
The Master Document feature can be used and
can be useful if proper care is taken. Please read through
Steve Hudson's work and my
Supplement to Steve Hudson's work for thoughts on how to do it safely.
I was recently asked about sharing Master Documents (as in multiple
editors). I can't imagine surer path to disaster, especially if
Track Changes is implemented.