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Want Relative, Not Absolute MS Word Master/Subdocument Path Names

Posted on 2002-03-06
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2007-12-19
Problem: In MS Word 2002 (although this likely applies to earlier versions of Word) I am trying to create a Master document (a book) which includes subdocuments (chapters) AND I want to be able to ZIP the whole set up and send them to someone else.

Unfortunately when the links to the subdocuments are created, MS Word automatically uses fully-qualified pathnames (eg. D:\directory\subdirectory\...\filename.doc) to specify the subdocuments links.  It is very unlikely that the person I send this set of documents to will have the same directory structure as me.  They should really be relative path names (eg "filename.doc").  MS Word Help even says to put all the Master and Subdocument files into one directory, so I assumed they would be relative pathnames.  I have tried to edit the pathnames, but those links seem to be locked.

Question:  How do I create a set of Master & Subdocument files, where the links are relative, not absolute pathnames.

Thanks for any help you can provide.
Question by:markbc
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LVL 22

Expert Comment

ID: 6846227
Nothing "nice" at all here, Mark.


Create a folder on your C that has a unique name. Put all your master/subs in there.

WinZip the whole folder and send it to them.

Expert Comment

ID: 6846924
Yes i would say put all the Master and Subdocument files into one directory... and then create a new document...
First open the master document and then assign again the sub documents to the master ... Perhaps you can try to read in the sub docs as .\mysubdoc.doc

Hope that helps
LVL 16

Expert Comment

ID: 6848780
How do you use subdocuments?
With hyperlinks?
If so, you could put a macro in main documents that relinks every one to relative main document path.

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LVL 22

Expert Comment

ID: 6848805
Richie, Subs and Main belong in the same folder.

I just created a master and 3 subs on my desktop. I then moved them via Windows explorer to a folder called MasterSubs on my C. When I open the master, the links automatically changed to the MasterSubs folder.

This works in Word 2000, I cannot imagine that they would have changed it in XP, but I'll test it again if necessary.

Author Comment

ID: 6849303
Thanks Dreamboat, WolfgangKoenig, and Richie_Simonetti.

I did put the Master and 2 sub-docs in the same folder when I created them.  More accurately, I created a new folder for this test (MasterTest), then created a new blank Word XP (2002) doc in which I added some Header 1 bullets mixed with Header 2 bullets.  Then I converted this to a Master document by telling word to create sub-docs based on the Header 2 bullets.  Two sub-docs were created with seemingly absolute path names which I could not edit.  (I later tried to add a third sub-doc by inserting the link and it was similarly absolute.)

I tested the problem by closing MS Word, and simulating sending this to my friend by just changing the Directory name to MasterTest2.  If the pathnames were relative but just being displayed as absolute, then when I re-opened the Word doc, they would have been displayed correctly using MasterTest2.  

They weren't!  MS Word complained that the sub-docs links were invalid, and they still showed using the original MasterTest directory, even though they still existed in the same directory (MasterTest2) as the Master doc.

Dreamboat - can you give me an exact set of steps to test?  Maybe the "windows explorer move" command is smart enough to correct Master/SubDoc links, or maybe you created relative links somehow.

Thanks again for the ideas so far.
LVL 22

Accepted Solution

Dreamboat earned 200 total points
ID: 6849336
Well, Mark. That's freaking amazing. And typical.

...moments later...

Hope this link works!;EN-US;Q311594

What it says is that the following is "fixed" in SP1:


"Subdocument Is Missing" Error Message When You Expand a Subdocument
When you try to expand the subdocuments contained in a master document after you move both files, Word does not search for the subdocument in the appropriate relative subdirectory of the master document.

It worked great in my 2K, so I tested XP for ya and it didn't work. And I don't have SP1.

LVL 16

Expert Comment

ID: 6850166
Ah!, i was suspecting that you were using W2K....
That's the way for W2K.
I should show an example:
If you use IE, go to File, save as... and save this page.
It creates the main file and a folder with images and stuff like that so you can see it offline.
If you move the folder and the htm file to other location with Explorer, you don't miss a file (and relative link).
markbc, sorry, i have no idea regarding subdocuments concept.
LVL 22

Expert Comment

ID: 6850179
Dreamboat's master/sub info (a WEALTH of information about using master/subs) will be available at by the end of the weekend. Here it is:

~~DREAMBOAT'S RULES FOR MASTER/SUBDOCUMENTS (To be used before you start):

1. Create a template that contains all of the styles that will be used throughout all of the masters and subs. You CANNOT have one "normal" style in your master and another "normal" style in your subs. Do not forget that if you expect others to be able to view the document in the same manner as you do, they must have access to the template. Tools-Options-File locations-Workgroup templates is the location where you will want to store them. If you don't have one, ask your network guys to give you a shared location for this purpose, enter that location in the Workgroup templates box (on everybody's PC) and then store the templates there. They'll show up when you hit File-New.

2. Create all of your subdocuments. Do not even think of inserting them into a master until you're all done. You must make these files by using the template. Do not treat your subdocuments as though they belong together. If you start telling Chapter 3 to start numbering at 3, or tell the page numbers to start at 38, you'll get all messed up. Don't do it. I strongly suggest that you name your subdocuments in the manner of 01-MyFirstChapter, 02-SecondPart, just as long as you use the 01, 02, 03... You'll be so glad later, and I won't have to explain, you'll go, "Ohhhh, I get it!"

3. Create the master. The master, ideally, contains only a cover page and Table of contents (TOC), perhaps "information on how to use this manual" and other stuff like that. The master must be using the same template. Of course, the master can be created first if you like, but the following part should be done absolutely last: Now, insert a section break. You'd need one anyway. Go to View-Master (97) or View-Outline view (2K). Hit the insert subdoc button and insert your file number 01-MyFirstChapter. Insert each subdocument after that. Save it.

4. NEVER, EVER, NEVER edit subdocuments through the master. You MUST edit them by themselves. The only time you should open the master is to edit something IN the master or to update the TOC or to print the file. NEVER USE THE MASTER TO EDIT THE SUBDOCUMENTS.

5. The file structures must be maintained. So, let's say you've got embedded graphics in subdocuments that are in a master and you want to ship the whole kit and kaboodle to Denver. Do the work upfront. Create a folder on your C: called MyProject or whatever. Under that, structure it right. Something like the following would be nice:


Now, if you don't have graphics to worry about, then don't make an individual folder for each sub, just have the docs under the SUBS folder. The bigger the project/documents are, the more important and helpful the folders can be. If you have anything to say about it, it sure is nice to have your graphics named 01Graphicname, 02Graphicname, and so on.

Now you're ready to stay out of trouble.


So, you already did it. Well, undo it.

1. Open the master or subdocument that is using most of the styles that you want to use throughout the whole project. Save that file as a template called MyProjectTemplate or whatever--check that your template location is where everyone who needs it can get to it! Delete everything out of it (ctrl-a and hit delete key). Save it, close it. This stores your styles.

2. Open your master again. Hit Tools-Templates and add-ins and attach the template to your master document. Check the box that says automatically update styles. Save it close it.

3. Open each subdocument by itself and do the same. You'll hate me when some of your styles/formatting change but this will be your own fault 'cause you didn't listen (seriously, this won't happen to you anymore and you can be glad of that!). You may need to clean some stuff up. Sorry.

4. If everything is still okay and your document hasn't locked up on you yet, you're way ahead of the game.


If you're in big trouble and your master document is locked and you can't do much of anything, this isn't because the file is corrupt, it's because you didn't follow the rules (which I've never seen anywhere in their entirety except what I happen to be writing at the moment).

Or maybe you just really want to start over because you're picky like I am...
(read the information above so you understand the following steps completely)

1. Open master. Hit File-Save as and give it a new name. Now it's not a master anymore (not tested in Office 2000 yet! If anyone tests this, please let us know so I can change the FAQ.) Put this file into its own folder and make your folder structure as I've described above. Now, open the master and save it as a template, delete everything out of it as described above, save it, close it.

2. Open the master and connect it to the template as described above.

3. Select the first chapter, hit Cut. Hit file-new and pick the template. In the new doc, hit paste. Save it to 01-MyFirst... Continue doing this until you've got all of the chapters cut and pasted into their own documents with the new naming structure and the new folder structure.

4. At this point, the master should contain only the cover and TOC and other stuff. Save it. Insert the first section break, and then insert your subdocuments. Update the TOC. Save. Close. All done.


I need to update it for XP...

Author Comment

ID: 6864119
Thanks!  Upgrading to Office XP SP1 solved the problem.  In fact I tested my procedure on another computer with Office XP SP1 and it worked, then went back to my computer (no SP1) and it failed again.  Upgraded to XP SP1 and it worked.  Silly me - I was so sure that I just didn't know how to use subdocuments correctly that it never occurred to me it might be a Microsoft bug so I never checked the Microsoft database.

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