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© Ugur Akinci
MS Word’s Master Document feature is a useful one for creating compound documents out of smaller individual ones.
However, like anything else in life, this feature also has its limits and weaknesses.
As has been pointed out by many experts in the industry, Master Documents are prone to get corrupted. But, under certain conditions, that’s true for all Word documents in general.
The operative concept here is “under certain conditions.”
Here is my take on the factors that determine whether a Master Document (MD) will go corrupt or not:
1) MD works best for small and homogenous/uniform documents that contain only text and share the same template, and are created by the same version of MS Word. If you are trying to combine ten different Word documents created by three different versions of MS Word (2003, 2007, 2010), each with over 1,000 pages, then the chances are you won’t be able to generate a clean Master Document.
2) The more tables, graphics, photos, and illustrations you have in each individual document, higher is the probability that your MD will get corrupted.
3) The more switches from portrait to landscape page orientation you have inside each individual document, higher is the probability that your MD will get corrupted.
4) The more ordered (numbered) lists you have inside each individual document, higher is the probability that your MD will get corrupted. You may think of corruption as a “foregone conclusion” if your lists have two or three indented levels and continue on multiple pages.
5) The more the individual documents differ in the way their pages are numbered, higher is the probability that your MD will get corrupted. For example, it does matter if the individual documents vary in the way their page numbers are positioned on the page, prefixed by chapter or volume numbers (or not), or if they are Arabic or Roman numerals (or Letters).
6) The more paragraphs styles you have and the more they vary from one document to another, higher is the probability that your MD will get corrupted. For example, in both Doc-A and Doc-B you may have a paragraph style called “Heading N” but if each Heading N is defined differently (different font, line spacing, kerning, etc.), higher is the probability that your MD will get corrupted.