Headers and Footers in Subdocuments

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 16, 2016)

Word allows you to group documents together in a hierarchical fashion using what is known as master documents and subdocuments. A master document allows you to include different subdocuments that are then printed in the order specified in the master document. A good analogy is the relationship between a book (the master document) and its component chapters (the subdocuments).

Unfortunately, using master and subdocuments has gotten a bad rap among experienced Word users. Using subdocuments can increase the chances of corrupting documents and lead to other problems. These problems seem to be related to the complexity of maintaining a master and subdocument relationship. For this reason, some people advise against using master and subdocuments.

If you want to organize your project using master and subdocuments, you may be wondering how to utilize different headers and footers. For instance, you may have developed your subdocuments as stand-alone documents with their own headers and footers. When you print the subdocuments as part of the master document, however, you may not want to use the subdocument headers and footers, preferring instead the ones defined in the master document.

Conceptually, doing this is relatively easy—with one big caveat. You need to fully understand how headers and footers relate to sections within a document. If you don't you could have problems. Why? Because whenever you insert a subdocument into a master document, Word inserts the document into its own section. Recognizing this, you have two choices. First, you can simply delete the section breaks that are automatically inserted. Then, when you define headers and footers in the master document, these are used in preference to those within the component subdocuments. Second, you can leave the section breaks as they are and define headers and footers for each section within the master document. Doing so overrides the headers and footers within the subdocument in that section where you defined the headers and footers.

The point to remember is that any headers and footers you define within the master document stay with the master document. Any headers and footers you define within the subdocuments stay with the subdocuments. The header or footer used by Word depends on which you are printing—the master document or the subdocuments.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (540) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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