Extracting Pictures from a Document

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 18, 2015)

Richard requested information on how to extract pictures from a Word document in their original format. His observation was that if you simply selected the graphic (in Word) and then copied the graphic to the Clipboard, when you pasted the graphic into your favorite graphics program, it was in a bit-mapped form. Richard was looking for a way to copy the underlying format of the graphic (the format the graphic had when it was placed into Word) in order to maintain the highest image quality possible.

The good news, Richard, is that you are very observant—when you copy a graphic from Word, it indeed is done as a bit-mapped image. This is because of the way in which Word handles graphics. When you paste a graphic into a Word 97 document it is automatically converted into a bit-mapped (BMP) format, regardless of the format in which the graphic originally existed. For instance, if your original graphic is in TIF format, then pasting it into Word runs the graphic through Word's graphic filter, and it is converted to BMP format for inclusion in the document. Thus, once the graphic is pasted into a document, there is no way to recover the original TIF format—it doesn't exist, as far as Word 97 is concerned.

Things changed beginning with Word 2000, however. Besides working with BMP graphics, later versions of Word also natively understand GIF and JPG graphic formats. The reason for this is that those two formats are the predominant graphic formats on the Web, and Word wants to be a Web-enabled product. However, if you place a graphic in a Word document as a JPG, and then later copy it, the copy is still copied as a BMP format.

In order to get to the underlying GIF or JPG format, you can simply save the document in HTML format. This format requires that the graphics be in separate files, since they cannot be embedded within an HTML document. Once you save the document in this format, take a look at the files produced by Word—the individual graphics files should be there somewhere.

If you want to avoid the graphic conversion issue entirely, then you either need to keep original copies of your graphics images, or you should link images into your document rather than pasting them. Procedures on how to do this have been covered in other issues of WordTips.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1489) 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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