New from existing document .. the alternatives

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Other ways to make a new document based on an existing one …

There’s more than one way to get a similar result as ‘New from Existing…’ that are worth keeping in mind. They apply across all recent versions of Word as well as Excel and Powerpoint too.

You can just open the source document then ‘Save As…’ to the new name, that takes a few steps. There’s a risk that the user will forget the important ‘Save As…’ step and accidently overwrite the source document.    It’s too easy to forget to Save As … step in a rush to make the revised document.  Better to make a copy of the document file, then open the copy than tinker with the original unnecessarily.

Mature programs like Word should provide a more elegant and safe solution that gives the user a clone of the selected document with the ability to choose a new document name of their choice.  ‘New from Existing …’ did all that nicely.

New choice in Explorer

This alternative only works from Windows Explorer, not from the File New or File Open dialog boxes in Office.

In Explorer, go to the document you want to use as the source, right-click on it and choose ‘New’

Windows Explorer - New option for Office documents image from New from existing document .. the alternatives at

This will open a copy of the selected document with no file name (only the default ‘Document n’ in the title bar).  you should be prompted for a file name when you save the document.

This is a nifty trick.  Traditionally the ‘New’ option in Explorer was to make a new blank document (via the ‘New’ fly-out menu). 

Sadly it doesn’t work in the place where it would be the most use, inside Office.  You can select a document, right-click and choose ‘New’ as shown above but you’ll get an error because there’s a Word (or other) dialog box open.  Pity that … it shows up the strange situation where a useful feature is available from Explorer but not available inside Office itself.

Open as Copy

The standard File Open dialog in any version of Word has more choices than the standard opening of the selected document. On the right of the Open button in the File | Open dialog box is a little down arrow or wedge … click on that to see all the ‘Open’ options available to you.

Word - Open button wedge image from New from existing document .. the alternatives at

Word - extended Open menu options image from New from existing document .. the alternatives at

One of them is ‘Open as Copy’ which will open a copy of the selected document with the word ‘Copy (n)’ in the front (n = the number of copies).

‘Open as Copy’ is just OK – it doesn’t give you any choice about the new document name (unless you Save As … on the new document and create yet another copy!).

Prefixing the source file name is a nuisance because it means the source and cloned documents are not together in a ‘sorted by file name’ folder list. The Windows team (finally) realized this and changed the behavior of Explorer to append to the original file name (ie from ‘original.docx’ the copied file is called ‘original_2.docx’ in Window 8 or ‘original – Copy.docx in Windows 7 not ‘copy (2) original.docx’) . Sadly the Office team hasn’t caught up with this obvious practicality for customers.

Open as Read Only

A similar option on the same extended ‘Open’ menu above is ‘Open as Read-Only’.

From File | Open, chose the document you want and select ‘Open as Read-Only’ then chose File | Save As to save the opened document under a new name.

Of course, you could just choose the standard File | Open then ‘Save As …’ but using ‘Open as Read Only’ reduces the risk of accidently changing the source document (i.e by forgetting the important ‘Save As’ step).

Copy and Rename

The long-winded choice is to use Explorer to copy the source file, rename or even relocate the copied file then open the copy. You can do that in Windows Explorer or do it in the File Open dialog.

It’s the ‘long way around’ but, unlike other methods, you end up with exactly what you need i.e. a copy of the original document saved with a file name of your choice.

The Office File dialog boxes have all the features of Windows Explorer – you can copy, paste, move or even delete files within the File dialog before opening a file.

To create a new document based on an existing one from within a File | Open dialog works like this:


  1. Go to File | Open in Word
  2. Click on the source document
  3. Make a copy of the selected document by either  

    1. Right-mouse click and choose Copy
    2. Press Ctrl + C (the standard Copy shortcut)

  4. If you want the new document saved in a different folder, switch to that location
  5. Paste the document copy you’ve made in step 3 by either

    1. Right-mouse click and choose Paste
    2. Press Ctrl + V (the standard Paste shortcut)

  6. Most likely you’ll want to rename the copied file from the Windows chosen default. Click on the copied file and either

    1. Right-mouse click and choose Rename
    2. Press F2 – the Windows shortcut key for rename

    The file name will change to an editable field that you can type in.


  7. Finally, select the copied file and open it in Word by either  

    1. Click on the Open button
    2. Double-click on the file

That sounds like a lot of work but it’s a lot faster to do than the read about (or write!).

Faster way … you can do the copy and rename in a few keystrokes:

  1. Click on source file
  2. Press Ctrl + c (copy file)
  3. Press Ctrl + v (paste file)

    1. Windows changes the focus and selects the newly created file so you can move to the next step right away …

  4. Press F2 (rename file)
  5. Type in changes to the file name
  6. Press Enter to apply file name changes.
  7. Open document in Office by clicking on file or pressing Enter again

This works in Windows Explorer or any File dialog box.

At the end you get a new document, based on an existing document and with a file name you want.

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