Inserting or linking other files into Word documents

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Word allows you to insert other files with data and functionality from another document or program directly into your Word document.

Microsoft calls these additions ‘Objects’ which makes it sound overly technical and difficult but it’s not. Don’t get fazed by all the nerd talk about ‘objects’, that’s programmer speak that’s leaked out into the real world.

Whenever you see the word ‘Object’ think ‘Another file’.

Objects are just other files or sometimes, parts of other files.  Word or text files, graphs, Excel worksheets, PDF’s, PowerPoint files or a lot more.

You can either create a new object within your Word document or insert an existing file. You can also choose to either embed or link the object.


Embedding an object just takes a snapshot or copy of the file at the time you embedded it. If you later change the original file, the changes are not reflected in your document.

  • Use this to keep a copy of the file at a particular time like end of financial year or when contract is finalized.
  • Embedding can also hide files and documents from prying eyes, that’s explained in our ebook Beating Bots, Spies and Cock-ups.


Linking an object creates a live link to the original file. If you make changes to the original file, the changes will appear in the object in your Word document.   See Putting Excel into Word

To insert an object in Word, go to Insert | Object.

Insert all the Text from Another File

If you have another text document, such as another Word file, plain text file, or even a PDF file, you can easily insert all of the text from that file into your document.

To do this, select the Text from File option.

The Insert File dialog will open for you to navigate to the file that you want to insert.


  • The content will be inserted along with all its formatting from the source file. If the original is a large, complex document, this may take some time.
  • If you select a PDF document, Word will do the best it can to convert it into Word, along with all its formatting. It may not look exactly like the original file, especially if the source file contains a lot of graphics. Very complex PDF files may take excessive time or may not be able to be imported.

Insert a New Object

To insert any other kind of object other than a text file, select the Object option.

The Object dialog will open with the Create New tab selected by default. You will see that there is an extensive list of object types available to choose from. In this example we will choose to insert a new Excel worksheet in the document.

An Excel worksheet will appear in the document, and the Excel ribbon and tools will appear above it, just as if you are working in an Excel file.

You can now drag the edges to show as much of the worksheet as you wish, enter whatever data, and perform whatever functions you wish within the worksheet.

When you’re done, click anywhere outside the object, and the Excel ribbon will disappear, but the worksheet will still appear as a table in your document. You can then double-click within the object to enter and edit it again.


  • When you insert a new object in this way, you can click within the object any time to edit it.
  • If the Excel worksheet contains more data than fits in the visible window in your document, the part that you have visible when you click out of the object is what will appear in your document when you click out of the object.

Embed an Existing Object

To insert an existing object in your document, click the Create from File tab in the Object dialog and browse to the file you want to insert.

A section of the file will appear in the document, and the reader can double-click on it to open it and view the whole file. The part of the file that displays in the document varies depending on the type of file:

  • A PowerPoint presentation will show the first slide only. Double-clicking will allow the reader to click through the whole presentation.
  • An Excel file with multiple worksheets will display the worksheet that was open the last time the file was saved. Double-clicking will give access to all worksheets.
  • A PDF file will display the first page of the document. (Unlike the Insert Text from File option, with this method the inserted object will still be a PDF file, not converted to Word.)

PowerPoint presentation embedded in a Word document

An Excel worksheet embedded in a Word document

For more see Putting Excel into Word


  • An embedded object is just a snapshot of the file at the time you embedded it. It no longer has any link to the original file, and any subsequent changes made to the original will have no effect on the object in your document.
  • If the object is an editable file, such as an Excel file, you can edit it after you have inserted it. Double-click on the object, and the interface of the original application will open within your document, just as described above for inserting a new object.

Link an Existing Object

To embed an object and maintain a live link between it and the original file, again, select the Create from File tab in the Object dialog, but this time also click the “Link to file” box.

The object will appear in the document just like an embedded object, but with one big difference. In this case, if any changes are made to the original file, those changes will be reflected in the object in your document. You also will not be able to edit the object in the document – double-clicking on, for example, an Excel object will open the original Excel document in a separate window.

Refreshing the Link

Sometimes a change to the original file will not immediately appear in the object in your document. To ensure that you are looking at the latest information, right-click on the object and select Update Link.

Displaying an Icon Instead of the Object

There is one more choice in the Object dialog that we have not touched on yet. Whether you are inserting a new object, or embedding or linking an existing object, you have the option to just display an icon in your document rather then the object itself. The reader or editor can then click on the icon to open the file to view or edit it.

By default, the icon for the program the file is created in will show, but you can click Change Icon and choose your own icon file to use instead. The Change Icon button also allows you to edit the caption that appears under the icon in your document.

Inserted objects displayed as icons


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