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How do I combine several Word documents into one document?

03 Sep

This article explains how to combine several Word documents into one document. It’s particularly useful if you’ve written a dissertation, thesis or book and need to combine all of the chapters into one file.

These instructions work for Word 2007, Word 2010 and Word 2013; I’ve used Word 2010 for the screenshots

Why would I want to combine chapters into one document?

Lots of people do their writing a chapter at a time, and have it edited a chapter at a time, too. But the time will come when you want to put it all into one book, with page numbers running throughout, rather than messing around starting the page numbers for chapter 2 at the next number on from chapter 1, etc.

What’s the incorrect way to combine my chapters?

You might be tempted to pick up the text of each chapter and copy and paste it into one document. That can lead to issues and inconsistencies. This is the correct way to do it and actually takes less time and avoids you leaving out any bits of your individual chapters.

How do I prepare to combine my documents?

It’s pretty easy to combine several documents into one, however the most important point is …

The file names must be in the order that the chapters are going to be in.

Word will combine your chapter files in alphanumerical order.

If you have called your chapter files

Chapter 1 introduction

Chapter 2 review of the literature

Chapter 3 methodology

Chapter 4 conclusion

then that’s fine, they will combine in that order.

If you have called your chapter files

Introduction

Review of the literature

Methodology

Conclusion

then Word will carefully sort them alphabetically into

Conclusion

Introduction

Methodology

Review of the literature

when it combines your documents.

The best thing to do is add a number 1, 2, 3, etc at the start of your file names BEFORE YOU START COMBINING, so you know they will come out in the correct order.

How do I combine my documents?

OK, so we’ve got, say, four documents or chapters to combine into one.

First, open a new, blank document (using the Home button, New, and choosing a blank document)

Then, click on the Insert tab and find Object in the Text area:

1 insert tab

Click on the arrow to the right of Object to get the drop-down menu, and click on Text from File:

2 insert text from file

Now navigate to your files and select the ones you want to combine.

3 find your files

Hold down the Control Key and click on all the ones you want to combine (or click on the top one, hold down Shift and click on the bottom one if you want all of them). Once you have them all highlighted, click Insert.

4 select files

Note: it doesn’t matter what order you are displaying them in or what order you click them in, it will choose them and insert them in alphabetical or numerical order, as I mentioned above.

Now you will have one big document including all of your chapters!

5 combined

And … if you had footnotes in the documents, and had set page numbers to show, they will automatically update in the combined document to be numbered consecutively (if you want start your footnote numbering at 1 for each chapter, you’ll need to look at my posts on footnotes and endnotes).

Don’t forget to save your document!

—–

This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents.

If you have enjoyed this post and found it useful, please click on the “share” buttons below or tell your friends and colleagues about it! Thank you!

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2007, Word 2010 and Word 2013, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

Find all the short cuts here

 
36 Comments

Posted by on September 3, 2015 in Errors, New skills, Word, Writing

 

Tags: , , , ,

36 responses to “How do I combine several Word documents into one document?

  1. José Martínez

    September 4, 2015 at 11:51 am

    Why not use Master documents?

    Like

     
    • Liz Dexter

      September 4, 2015 at 11:54 am

      It is indeed a good idea to use Master and Subdocuments, however I like to first list the most simple ways that people can do things correctly (rather than copying and pasting, for example) and then move on to more complex ideas – many people are worried enough about combining two document without going into heading levels and Master documents. But it is a topic I will cover later on.

      Like

       
  2. Erin Willard, Freelance Copy Editor

    September 4, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    Reblogged this on Erin Willard, Copy Editor.

    Like

     
  3. dgkaye

    September 9, 2015 at 3:47 am

    Thanks for this great info! Shared! 🙂

    Like

     
  4. Alla Uddin Mahsud

    October 20, 2015 at 10:53 am

    I just loved it. The post on the alphabetical order of bibliography was amazing. I am just playing around with word and getting the exact results..

    Like

     
  5. sue krisman

    July 30, 2016 at 10:09 am

    thank you so much – clearest explanation on anything online – thanks for doing this Sue

    Like

     
  6. Melissa Pritchard

    September 18, 2016 at 1:17 am

    How would you go about leaving the page numbers in each document as they are, instead of them running consecutively? For instance, I want to combine three documents into one, but I want to maintain the page numbers of each document. I want my second document and third document to each start with the pages numbered 1, in my one combine document.

    Thank you

    Like

     
    • Liz Dexter

      September 19, 2016 at 7:22 am

      To do that, you’ll need to add section breaks between each document in the combined document, then start the page numbering at 1 (or whatever) after the section break.

      Like

       
  7. Tessa

    November 2, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    Thanks for posting! Any clue on automatically updating the “combined”-file when making changes in the separate chapter-files?

    Like

     
    • Liz Dexter

      November 2, 2016 at 3:42 pm

      Thank you for your question. I don’t think you can auto-update like you can a linked Excel file; I think you would have to recombine once changes were all made, or make changes in the combined file.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  8. Bob Cope

    February 3, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    What determines the maximum number of files you can combine at one time?

    Liked by 1 person

     
    • Liz Dexter

      February 4, 2017 at 6:16 pm

      I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to this, and I can’t find an answer, either. One day I’ll try to combine hundreds and post about it. In the meantime, I’ll leave your question up in case anyone knows the answer!

      Like

       
  9. Eva Blaskovic

    February 5, 2017 at 7:20 am

    This is great info, Liz. I use Word all the time and have never tried this.

    Liked by 1 person

     
  10. Michele Coe

    February 24, 2017 at 2:37 pm

    I’m having trouble maintaining my Chapter # – Page # format (in footer) when combining chapters. I have next page section breaks at the end of each chapter, and my Chapter #’s are linked to Heading 1, Level 1 in a multilevel list. But when I combine, all the Chapter numbers in my footer change to the first chapter number. Footers are not linked. Any ideas?

    Like

     
  11. Dr Kenneth S Heard

    March 10, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    But what about “preserving the Formatting” of each (previously separate) Section? The MS “Insert Object” feature specifically states “Text from File” (nothing about *formatted* text!

    Like

     
    • Liz Dexter

      March 10, 2017 at 2:32 pm

      I can report that I’ve done this recently with a client’s two sets of chapters and they retained their formatting; they didn’t turn into .txt style unformatted text documents. I hope that helps!

      Like

       
  12. Paul Grayston

    March 13, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    Worked well for me merging 36 completed 2-page forms into one appendix document for a report. Thanks for the tip.

    Like

     
  13. Dan Starcevich

    May 7, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Thanks for this advise. I am running MSWord on a Mac version 15.33. When I use the Insert > Object > From File. Only the first page of the selected file is visible in the new document. When I double click on the page it opens the source file. How do I get all the pages of the inserted file to appear in the new document?

    Thanks!

    Like

     
    • Liz Dexter

      May 8, 2017 at 9:34 am

      I’m sorry, as it should say on this blog post, I am only experienced with and write about Word for PC. But I’ll leave your comment up here as quite often other people answer people’s questions on the blog!

      Like

       
  14. Adina Sherer

    May 8, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    We have a slightly different problem – we have a very large book published in a few separate parts. When we merge the final product, everything is FINE except procedure numbering. This is a User Guide with literally hundreds of procedures. Each Procedure is introduced with a Procedure Heading line, followed by numbered steps. When we merge multiple documents, the procedure numbers ALL become Continue from Previous – the numbering runs up into the thousands! Someone has to search through ALL those pages for each Procedure Heading style line, select the first numbered item after it,and manually set it to restart at 1. Does this sound familiar? Any advice? We could just select all content in each book and convert the field codes to plain text, but then we can never edit or update it, and the ToC is destroyed.

    Like

     
    • Liz Dexter

      May 8, 2017 at 2:07 pm

      I’m afraid that’s beyond my scope, too, but I’ll leave it here in the hopes someone drops by to help out.

      Like

       
  15.  

    May 18, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    I am working on a book. Each chapter is a separate file. You’re guidance on assembling them is very helpful. Thank you. Can you help me with creating running chapter titles that will appear in the combined manuscript? Is there a way to tag the title in the chapter files for automatically creating a running chapter title after the manuscript is assembled? Ditto re creating a table of contents?

    Like

     
  16. LaToya

    July 9, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    Thank you! At the end of dissertation writing and revising, I don’t want to get caught up with unnecessary time and energy drains.

    Like

     
  17. Ian Martyn

    July 15, 2017 at 10:28 pm

    Your solution for merging multiple docs in Word 16 doesn’t work on my version, because using the CTRL or SHIFT won’t select multiple docs as it does anywhere else in Word. have you come across this problem and is there a cure?

    Like

     
    • Liz Dexter

      July 16, 2017 at 5:46 pm

      Thank you for your question, Ian. I haven’t actually come across the issue myself, I wonder if anyone else has. Have you tried closing and restarting Word? I know that sounds simplistic, but you never know …

      Like

       
    • Liz Dexter

      July 24, 2017 at 8:48 am

      Ian – I have checked with a few colleagues and here’s the answer.

      When you are inserting several documents into one document to combine, for example, chapters, you can choose as many as you want using the CTRL and SHIFT keys.

      If you are using the Combine feature that allows you to combine two documents based on the same text and their changes to make one document, you can only combine two at a time so won’t be able to select multiple documents.

      I hope that helps.

      Like

       
  18. Hitch

    July 18, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    I have a question–something I’ve never dealt with. I have a client that sent me a large set of files, and I was concatenating them to analyze the file (for conversion to eBook). I used the insert–>Text from File method, which I’ve used for years. However, several of the files had chapter notes (Endnotes for a chapter). If you place your cursor in the end of the body text, then the endnotes move, past the end of the newly-inserted text, which is a different chapter. If you place your cursor at the end of the document, then, you’re inserting text into the footnotes/endnotes, not the body.

    How is this done? Or–is it simply not done, and somehow, done manually? I can honestly say, after decades of using Word, this one stumped me, and NO online tutorial discusses it (probably for the obvious reason–there’s no good way to handle it).

    Like

     
    • Liz Dexter

      July 18, 2017 at 9:45 pm

      Hm, did you combine all the documents into one new empty document, using the method described here, or did you have one document already open and insert the others into it? What happens if you combine them all into one brand new document all at the same time?

      Like

       
      • kimberlyhitch

        July 20, 2017 at 4:11 pm

        I added them the way that I always do–using “insert” “text from file.” When you get to, let’s say, file 7 of 10, and you want to add 8-9-10, WHERE do you place the cursor, to add the next documents? I say that there’s no sane way to do it. As I said, if you put the cursor at the end of the body text in file 7, the endnotes get pushed back-back-back to the end of the 10th file. If you place your cursor at the end of the footnotes/endnotes, then 8-9-10 are all footnotes. (BTW, this finally explains to me something I saw in a file we were sent, a year ago, in which 19K of a 150K-word book was shown as the word count–I finally figured out that someone had “pasted” or typed or ??? 130K of the book into the footnotes. Which is why they weren’t included in the main word count. But how much you want to bet, someone was concatenating the files, and this happened to them?)

        So–I don’t see how the method of concatenation would matter. I don’t particularly want to combine them simultaneously, b/c no matter what you do with numbering, it doesn’t always work. I can try it, but I suspect the same issue remains.

        Like

         
        • Liz Dexter

          July 20, 2017 at 4:18 pm

          Ah, I see. I only ever do all the documents in one go, as I’ve never had anything but horrendous messes doing some and then some more later on, as you are doing. When you say it doesn’t always work, do you mean they don’t always go in together in the correct order? I’ve not had that happen but that’s not to say I don’t think it could. I can’t see where you could place the cursor where it would work if you’ve got footnotes etc., as you’ve tried both the options. The only thing I can suggest is doing it all at once and just seeing if that works, as it can’t claim then to be obeying where you’ve placed the cursor and being “helpful” as Word inevitably tries to be.

          Sorry I can’t give you a definitive answer. I would like to know what happens if you do them all together, but who knows what will happen, really. I’ll leave these comments up as sometimes people happen by years later and answer a tricky question. I’ve done a search but all I’ve found is my own article!

          Like

           

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