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Cut your Word docs down to size with these OLE techniques

Embedded images, spreadsheets, and slides can add more than a little color to your Word documents; they can add unnecessary megabytes. Find out how to keep embedded objects from supersizing your documents.

One of the costs of including more information in a document, such as graphics, tables, hyperlinks, or even portions of other Office files, is a larger file size. Most of the time, this isn’t a problem, because modern hard drives and CD-ROMs can hold thousands of documents, even ones with relatively large file sizes.

But occasions may arise when file size does become an issue. For example, your users may need to share a certain document via e-mail, only to encounter a restriction on sending or receiving files larger than a certain number of megabytes. Or users may rely on “sneaker net”—carrying the file on a floppy disk. In those cases, your users will need to reduce the file size of their documents as much as possible.

Fortunately, including graphics in your Word documents doesn’t mean you’re stuck with a mammoth file size. Recently, I worked with a company that needed to create a training document that included PowerPoint slides. The resulting document was too large for the corporate e-mail server and much too big for a floppy disk, and no CD-ROM burner was available.

After examining the document, I was able to suggest a different way of placing the PowerPoint slides that conveyed the needed information but at a fraction of the size requirement. One of the techniques I’m about to share reduced a 2.6-MB document to a little more than 700 KB—a remarkable decrease.

Technique works in different versions of Word
I’ve used Word 2000 in my examples. However, the techniques I describe work in Word 97 as well, and should apply to more recent versions of Word, although I haven’t tested them.

Same graphics, different size requirements
It may sound counterintuitive, but two documents that appear identical to a casual reader can have markedly different file sizes. The key is how the object uses Word’s Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) capabilities. Essentially, OLE lets you place a presentation slide or cells from an Excel worksheet into a document, and Word associates that object with the program used to create it. As a result, you can edit the object and the document directly from Word.

The downside is that this powerful capability comes with a cost as Word includes more information with the object than meets the eye. While OLE is fairly easy to use and understand, your users may be employing it without realizing they’re doing so. Simply copying and pasting an object from one document to another is one of the easiest methods, but unfortunately that isn’t the most efficient practice in terms of file size.

Let’s explore various ways of inserting a PowerPoint slide into a Word document. For this exercise, I used slides from a recent TechRepublic security-related PowerPoint presentation. When considering the documents’ file sizes, remember that these slides are not particularly graphics-intensive.

Copy and paste
Perhaps the easiest method of inserting a PowerPoint slide in a Word document is to simply copy the slide from your presentation and paste it into Word. To begin a simple copy-and-paste operation, you’ll need to be in Slide Sorter view; however, some of the other methods I’ll explore let you copy the slide from any view mode.

Click View | Slide Sorter, select a slide, and then copy it. Open a blank Word document and paste it in. The PowerPoint slide will appear in the Word document. At this point, go ahead and save the document. My example Word document is now 348 KB.

One of the advantages of this method is that if you notice something about the slide that needs to be changed, you can simply double-click the slide. Word’s appearance will change slightly as it invokes PowerPoint’s editing ability, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A
You can edit an inserted slide as if you were running PowerPoint.


Paste Special
As you can see, simply pasting slides into your document will quickly increase the file size. The solution is to use a slightly more obscure relative of the Paste command that’s available only from Word's Edit drop-down menu. With the slide copied, click Edit | Paste Special. You’ll see the dialog box shown in Figure B, which asks you to choose a format for the slide.

Figure B
The Paste Special command converts the slide to a drawing.


Pasting as a slide object doesn’t offer any size advantages over a regular paste. In fact, the resulting Word document was slightly larger at 476 KB. But if you choose Picture, the slide appears as a Word drawing object. Saving this Word document produces a file size of only 163 KB—less than half the original size. And while you can no longer edit the slide in PowerPoint mode, you can still make changes by right-clicking it and choosing Edit Picture.

Insert as a picture
If file size is truly at a premium, you can undertake a more labor-intensive process that pays off in even greater space savings: Convert your PowerPoint slides to graphics files and then insert those files into your Word document.

To do this, return to PowerPoint, select the slide you want to export, and click File | Save As. In the resulting dialog box, click the Save As Type drop-down menu and choose the JPG graphics format. Click Save, and a dialog box will appear asking whether you want to export the entire presentation or only the current slide, as shown in Figure C. Choose No to save just the slide you’re viewing; you’ll need to repeat this process for each slide.

Figure C
You can save individual PowerPoint slides as graphics files.


In your Word document, click Insert | Picture | From File. Navigate to the image file you created, select it, and click Insert. The resulting Word document takes up only 79 KB; however, you can no longer edit the graphic as a PowerPoint slide.

Insert Object
Another of Word’s OLE commands won’t save disk space, but it can come in handy if you expect the source file to change. For this command to work properly, you must save your PowerPoint slides as individual files. If you click Insert | Object, and then click the Create From File tab on the resulting dialog box, you can navigate to your individual slide file and select it. When you return to the Object dialog box, be sure to click the Link To File check box, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D
Creating a link between the source file and your Word document will automatically reflect any changes.


Doing so actually costs much more in terms of disk space—a single PowerPoint slide created a Word document more than a megabyte in size. The advantage of this technique is that if you edit any of the source files, those changes will automatically appear when you next open the Word document.

OLE result roundup
Table A  offers a recap of the results of the various methods I explained. Remember, the documents in my examples contained only one PowerPoint slide or equivalent; file size would increase as users add text and other graphics.

Table A
Insertion methods and resulting file sizes

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