Software

Open multiple Word files all at the same time

Open one, two, three, or all the Microsoft Word files in a folder at the same time. Susan Harkins explains how to do it.

There are a number of ways to open a Word file. Use Open from the File menu, tab or Office button, click the Open icon, or even double-click an item in Windows Explorer to launch Word and the file. Then, there are the not-so-intuitive methods such as using the Most Recently Used list or opening a file from the Start menu.

Using Open, you can open several documents with one effort. First, open the Open dialog box by choosing Open from the File menu or tab (2010) or by clicking the Office button (in 2007). Once this dialog box is open, there are two ways to specify multiple files:

  • Adjacent files: To select contiguous files, click a file, hold down the [Shift] key, and then click a second file. Word will select both of the clicked files and all the files in-between.
  • Nonadjacent files: To select non-contiguous files, hold down [Ctrl] while clicking each file you want to open.

You can even use a combination of the two selection methods to specify both contiguous and non-contiguous blocks of files at the same time. For instance, to create the selection block shown below, you'd do the following:

  1. Click the file named 501.
  2. Hold down [Shift] and click 615.
  3. Release [Shift] and press [Ctrl].
  4. Click files 616 and 715.
  5. Click file 726.
  6. Press [Shift], but don't release [Ctrl]--hold them both down.
  7. Click file 790.

Sometimes it's easier to select all the files by selecting [Ctrl]+A and then remove just one or a few files from the group by holding down [Ctrl] and clicking the files you don't want to open. In addition, you can use this multiple file selection technique to open multiple files from Windows Explorer.

This isn't just a Word tip—this file opening trick works in most Office applications. I think most users are familiar with the techniques for selecting multiple items, but you might not realize that you can use it to open several files at the same time.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

33 comments
scifidiyer
scifidiyer

i've found the Save Workspace function in Excel 2007 to be quite handy when working with multiple spreadsheets that reside on different drives or folders. once you set this up, double clicking the workspace icon will open excel and all the spreadsheets. can't seem to find this function in word 2007 though.

TobiF
TobiF

When ctrl is pressed, you can click files to toggle them in or out of your selection, BUT if you, instead of clicking, by accident, would "drag a file" ever so little, this means that you want to create a copy of all selected files in the same directory.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Anybody know how I can close a Word file but leave the Word application itself open? Unlike Excel, there is no longer an 'X' button in the top left for the file, only the one for the app itself.

Rande
Rande

For Vista and Windows 7 users use check boxes as outlined in Bill Detwilers' tip "Select multiple files with check boxes", works great.

stapleb
stapleb

I do this all the time because I frequently need to work with more than one file. I either go to the Open dialogue box (Ctrl + O for me) or use Windows Explorer. Switching between open files is also easy using Ctrl + F6 in Word. Big problem here is that it is Alt + F6 in Excel, or Ctrl + Tab if that tickles your fancy.

Glenn from Iowa
Glenn from Iowa

Another tip that you just assume everyone knows, but I've forgotten this at times too. BTW, I think in step 2, you meant to say click 615 instead of 616.

stapleb
stapleb

An extremely useful function which has been around in Excel for some releases. I have also hunted in Word, but I don't think you will find the Save Workspace option. Not even sure it was there in the past. Another "Microsoft Mystery".

stapleb
stapleb

dlovep suggested using Ctrl + F4, and that will work. It closes a file and leaves Word open, even if the file being closed is the last file. You can also use Ctrl + W to do the same thing, I remember this by thinking of W for Window. Both options will close the current file in all Microsoft Apps but leave the application open.

dlovep
dlovep

dont know if this help, try "CTRL" + "F4" ..

Tink!
Tink!

Does your version of Word still have the "Windows in Taskbar" option under Tools, Options, View tab?

lammwa
lammwa

With Word 2007 simply use the good ol' "X". Each document is opened in a separate window so the "close window X" is correct...

ssharkins
ssharkins

Step 2 is fixed -- you were correct!

TobiF
TobiF

I think I once programmed a macro thing in VBA2003, that would open a couple of files and place the windows as per my likings. The same approach could be used to "save a workspace"...

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I didn't know that one. Thanks, even if I probably won't remember it.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

has a File, Options, Advanced, Display, "Show all Windows in the Taskbar" option. It's checked. I can't find anything similar on the View tab.

dderolph
dderolph

Clicking the good ol' "X" in the upper right corner of the Word window does not accomplish the stated objective of the person to whom you replied; it does not leave Word open, it closes the file AND Word. The way to close an open Word file without closing Word is through the menu. Click the Office button in the upper left corner of Word and select Close. That closes the file but leaves Word open.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

You're kidding. Then I guess my real question is why they don't open inside a single instance of Word, like they do in Excel. Silly of me to expect MS to have all applications in the same suite to behave the same way.

DBlayney
DBlayney

The same technique works in Windows Explorer. Select any number of files of the same type /(Word, Excel, PDF, .txt) and press Enter. If you select too many files you may get a friendly warning that opening them my flatten the machine.

TobiF
TobiF

I created a "deferred printing" button, where I could add a link to the currently open document in an .ini file. Then there was a "Print it now" button, which would open and print all queued documents. Oh, and if there was at least one document in the list when Word was started, then a dialog would pop up, asking if I want to print now.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Thanks Palmie for asking that one, and thanks dlovep for answering it!

ssharkins
ssharkins

I noticed this problem in Word 2010 and it drove me a bit nuts (Okay, Okay... it's just a short walk for me..) If you close the last document, using the Close button or the File Close command, Word closes too. Once you uncheck that option, Word remains open, even if you close the only open document. I think it's an odd default, but nobody at MS asked me. :)

Tink!
Tink!

Uncheck it. That checkbox makes each file open as a separate window/instance of Word which is probably why you are not being given the option to close just the document. That's my guess.

sandra.scrivens
sandra.scrivens

As previously mentioned Ctrl+W will close a file but leave the application open. This works in Excel and Powerpoint too as well as other non-Office applications. So consistency does exist across the suite.

pinderce
pinderce

Add the Close/Close All icon to the Quick Access Toolbar. Click Customize the Quick Access Toolbar - then "All Commands" - then Add the "Close/Close All" icon This works for me. Saves from re-opening Word.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Thanks, that works. But I don't know why MS didn't handle it with a file 'X' like they did in Excel and in previous versions of Word.

dderolph
dderolph

You can open separate Excel files in separate instances of Excel. To do this, start Excel again for each additional Excel window desired. When you start Excel after the initial Excel window is open, you'll get a message "PERSONAL.XLSB is locked for editing" and you will see three buttons; they will be Read Only, Notify, and Cancel. If you click Cancel, a new instance of Excel will open and you can open an Excel file in that window, even though it's a second or greater instance of Excel.

mwb78
mwb78

In my mind, the real question is why don't Excel and PowerPoint open files in separate windows like Word? It's mind-boggling to me that I can't freely move multiple Excel or PowerPoint files around at will in separate windows. I also agree that it must be a silly expectation to have all the apps behave similarly.

stapleb
stapleb

Thanks SirWizard and I of course discovered this as well. You don't need to apologise as I thought this was another way of copying data from a number of files into another one, also extremely useful. The problem I had was that I did not wait for the Word window to appear again so that I could drag over that and drop. I was working from a maximised Explorer window to the Word button on the task bar and it takes a few seconds for the Word window to maximise.

SirWizard
SirWizard

As you have discovered, if you drop a group of files onto an open Word document, the files embed themselves rather than opening. Sorry, but I had forgotten to mention that in my previous comment.

stapleb
stapleb

I didn't know that. It is neat but, having just castigated someone for not reading instructions carefully, I didn't wait for the empty document area to appear before dropping the documents, so had to try it a few times before it worked. Just love Ctrl+F6 for Word and Alt+F6 for Excel to scroll through open files. Consistency would be nice.

SirWizard
SirWizard

Another way to open multiple files is to drag and drop them onto a blank Word session. 1. Close any individual open documents (CTRL+F4 or CTRL+W) but leave Word open. 2. Drag a selected group of files from Windows Explorer and drop the group onto the empty document area. 3. Each file opens. Press CTRL+F6 to cycle among the open documents as many times as necessary to place the focus on the first document you want to edit or review.

gturpin43
gturpin43

I also use this technique to cut or copy files. Just right click any highlghted file and select cut or copy.

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