How to manipulate multiple graphic files at the same time in a Word document

Learn how to work more productively by making the same modification to several graphic files at once in Microsoft Word.

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Image: iStock/Sonja Rachbauer

Our Microsoft Word documents often contain graphics, and it's not uncommon to want to perform the same task on several or even all of those files at the same time. Word has several ways to work with, or manipulate, more than one graphic file, and in this article, you'll learn about them. 

I'm working with Microsoft 365 on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but you can use earlier versions. You can work with your own files or download the demonstration .docx file. The web version doesn't support the advanced find-and-replace options used in this article.

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How to find graphic files using Find in Word

Finding all the graphic files in a document is easy, but I want to make sure you understand that you are finding all images. It's a good way to find specific images by browsing through all of the graphics. You're not selecting the files, so you can't manipulate them all, but let's work through the steps anyway:

  1. On the Home tab, click Find in the Editing group.
  2. In the resulting pane, click the Search.
  3. From that dropdown, choose graphics and use the up and own arrows (Figure A) to browse through all the graphic files.

Figure A

wordbatchimge-a.jpg

  Choose graphics and browse up and down through the graphics.

Moving through the graphics is a good way to find a specific image so you can delete, replace, move, or format it. In fact, you can stop at a graphic, make a change, and continue to browse the remaining graphics. 

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How to select graphic files using the Selection pane in Word

The Selection pane offers a way to select files, but I can't say it's superior to Find, but you will use the two features differently. To open the Selection pane, click Select in the Editing group and choose Selection Pane. This pane displays a list of graphic files in the current page, as you can see in Figure B. Using this pane, you can avoid browsing by quickly finding the specific files you want. For better or worse, this pane works only with the current page and not the entire document

Figure B

wordbatchimge-b.jpg

  Find the graphic you want in the list.

If you're working with lots of graphic files, I recommend that you give them meaningful names so they're easy to find in this pane. To change a graphic file's name, select it in the Selection pane, press F2, and enter the new name.

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To perform the same task on more than one file on the current page is easily handled in the Selection pane. With the pane open, simply use the Ctrl key to create a non-contiguous or contiguous selection, as shown in Figure C. With the selection set, changes will be made to all selected files. Unfortunately, this won't work with inline graphics. Specifically, you can select an inline graphic by itself, but you can't include it in multi-select task. 

Figure C

wordbatchimge-c.jpg

  Use the Selection pane to change multiple image files on the same page eat the same time.

There's a distinction between Find and the Selection pane—the latter lets you select the files so you can manipulate multiple files at the same time. At this point, we've seen a few ways to work with multiple files. However, occasionally, you'll want to manipulate all graphic files in the same way. 

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How to manipulate all graphic files in Word

Manipulating all graphic files is a bit limited because there is no built-in feature that I know of that selects all graphic files. You can use Find to browse them, and the Selection pane lets you work with all graphic files on a single page. Without jumping though VBA hoops, you're limited to what you can accomplish with a Replace All task on graphics. For example, let's suppose you want to replace all graphic files with a new file. To do so quickly, you'd insert the new file into a document and copy it to the clipboard by selecting it and pressing Ctrl+C. (You can remove it later.) The next step is to use Replace as follows:

  1. Press Ctrl+H to open the Replace dialog.
  2. Click inside the Find What control and enter ^g (that represents graphic files).
  3. In the Replace With control, press Ctrl+C (clipboard contents), as shown in Figure D.
  4. Click Replace All and close the dialog.

Figure D

wordbatchimge-e.jpg

  Replace all graphic files at once.

There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting this route:

  • You're replacing all graphic files—charts, icons, pictures, and so on, so it won't always be appropriate.
  • Even when you don't want to replace them all, if you want to replace almost all, it might be quicker to use this method and then re-insert the few you didn't want replaced.
  • This method will not work with inline graphics. The demo file mixes things up a bit so you can see this in action.

Stay tuned

When working with groups of files, you can format, resize, move, and so on. You can't do that with pictures using Replace. For those kinds of tasks, you need a Select All Graphics option. In a subsequent article, I'll show you how to create such an option using VBA.

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