Reducing File Sizes in Microsoft Word

Conveniences come at a cost and Microsoft Word documents are no different. Some of the features we use can lead to large file sizes. This can be an issue if you’re low on disk space or you need to send these files as email attachments. Many ISPs and companies have a size limit for email attachments. Here are five quick tips to compress Microsoft Word files.

Tip 1 – Insert Graphics instead of Copying and Pasting

People like to use copy and paste to add graphics into Microsoft Word. The feature is effortless, but it’s not efficient as the pasted image is a bitmap file. The differences in file sizes can be astounding especially if you’re using a file format such as JPG as your source.

To insert a picture in Microsoft Word,

  1. From the Insert menu, select Picture
  2. From the submenu, select From File
  3. Navigate to your picture and click the Insert button

Note: If the document is for personal use, try linking to the picture. On step 3, click the down arrow next to the button and select Link to File.

Tip 2 – Compress Pictures if Possible

This is a nice feature that was added in Word 2002. In most cases, you can compress pictures without your reader noticing a difference. This is also an area where you can experiment to your own tastes.

To compress a picture in Word 2002 and later,

  1. Right-click the picture in your document.
  2. Select Format Picture from the shortcut menu.
  3. Select the Picture tab.
  4. Click the Compress button in lower left.
  5. Select your options.
  6. Click OK.

Tip 3 – Turn off Preview Picture

The preview picture is the thumbnail of the document’s first page. This thumbnail shows in the Details section of Windows Explorer when you highlight the file. Usually, this isn’t an issue unless your first page displays a graphic. We shaved 600k off one file that had a large cover graphic.

To turn off Preview Picture in Microsoft Word,

  1. From the File menu, select Properties
  2. Select the Summary tab
  3. Deselect the check box for Save preview picture
  4. Click OK.

Tip 4 – Check for Versions

There are some documents where you need to keep versions. However, after many versions, you may find this feature adds too much to the file size. You can either turn the feature off, or delete unneeded versions.

To turn off Versions in Microsoft Word,

  1. From the File menu, select Versions
  2. In the Versions dialog, deselect Automatically save a version on close
  3. If needed, highlight an existing version(s) and click Delete
  4. Click Close.

Tip 5 – Turn off Fast Save

Many people think Fast Save is a timed file save. Rather than saving your document in the logical order, Fast Save saves the recent changes and appends them to the previous file. In other words, if you added a paragraph to Page 12 of a 30 page document, that paragraph gets tacked to the end of the file. In contrast, when you do a full save, the document is properly reordered and changes occur in the proper place.

I tend to use Fast Save mainly when I’m working on large complex documents. There have been a couple of times where I was thankful I checked the option. However, for any shared document, I turn the feature off for security reasons. It also doesn’t have any value if you’re working on documents that are on a network drive unless you save them locally to your PC.

To turn off Fast Save in Microsoft Word,

  1. From the Tools menu, select Options
  2. Select the Save tab
  3. Under Save options, deselect Allow fast saves
  4. Click OK.

Any of these five tips should help compress your Word file. Some of these tips will result in better file size reductions than others based on the document elements.