How to Compress a Word Document

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 some quick tips to reduce Word file size.

This article was updated with instructions for Microsoft 365.

Tip 1 – Insert Graphics instead of Copy and Paste

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 This Device.
  3. Navigate to your picture and click the Insert button.

Tip 2 – Compress Pictures

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. One item to note is the menu option only shows if Word is in full-screen mode.

To compress a picture in Word,

  1. Click the picture in your document.
  2. You should see a sizing border appear around the image.
  3. Click Picture Format from the top menu.
  4. Click Compress Pictures on the toolbar
Image highlioghted with Picture Format menu showing.
Compress Pictures option shows if Word is in full screen mode
  1. Make your selections on the Compress Pictures dialog. The options will differ based on your document.
The Compress Pictures dialog box.
Select your desired image options

Also, remember you can compress images with tools other than Microsoft Word.

  1. Click OK.

info If you don’t see the compress picture option, you can type the words into the Search box at the top of your toolbar.

Tip 3 – Turn off Thumbnail Picture

The thumbnail picture is the small image of the document’s first page. This used to be called a “preview image”. It shows in File Explorer, but I find it inconsistent and don’t use it. I’m sure there is some use case where value is added. However, I haven’t found it.

My concern is that if you have a large graphic on the first page of your Microsoft Word document, you can easily add a 100k to the file size.

To See if Thumbnails are On

  1. Open your Word document.
  2. From the File menu, select Save As. If you save your files to OneDrive, the menu option is Save a Copy.
  3. Keep the original file name.
Word Save As control with More Options link
Word maintains same file name
  1. Click the More options… link.
  2. Deselect the check box for Save Thumbnail.
More Options with Thumbnail option checked.
Remove check for Save Thumbnail
  1. Click Save.

The same procedure works for a new document. Make sure you don’t tick the Save Thumbnail option.

Tip 4 – Use Latest File Format

Sometimes old habits are hard to break. I’ve met some people that still save their Word documents in the older .doc file format. Their thinking is the newer versions of Word are backward compatible. While true, the .docx file format offers more features and better compression.

Tip 5 – Remove Hidden Properties

If you’ve ever played around with digital photos, you know that the camera captures more information than the user can see. Microsoft Word is similar in that it also contains data that isn’t easily viewable from the front-end. This is mostly metadata and may not be of any value. And in certain cases, this data may include personal information. The amount of data depends on the size and complexity of the document. All this is contained within the Inspect Document function.

This feature is destructive because it does remove data from your document. In most cases, this is acceptable. However, if you’re in an organization that wants to preserve reviewer comments and other items, I would do a File Save As and rename. This way you’ll have the original.

To Inspect Document and Remove Info

  1. Open the Word document and save any recent changes.
  2. From the File>menu, select Info.
  3. From the Info panel, click the Check for Issues button. It is to the left of the Inspect Document.
Word Info panel with Inspect Document highlighted.
Select Inspect Document
  1. You may get a reminder to save your document. If so, click Yes.
  2. The Document Inspector panel appears.
  3. Select the items you wish to check. Microsoft provides more details if needed.
  4. Click the Inspect button. The document scan starts.
  5. Click the Remove All button to the right of items you wish to permanently delete. You may have to scroll down the list.
Word Document Inspector results
Remember to scroll down to see all areas
  1. Click Close.

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.