Master Documents

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The Master Documents are a powerful tool to work on a single project but divided on a number of sub documents, keeping at the same time the coherence between the different parts.

Starting From Zero

First, we need to define a template with all the paragraph/character/page/etcetera styles needed for our document.

To avoid consistency problems, we need to build our master document and the subdocuments from the same template.

As second step, let's build a new document from our template. Without adding content on the document, go to File → Send → Create Master Document: Writer will ask you where to save the master document. Once the new odm file is saved, we can close the empty document without saving it: we do not it any more.

The next step is to create, starting from the same template, one or more documents with the project content. It is possible for example to create one file for each chapter.

Documentation caution.png The sub documents cannot be edited from the master document, they must be edited independently as normal documents. The master document is a "container" that can be used to print the document as a whole.

Opening the new master document, if it is not already started open the Navigator ( F5 ). As it is possible to see on the screen shot, the Navigator's main toolbar will show some differences compared with the "normal" Navigator


The first button, that was grayed out on the normal Navigator, can be used now to toggle between the view of the normal Navigator and the view of the Master Document.

The fourth button is a menu to insert elements: with a long click on it we will see three options:

  • Index
  • File
  • New Document

The first option is clear: inserts a table of content for the document.

The third option opens an empty document to be used as subdocument.

The second option can be used to insert already created sub documents. It is important to note that the sub documents are inserted above the entry selected on the list, so it will always be needed to reorganize the sub documents using the two buttons to the right of the Navigator.

After a couple of sub documents were inserted, on the Insert menu there will be a new option called "Text". This option can be used to insert text between two sub documents that will be part of the master document file. These entries can be used, for example, to separate groups of chapters, to insert the copyright page, etc.


The third button on the navigator, also a drop down menu, can be used to update the master document. For example, if a change is made on a sub document with the master document open, to see the change on the master document it is needed to update it.

Starting From an Existing Document

If we need to separate a single document on a master document and sub documents, from the document that need to be split, as before File → Send → Create Master Document: now we need to pay attention to the option "Separated By". This option is used to select an outline level so the original document can be split each time a paragraph style with that outline level appears.

For example, if a paragraph style have the first level assigned and we choose to separate the document on the first level each document will have as content everything that is under a heading 1.

Cross References

If we need to make a cross reference to a part of a sub document from another sub document, on the document we need to "call" we must go select the text or object to be referenced and under Insert → Field → Others → Cross References tab we need to select "Set Reference" and give to it a name before clicking on  Insert . Now, on the document from which we need to call the reference it is necesary to go again to Insert → Field → Others → Cross References tab but selecting "Insert Reference": on the field "Name" we must write the name given before to the object we want to refer and press  Insertar .




To update the master document, it is possible to use the third button on the Navigator, also a drop down menu (Update), selecting the option "All" and accepting the option to update all links.


Put Everything Together Again

If for any reason we need to put all sub documents and the master document on a single file, one possibility is:

  1. From the master document with all links updated, go to Format → Section
  2. One by one, select the sections and press  Remove 
  3. On File → Export, select as "File Format" the option "ODF Text Document (.odt)", give a new name to the file and press  Export 
  4. If you need to preserve the original master document, close it without saving the changes

The new odt file will have all the content from the sub documents. Some minor "fine tuning" could be needed.

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