Microsoft Word is the de facto standard program for Office documents, from research papers to professional reports. But sometimes you have data in another program that you need to reference; it might be in Excel, it might be a PDF, it could even be another Word document. Knowing how to import that data can save you a lot of time.
In this article, we’ll cover eight different ways you can import information into your Word documents; some will be useful for things like reports, others will be good for form letters and similar projects, and others will just save time in a few specific situations when you need something out of the ordinary.
Since Excel is the most versatile resource to import data from, we’ll start there.
Import a Table from Excel
Formatting tables in Word is terrible. That’s why Excel exists, right? Fortunately, Microsoft had the foresight to let you include tables directly from Excel into your Word document so you can do all the formatting in Excel, where it’s a lot easier.
To get started, select the cells you want to copy in Excel, hit Edit > Copy, and head back over to Word.
Go to Edit > Paste Special… (or right-click and select Paste Special…) and select Paste Link in the left sidebar. In the As… menu, select Microsoft Excel Worksheet Object, then hit OK.
You’ll now see the cells you selected right in your Word document. And because you selected Paste Link instead of Paste, those cells will update whenever you make changes in your Excel spreadsheet.
If you select Paste instead of Paste Link, your cells won’t update when you make changes in the spreadsheet. It does have the advantage, however, of working whether the Excel sheet is present or not. So if you’re not going to need updates — if you’re printing, or you’re going to email the file to someone else and it needs to show the correct data, for example — you might want to use Paste.
Import a Single Cell from Excel
You can also use the same method as above for individual cells:
In this case, instead of selecting Microsoft Excel Worksheet Object, I selected Unformatted Text; this is why the number comes in with the same formatting as the rest of the Word document. It still updated in the same way, but you don’t have to deal with trying to get the text box in the right place.
You can use this same strategy with an entire table, if you want to keep the formatting consistent with your Word document, too. If this isn’t working, or you need a more complicated behavior from your single cell, you can try using Visual Basic to integrate Excel data into your Word document.
Import a Graph or Chart from Excel
Like importing a table, it can be very convenient to import a graph or chart from Excel into Word, so that it automatically updates whenever you make changes to the Excel spreadsheet. This could be especially useful if you have to create regular reports that include graphs. Fortunately, Microsoft has made this process extremely easy: just copy and paste the graph from Excel into Word.
You can also click and drag the graph from Excel to Word to embed it in the file. Either way you go, the chart will now automatically update whenever you make changes to the original spreadsheet.
Mail Merge from Excel
A mail merge lets you create a large number of letters, labels, envelopes, or just about anything else in Word using data from Excel. Brad’s article on how to mail merge with Excel and Word covers the topic in more detail than I ever could, but the short version is that you’ll use Tools > Mail Merge Manager to select your data source and create the template in Word.
If you’re using an older version of Microsoft Office, this mail merge tutorial using Office 2007 might be of use, and you can even use mail merge for mass emailings in Outlook. It can take a while to get the hang of using mail merge, but once you get it, it will be one of the most useful tools in your Office arsenal.
Importing PDF Files
A quick word of warning: when you import a PDF into Word, it basically comes in as an image file, and not text. If you want to be able to select or modify text, you’ll need to copy and paste it from the PDF file. If, however, you just want to embed a PDF in your Word document, hit Insert > Object, then select From File… and choose your PDF.
You’ll end up with the PDF embedded like this:
It’s not great for text-based PDFs, but if there are images in the file, it’s easier than copying and pasting or finding a way to turn the PDF into an image file to insert it into your Word document.
Automatically Importing Text from Other Word Documents
If you need to type the same thing on a regular basis, you might be able to save time by putting it in a Word document and simply referencing it from another document.
Let’s say you have a bunch of form letters that you need to send that all need to include your name and the company you work for, but your employer changes on a regular basis. You don’t want to change every letter whenever you get a new contract, so you can just store your signoff in one document and have all the others update whenever you make a change.
Going through an example will help make this more clear. Here’s an “updateable text” document that I’ve saved:
I want to include each of these — a signoff, contact information, and a quote — in each of the letters. To do this, I’ll create a bookmark on each one. To create a bookmark, highlight the text you want to link in other documents, then click Insert > Bookmark.
Type in the name of your bookmark and click Add.
Now, save the file and make a note of the full path to where it’s saved. To insert your saved text, go to another Word document and hit Insert > Field. Select IncludeText from the Field Names menu.
Now, in the text box below the menu, type “INCLUDETEXT “[path to the file]” [name of the bookmark]”. When I typed it, it looked like this:
INCLUDETEXT "Macintosh HD:Users:dralbright:Documents:updateable-text.docx" signoff
(If you’re using Windows, you’ll need to use the standard notation for paths, which starts with “C:\\”. Note that you need to include two backslashes between each section instead of one.) Now hit OK, and you’ll see the text inserted into your document.
Every once in a while, you’ll type something wrong, and you’ll get an error, like this one:
To fix it, right-click anywhere on the error and select Toggle Field Codes — this will let you see and edit the codes from inside the document. You can also use this on fields that are working correctly if you need to make a change.
From here, you can make any fixes you need to. In this example, there’s an extra equals sign at the beginning of the code.
After removal of the equals sign, the field works correctly.
To make a change across all of the documents that you’ve linked to your bookmark, go back to your common text file, and simply make the changes. Here, I’ve replaced the Groucho Marx quote with one from Oscar Wilde.
In your other documents, right-click on the field that has been updated, and select Update Field.
And, there you have it, the field updates with the new information.
This might seem like a lot of work, but if you have to type the same things on a regular basis, it could save you a huge amount of time in the long run. It takes some setup time on the front end, but you’ll see the convenience of this system immediately. Don’t forget to check out other useful Office automations with IFTTT to save time, too.
Import Text from a Text File or Word Document
If you want to get text from a text file or Word document, but don’t want to open it, select everything, copy it, go back to your document, and paste it (this can take a long time if you have hundreds of pages of text), you can import directly. Just hit Insert > File and select the text file or Word document you want to import text from.
After you’ve selected the file (you may have to change the Enable dropdown to All readable documents), you’ll see the full text in your Word document.
Import Text from a Web Page
If you want to keep an updated copy of a web page in a Word document, you can do that too! Let’s say I want to an online text file containing A Tale of Two Cities in my document. I’ll use the same INCLUDETEXT field, but instead of using a local path, I’ll use the URL:
Updating the field brings the entire book into my document.
You’ll get the best results with a text-heavy website. You can see what happens when I try to use INCLUDETEXT to bring in MakeUseof’s home page:
If you have a need for importing the updated text from a website into your document, this is definitely worth playing around with. You might have to experiment a bit, but it could potentially be a very useful tool.
What Do You Import into Word?
We’ve covered eight different things you can import into Word here — but there are probably more options out there. What have you imported into Word? Share the most useful things you’ve been able to import, so we can all help each other save some time by becoming Word masters!