Reducing the File Size of Word Documents

By February 4, 2014 February 27th, 2016 Uncategorized

Word documents can quickly bloat in size once media objects such as images are added. To make matters, it can be very difficult to know where exactly to “trim” to reduce the file size. And if your workflow involves exporting the document to a reasonably sized PDF, creating a Word document which satisfies the file size requirements for both formats becomes even more difficult to resolve. So in this short article we’ll share a few tips on how to reduce your Word document and subsequent PDF file sizes.

The two main tactics for reducing file size are image compression and cropping. Generally speaking image compression seeks to reduce file size by trading image quality for compression quality. The other tactic is cropping which is essentially cutting out parts of the image. The trick here of course is to cut out as much as you can without affecting the subject of the image. Also, cropping an image can in some cases help compression, since there are less image pixels compress.

There are two options for cropping. One is to do it on the image before pasting it into the Word doc which will ensure that the trimmed pixel data is gone before the paste. The other option is to use Word’s cropping feature via the Format menu when the image is embedded. This of course will not trim any pixel data or reduce the size of the Word document, although as I’ll explain later this can still be done.

Another variation on compression is scaling. This is taking the image and simply reducing its size. While scaling an image within Word won’t reduce the size of a Word document (since all of the information is still retained), it can in some cases reduce the size of exported PDF since the final output contains a smaller image. On the flip side, scaling can affect compression, in some cases causing the resulting file size to actually increase. Note also that the PDF export process also compresses images resulting in compression on top of compression which can also increase the file size, not to mention that it can also drastically reduce quality. So be mindful of any existing scaling and compression, before embarking on further compression.

Now when it comes to compressing images in Word documents, Word includes a compression utility. To use it, highlight an image in your Word doc, click on the Format tab that appears, and select Compress Pictures from the Adjust tab. In the dialog that appears, click on the Options button.

A key option here is to select “Delete cropped areas of pictures”. What this will do is eliminate the cropped portion of pictures that were cropped using Word’s crop utility. Note that once applied, the image data is gone for good, but should hopefully reduce the file size.

The other option here is to select the Target Output quality in pixels per inch. Care must be taken here as this will have an effect on the resulting image quality. This option is effectively part of compression, so file size can increase in some cases.

Now when it comes to exporting to PDF, there is an option to specify image quality. Again this must be used carefully as it will affect image quality, and even the usage of settings for lower quality can also increase file size. If your images are high quality or contain basic shapes (e.g. like in diagrams), then you may be able to achieve good quality output with low quality settings.

Finally if the process of doing all of this sounds too complicated, try FileMinimzer ( In the trial version that we used, it did an excellent job of compressing Word documents and provided a variety of settings and levels to choose from. It can also compress other MS Office documents including PowerPoint and Excel files. Note that it may or may not help when it comes to exporting to PDF, but it’s definitely worth a try anyways.

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