Deciding how to deal with images in your Word files is very much an internal workflow decision that will depend on a number of factors, including the nature of your relationship with your authors (if you ask for separate image files, can you reasonably expect that they will supply suitable files?) and what happens to your content once you have finished processing it in eXtyles (do you need to print from Word to PDF, for example?).

There are various different options when it comes to handling images in Word. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, both in relation to Word and eXtyles, some of which are summarized below.

1. Leave the graphics in place in the Word file

If you receive a document that contains graphics from your author, they will generally be embedded images. This means that they have been inserted into the Word file either by copying and pasting, dragging and dropping or by using Word’s Insert: Picture functionality.

The nice thing about this is that the graphics can be viewed in situ by those who are working on the file. This may be an important consideration for your copy-editing or proofreading workflow, or if you need to send the document back to the author after or during eXtyles processing.

However, the major downside is that embedded images will make the file bigger. And bigger files mean slower processing, both in Word in general and also with eXtyles. With a handful of reasonably sized images, this may not be a significant problem. But a document with tens or even hundreds of images can become a real headache.

Embedded images are also ultimately unsuitable for workflows that involve generating XML from Word, since the XML can contain only pointers to external image files, not the images themselves. In this case, at some point in the workflow, you are going to need to obtain or generate external image files.


2. Use linked images in Word

Word offers another method of handling images that allows the images to be viewed in situ in the file but without the file-size problems that can result from the use of embedded images – this is to use linked images. A linked image is essentially a pointer from the Word file to a file location, either locally on your machine or on a connected server, where the image file is stored. Word then pulls a representation of that image into the Word file, without storing the image itself as part of the Word file structure.

To insert a linked image into a Word file, use Insert: Object and browse to your image file using the Create from File tab, ensuring that the Link to File checkbox is checked.

Of course, unless your authors are internal to your organization, you cannot realistically ask them to use linked images in their Word files, because the links would almost certainly need to be different in your environment from theirs (Word supports only absolute links, not relative links). Instead, you would set up the linked images yourself, using external image files either supplied by the author or extracted from the Word file (see Extracting graphics from your Word file).

This approach is applicable both to a Word to PDF workflow and to a Word to XML workflow.

A potential disadvantage is that the images can’t be viewed if the Word file is opened on a machine that has does not have access to the location of the image files (whether it is a server or a local hard disk), so this workflow may not be suitable for situations where files need to be worked on remotely by homeworkers or freelancers and they need to be able to see the images or if the file must be returned to the author after processing.


3. Remove the images entirely from the Word file

If your workflow does not require a Word file with the images in situ, the simplest solution is to remove them from the Word file entirely.

This can be done manually (see Extracting graphics from your Word file for a trick to extract images from DOCX files); alternatively, there are eXtyles settings that will remove graphics automatically on Activation or during Cleanup. Irrespective of which point eXtyles removes the graphics, there are settings to control the export, including the file-naming convention, their (relative) location and whether to replace them with some placeholder text in the Word file.