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Word: Reduce large image sizes with picture compression

April 7, 2011

Update November 2013: Most of this blog post’s contents apply to Word 2007. In Word 2010, picture compression seems to be ‘on’ by default.

Sometimes we have to insert large images (such as photos, maps, and diagrams) into a Word document. Unfortunately, large images can substantially increase your document’s file size.

What you may not realize is that Word automatically resizes a large image to fit within the page margins of your document, no matter how big your image is. You will see it at this smaller size and think it’s fine, but the ORIGINAL image size is actually stored behind the scenes in Word.

Adding one large image to your document is not really an issue. But if your document has lots of images, you can easily end up with a 20 page document that’s more than 50 MB.

So why are large file sizes a problem?

Large files:

  • take longer to transfer to others, either to/from a server over a  network, over the internet, or via email. Remember, not everyone works in the same office or has the same access speed as you
  • can potentially get corrupted in the file save or file transfer stages
  • take longer to open, to navigate, and to save
  • take up excess space on a server/computer, in Inboxes etc.

In this blog post, I’ll show you how to reduce the size of large images in Word, without losing the quality of those images or the readability of any text on them. Of course, a better solution is to use a graphics editor to reduce the image size BEFORE you bring it into Word, but this may not be an option that everyone has access to.

I did some testing to show you how the image size can affect the size of the Word document, so let’s start there.

I created two empty Word 2007 documents — by default, an empty Word document is 13 KB in size (see Doc1). I then inserted a 1253 KB photo I took some years ago in Sequoia National Park, California, to Doc2. As you can see from the screen shot below, adding a 1253 KB object to a 13 KB file took the total file size for Doc2 to 1267 KB (approximately the total of the two separate objects).

When I inserted the picture into Doc2, Word automatically resized it to fit nicely within the page margins.

You can check the original file size by right-clicking on the image, then selecting Size (if you don’t see Size listed, select Format Picture instead, then the Size tab).

Here are the details of the photo I inserted into Doc2. You can see that the original size (1 in the screen shot) is some 80 x 60 cm — BIG! — and that it’s been rescaled by Word to some 26% of its original size (2), which equates to dimensions of some 21 x 16 cm (3).

Resize the image using picture compression

  1. Select the image in the Word document. This will add the Picture Tools > Format tab to the ribbon in Word 2007 and Word 2010 (Word 2003: Right-click on the picture, then select Format Picture > Picture tab).
  2. Click Compress Pictures (in the Adjust group). (Word 2003: Click Compress on the Picture tab.)
  3. On the Compress Pictures dialog box, click Options. (Word 2003: This step and the following one are all done on a single Compress Pictures dialog box.)
  4. Select the options you want to apply. I always select Automatically perform basic compression on save and Print (220 dpi) as the quality because I want the best quality possible.
  5. Click OK, then click OK again to close the Compress Pictures dialog box.
  6. Save your document, but don’t close it.
  7. Now, check that the image size has been reduced by right-clicking on the image again and selecting Size.
  8. Notice how the scaled and original dimensions are now the same (approx. 21 x 16 cm), and the scaling is 100% (i.e. no resizing). Click Close.
  9. Finally, check the document’s file size in Explorer. My Doc2 test document has been reduced by approximately 1 MB — it is now only 262 KB, down from 1267 KB.

Note: If your pictures won’t compress no matter what you do (and you’ll know this because the image’s dimensions and the file size doesn’t change at all), your image may have certain color properties, as described in this thread: http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/office/forum/office_2007-powerpoint/can-not-compress-pictures-in-powerpoint-2007-but/d775b740-2d75-46e8-8e8f-9b1f332a637e?page=2. The solution is to copy the image to the clipboard (Ctrl+C), then go to the Home tab > Paste > Paste Special and select the relevant picture option — e.g. Picture (JPEG) for a photo — then click OK. You should find picture compression now works correctly.

Update: Also check your settings in case you have compression turned off (by default, it is turned on and set to 220 dpi in Word 2010). You can also change the settings for the entire document here too: File > options > Advanced > Image Size and Quality, then select the document you want to set the default picture resolution for and the default output resolution.

[Links last checked April 2011]

26 comments

  1. Thanks mate, got me out of a bind. Good tip


  2. I have read your instructions but they do not comply with my Apple Mac, do you have instructions where I can reduce my large image in my word document.


  3. Sorry Lucy — I don’t have a Mac and have never used one, so I don’t know how to resize images in Word on a Mac.

    –Rhonda


  4. Thanks! You really saved me there!
    @lucy, I saw this on the web, maybe it could help:

    http://angel.wsu.edu/Tutorials/CompressFiles_Mac.html


  5. Lucy – Following up your query about image compression on a Mac. I’m using Mac Word 2011. To resize an image, first select it, then select “Format Picture” on the Command Ribbon, and use the “Compress” function that appears. This allows you to compress either the picture you’ve selected or all images in your document. I was able to shrink a 500 MB document to a much more manageable 82 MB. If you’re still looking for a solution, hope this helps.


  6. Many thanks! Have just saved us a lot of time + headache.


  7. You are a godsend!!!!!!!
    Where can I send the box of chocolates to?


  8. Hi David

    Sending chocolates to Australia is a problem as Customs would likely seize them! You can always donate to this blog (PayPal ‘Donate’ button at the end of the post) and let me buy my own chocolates. ;-)

    Glad this solution helped you.

    –Rhonda


  9. thanks mate! your tip about “Home tab > Paste > Paste Special” worked perfectly to make my word doc heaps smaller. thanks a lot! :)


  10. Worked great, thanks!! The only comment I have is a correction. I think you meant to say Cut(Ctrl-X), instead of Copy(Ctrl-C) in your text here:

    “The solution is to copy the image to the clipboard (Ctrl+C)”


  11. Hi Tony

    Cut or Copy work equally as well in this situation as you paste the clipboard contents over the existing picture, thus replacing it.

    –Rhonda


  12. Thank you! you save me a lot of time!


  13. hi.. thanks for u r info.. but here if i set the resolution as for web 96.. still its not changing it is 200 nly can u tel me how it can be decresed…?


  14. How does the option to discard editing data and the default resolution fit into this? (Word 2010; File | Options | Advanced | Image Size and Quality) Because I can’t get rid of the original reliably, and I can’t even find the “Compress on save” option in 2010….


  15. Hi John

    I don’t know how those options affect image compression.

    And you’re right — it looks as though that option to ‘Compress on save’ is no longer in Word 2010. My guess is that it’s now on automatically.


  16. Thank You so much.
    You’re a life saver.
    I was having trouble uploading my assessment and only had a few minutes left to submit.
    God bless you.


  17. Hi There!

    I am looking at starting a newsletter and need to compress the entire newsletter so that I can email to many. Can this be done without compressing individual images?

    Thanks
    Paddy


  18. Hi Paddy

    You’d get best results by zipping the file using WinZip or similar.

    –Rhonda


  19. Doesn’t work just by itself. Best is to:
    – select the picture
    – cut
    – paste special, select past as picture (windows metafile)

    this reduced a document from 50Mb to 3Mb for me.
    Afterwards you can use picture compression to get another 10% off.


  20. Home tab > Paste > Paste Special reduced my file size from 15,000KB to 175KB. Made the pdf a lot smaller too. Great tip. (Remember to save as a docx too if you open an old doc format.)


  21. Thank you so much for your tip. It helped me alot.. I would have seen this before…I would have saved more time.

    Thank you mate..

    KD


  22. I have Mac word 2011 but I simply can’t find the compress button, there’s none! What can I do? Thanks guys!


  23. Hi Annika, On mac, simply save your file as .docx, then you will see option1- ‘Reduce File Size’ under File menu & option2- Compress under Format Picture (after selecting the image).


  24. This is great!!!! I was always wondering about how to do this… Thanks so much, easy explanation, easy to follow, great results!


  25. Word 2013 Home and Student for the PC. So I actually want to do the opposite. I insert a line drawing image and want to maintain the crisp quality, so I do not want compression. Yet for some reason Word is dropping the quality upon Save. I changed the Options>Advanced>Image Size and Quality, but this doesn’t help the issue. On a different computer (Word 2010 Pro for the PC) the image quality is maintained. Any advice?


  26. Sorry Bruce. I haven’t used Word 2013, but I’m surprised it’s behaving differently to Word 2010.

    I suggest you ask this question on the Microsoft Word forum: http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/office/forum/word

    –Rhonda



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