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We are collaborating on a 40 pages long report written in MS Word 2013 and MS Word 365 (this depends on the age of each collaborators computer) which contains a lot of images. The file grew to 357 MB, which is way too much for that document.

When I changed two images, both with the very same file format and resolution, the resulting file increased by less than 500 kB. The images are over 200 kB each.

The revisions feature is on, which may cause this growth, but I've faced similar issue with documents without this feature even available.

Is there a way how to clearly identify the cause of such file size growth and anticipate this effect while keeping the revisions feature reasonably useful?

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    For the file to be that size legitimately, it would need to contain in excess of 1500 images. Is that what you mean by "a lot of images"? One thing to do is to save the current document as a new one, without revisions, and compare sizes. – AFH Nov 7 '18 at 18:37
  • @AFH Certainly not. Last figure is labeled Figure 36 which is a lot to me, regarding images and Word, but not that much for an scientific article. On the other hand, the images were changed several times and some of them are ~7MB tiff files. – Crowley Nov 7 '18 at 18:43
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If you rename the docx/docm file as a zip file you can open it as a zip and navigate to the word\media directory to see the exact size of each image in your doc. My advice is to create PNG versions of the larger TIFFs for the document.

Also, sometimes doing Save As... results in Word creating a new file version that is somewhat smaller.

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Word retains a history of changes, and when you are editing a file with large images, the Word file can balloon beyond what appears to be reasonable. It's not really intended to be used for page design as desktop publishing apps are.

Word files can also become corrupted through no fault of the user, another cause of absurdly large files, and that can indicate a "Cannot Open File" error is on the horizon. Please make a backup copy of that file!

If you cannot consider a desktop publishing app (Scribus comes to mind, and it's free), then I would suggest exporting the file to RTF and then close the Word file and open the RTF file with word, then save it as a Word document with a new filename. If that does not help, then export to text, and read that text file back in, then place the internal references, headers and footers, and images in the new document, for a clean Word file of much smaller size.

  • Word does? But that first page says: "Both of those say I need to turn on "track changes" manually." – grawity Nov 7 '18 at 20:51
  • "Every Microsoft Word document you create contains a hidden log of everything you did to it, ever. Specifically, it contains a revision history showing who touched the document, and when." Article linked from tomsguide.com/answers/id-3589576/view-word-edit-history.html which stated "According to this article, not only does Microsoft Word give the option of tracking who made what changes to a document and when ... but it actually does so by default, and the only way to prevent the changes from being seen by anyone else is if you know the edit history is there and manually delete it!" – K7AAY Nov 7 '18 at 21:06

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