By Nicholas Hebb
This article covers how to embed an Excel file into a Microsoft Word document. Specifically, it addresses an Excel file containing a flowchart, but really the techniques apply to embedding any Excel worksheet into a Word file.
If you're a computer old-timer (read: over 30), you may have tried doing this in the past and given up in frustration. Microsoft Office has had the abiity to embed a document of one type into a document of another type for years using a technology called OLE (Object Linking and Embedding). In older versions of Office, this was often slow and buggy. In recent version of Office, it actually works quite nicely.
Embedding an Excel file into a Word document goes beyond just being able to display a table of cells. You have access to all the cell formulas and worksheet functions of Excel, while working in Word. You can also open and edit the original Excel file independently and have the changes show up in the Word document.
In the case of flowcharts, there are several reasons:
Note: We used Office 2007 as the baseline version for this article, so the images below were taken using Word 2007. The methods are essentially the same for all Office versions (Excel 2007 - 2019 / Word 2007 - 2019).
Before you embed the Excel worksheet, obviously you need to create it. Less obvious, though, is that the worksheet that you want to embed should be active before embedding it. For example, if you have a workbook with three sheets and you want to embed Sheet 2, make sure Sheet 2 is the active sheet when you save the Excel file.
In Word, click the Insert tab and click the Object button, as shown below.
On the Object dialog, click the "Create from File" tab and use the Browse button to navigate to your Excel file. Before clicking OK, you need to decide whether to check the "Link to file" option, which is covered next.
If you do not check the "Link to file" option, then the embedded document is a copy of the original. Any changes made to the original file will not display in the Word document. Conversely, in Word, you can double-click the embedded Excel object to edit it, and any changes made will not affect the original file.
Based on the updating mechanism, you may think that linking to file is a better option, but there are some good reasons not to:
In the image below (click to zoom), we show a flowchart created in Excel right after it has been embedded in Word. There are two things worth noting about the embedded file:
To fix #1, first we double-click on the embedded flowchart to activate Excel, as shown in the image below (click to zoom). You cannot do this if you checked the "Link to file" option when inserting the object.
Next, we scroll column A into view, and then use the left mouse button to click and drag the bottom-right corner of the worksheet, enlarging the embedded object, as shown in the image below.
If you did not check the "Link to file" option, the activated Excel worksheet is fully functional. You can use built-in Excel tools from within the Word environment. As the image shows, even add-ins like FlowBreeze are accessible. If you checked the "Link to file" option, double-clicking the Excel object will open the file in separate Excel window, and you cannot adjust the scroll position of the object to change how it is displayed in Word.
To fix issue #2 - sizing - right-click on the Excel object and select Format Object from the pop-up menu. On the Format Object dialog, click the Size tab. Uncheck the "Lock aspect ratio" and then click the Reset button to set the Scale Height and Width fields to 100%.
Clicking OK to close the Format Object dialog, we see the final embedded Excel flowchart below.
Word tends to make any drawing lines thicker. In the case of the flowchart above, the shape borders are set to medium thickness in Excel but appear much thicker in Word, so it's best to avoid thick lines when creating the original Excel diagram.
In the example above, the contents of the embedded Excel worksheet fit nicely within a letter-sized Word document in portrait orientation. This is just something to consider when laying out the Excel content that you want to embed and may also impact the margins, paper size, and/or orientation and of the Word page.
Nicholas Hebb is the owner and developer of BreezeTree Software, makers of FlowBreeze Flowchart Software, a text-to-flowchart maker, and Spreadspeed, an auditing and productivity toolset for Microsoft Excel®.