What is a Compound Document?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Compound documents are document files that contain several different types of data as well as text. A compound document may include graphics, spreadsheets, images, or any other non-text data. The additional data may be embedded into the document or be linked data that is resident within the application.

Copying and pasting does not remove files or text from its original location.
Copying and pasting does not remove files or text from its original location.

One of the more commonly employed examples of a compound document is the slide presentation. Slides included in the presentation normally include a number of other audio and visual elements along with the text. For example, a given slide within the presentation may include an image along with the text or feature some type of animation or soundtrack that triggers when the slide is loaded for viewing.

A compound document may be stored on a floppy disk.
A compound document may be stored on a floppy disk.

In all examples of the compound document, there is a mixture of original data that is created within the document and data that is collected from different sources and inserted into the body of the document. An easy way to understand the compound document is to think of inserting a picture into a letter that is being created using word processing software. The picture may come from another file saved on the hard drive, a location on the Internet, or from a CD or floppy disk. It is also possible to insert an image of the display desktop or any desktop object. In all situations, the image is copied from the original location and becomes part of the letter. The original remains in place when the letter is printed out for mailing or is saved and sent out via email.

Creating a compound document is a relatively simple process today. Just about all types of word processing software allow the insertion of images, links, charts, and spreadsheets into the body of the document. Copying and pasting these additional components does not remove them from their original location. This means the components are still stored and ready for use with another document at a later time.

Over the years, software to create newsletters, greeting cards, slide presentations and other documents has been developed to make the process of using many different types of data in one document extremely easy for anyone to manage. In many cases, the process requires no more than three or four steps to complete. Most word processing software packages include easy to understand instructions in the help section to assist in the creation of a compound document.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including EasyTechJunkie, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


Absolutely loved this article. It is easy to understand.


Thank you for being there. You helped me with what could have been a difficult assignment.


this website was great knowledge and help me to understand more on compound documents. thanks

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