Expounding On Compound Documents

As I mentioned in the previous section, compound documents are created using multiple applications yet they appear as a single cohesive document in the compound document's host application. You use a document's host application to view the document in its entirety.

A compound document can store its components in two different ways. The first way is via linking. When you create a compound document in which a component of the document is linked to another document, the compound document stores the link details in the document file. The linked component's details are stored in a separate file.

The other way a compound document can store a component is by embedding the component's file inside the compound document's file. Hence you have object linking and embedding (OLE)— a boring but descriptive name when it comes to talking about compound documents.

A compound document can consist of multiple components. If you are feeling adventurous or maybe you're just bored, you can do all sorts of weird things. For example, Figure 14.2 is an Excel worksheet inside an embedded Word document inside another Excel worksheet. The son-in-law of my friend's cousin's girlfriend showed me that trick.

Figure 14.2

Embed Excel in Word in Excel? You can create all sorts of combinations by embedding different combinations inside one another.

Figure 14.2

Embed Excel in Word in Excel? You can create all sorts of combinations by embedding different combinations inside one another.

Depending on whether a component is embedded or linked, you can perform various actions on the component. Embedded components can be edited in-place, as in Figure 14.3, or opened up in a full instance of their native application for editing.

Figure 14.3

Embedded objects can be edited in place.

Figure 14.3

Embedded objects can be edited in place.

In-place editing is really an impressive development feat as far as I am concerned. Look what happens in Figure 14.4 when you edit an Excel worksheet embedded inside a Word document. Word morphs into an Excel environment. The menu in Figure 14.3 is an Excel menu, but I never did anything to leave the Word environment. You can see the Word icon in the upper-left corner of Figure 14.4.

Figure 14.4

In-place editing of embedded components in a compound document is a truly impressive capability.

Figure 14.4

In-place editing of embedded components in a compound document is a truly impressive capability.

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Linked components can also be edited. However, they can't be edited in place as embedded components can. The main advantage of linked components is that you can create a "living" document that is aware of its linked components. As a linked component gets modified, the compound document can display the updated values without your intervention.

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