I am writing my first book. It is a book with the history of my village. I have read that most people use MS Word, so did I.

The problem is that my book contains lots of pictures. This has increased the size of my Word file to more than 300MB. This makes it (amongst other things) slow to load.

Is there any mostly used software where I could just include the path to the file, and just have the image file in the same folder? Can I do this with MS Word?

My book contains lots of photos and tables. Which software do you propose that I should use? (I have experience with LaTeX and I could use it if advised so. Is it a good idea, concerning my design?)

  • 2
    Are you looking for software just to write the book, or to publish it? That is, are you going to get it professionally laid out when it's done? This is important because professional layout software recommendations are very different from writing software recommendations. Whether you're just writing it or if you're also doing the final layout yourself, we need to know.
    – BESW
    Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 8:03
  • i will publish. so i think i need an export to valid type. pulisher recommended word, but i have the size problem. if by layout you mean page size, margins etc, i will do myself Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 8:41

4 Answers 4


You can link to images in Word. When you insert an image, you get a dialog where you can select the image. The 'Insert' button in this dialog is actually a drop-down menu. One of the menu choices is 'Link to file'.

There are two basic workflows when publishing a book:

  1. the writer supplies the text and images to the publisher, and the publisher creates the layout in e.g. Adobe InDesign.
  2. the writer does everything, and supplies a print-ready PDF to the publisher.

If you use workflow 1, you'll have to use the program recommended by the publisher.
If you use workflow 2, use a program suitable for publishing large documents. Adobe FrameMaker is very good in this regard. You can use LaTeX, but as far as I know, changing the layout of a LaTeX document is more difficult than in FrameMaker: FrameMaker is WYSIWYG, LaTex uses programming code to define the layout. Use what you're comfortable with.
If you're stuck with Word, there are a couple of rules to follow to avoid most of the headaches:

  1. Keep the formatting simple.
  2. Do your page layout once, at the end of the project.
  3. Only use paragraph and character styles for your text formatting. No ad-hoc formatting.
  4. For importing images, use Link to File. When you need to share your document with someone else, create a copy of the file and use a macro to convert the linked images to embedded images. The file will become very large, but it's the only way to ensure that the images are visible when you open the Word file on another computer.
  5. Before major changes, make a backup of the Word file. This way you'll be able to revert to a clean backup if the major change has unwanted consequences.

The number one rule is always to ask your publisher what file types they can handle. If you self-publish, ask your printer.

Many publishers expect one file per chapter. This will also reduce the individual file size and make it easier to handle for you on your system.

If you self-publish, you might want to get a decent desktop publishing software such as FrameMaker, InDesign or QuarkXPress that allows you to fine tune your layout. These softwares allow you to link to external files such as image files. The separate files will only be assembled in the printer.

Don't forget to ask about file format, resolution, color profiles, and dot gain, for your image files, too. Get the printing machine's color profile (ideally one that fits the paper you'll print on) and do some color management. Printing images is a science of its own.


Consider CherryTree , it handles images elegantly (either embed or link). Then export to HTML, PDF.

enter image description here

  • 1
    You've written three answers that mostly just mention the program "cherrytree". Are you in any way affiliated with them in any way? Why is this the best program to use? (Handling images elegantly doesn't really tell me much. Is the usage like the OP described?) If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun!
    – Secespitus
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 15:39
  • No, I'm not affiliated. I just want to share my joy of using this program for storing lots of images. And I also like helping people. CherryTree is free and open source. There is no commercial interest whatsoever. CherryTree provides exactly what the OP asked for: "where I could just include the path to the file, and just have the image file in the same folder". Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 16:53

The Novel Factory software is specially designed to let you add pictures to your novel manuscript and notes files. You can attach multiple images to characters and locations, and view them alongside each scene.

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