Extracting embedded pictures in Word documents

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft
June 1st, 2009 • 10:19 am

Like I wrote in a blog post about InDesign earlier this year, pictures and Microsoft Word go together like oil and water, especially on the Mac.

More often than not, when you get a Word document with an embedded picture on the Mac, it’s pretty much impossible to edit the picture, even though the same picture might be editable in the same document when opened in Microsoft Word for Windows.

It is also often impossible to simply extract the picture from the document. If you try to use Microsoft Word’s own “Save as Picture…” command (available through the contextual menu when you right-click on an embedded picture), most of the time you’ll end up with a useless picture file with a low-resolution version of the picture. Obviously no one at Microsoft has ever bothered to actually test this particular command on the Mac, at least not with some of the most common image formats used by Mac and PC Word users.

That said, extracting the picture in its original high-resolution format is not necessarily impossible. There are a couple of things that you can try. One is to save the Word document in question as a web page. When you do that, Microsoft Word saves the document as an HTML file, and it saves all the embedded pictures as individual files in a folder next to the HTML file. You have little control over the file format that Word uses for the files, but at least you can the individual picture files and, in my experience, they are usually in the (apparent) original resolution, not in a useless, pixelated low resolution format.

Another way to achieve a similar result without having to save the entire document as a web page is to drag the picture from the Word document onto the desktop (or another Finder location). It can take a while, but eventually this operation creates a “.pictClipping” file in the Finder. You can then double-click on the clipping file to open it and use command-C to copy it to the Clipboard.

Then switch to an image editor or graphics program such as Photoshop, create a new blank file and paste the contents of the Clipboard. You’ll then get the picture in its original resolution and you’ll be able to save it in the format of your choice.

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