Microsoft Binder

24 March 2018

Microsoft Binder first arrived with Office 97. It allowed you to create one binder file that contained multiple documents within. Each document was called a section. Binder files have an .obd file extension.

Microsoft Binder's About dialog.

It is fundamentally an OLE host. Although it was mostly intended for the main Microsoft Office programs (Word, Excel & PowerPoint) any program could declare itself compatible with Binder and be included as a new section.

Microsoft Binder's Add Section dialog. Lotus Word Pro 97 document is selected.

Interestingly Lotus Word Pro was one of those that did. As you can see, when a Word Pro document is selected on the left, the whole program takes the appearance of Word Pro.

Microsoft Binder hosting a Lotus Word Pro OLE document.

You could not add unsupported files into a binder, though. It would complain. Pressing 'Yes' here does not do anything - the section is not added.

The document cannot be added to the binder because it is incompatible.

I used this program quite frequently at school whilst doing my GCSEs. I found it kept all the related files together in a handy format. It did have many shortcomings, though:

  • The single binder file was bigger than keeping them separated,
  • File corruption risked damaging the whole set, and
  • The section selector on the left was an annoying way to switch between documents.

Fate of Microsoft Binder

Binder was updated for Office 2000, but it was buried in a Microsoft Office Tools submenu. It was completely removed in Office XP, except for a utility (not selected by default) that could extract documents out of binder files.

Microsoft Office installer screen showing the unbind utility as an option.

This option was removed in Office 2007. If you come across a binder file and need to get inside, you can still find the standalone unbind utility on the Internet. it was originally made available in the Office 97 Resource Toolkit.

It is also interesting to note that Office 98 for Macintosh did not come with Binder, nor any program to unbind. That must have been a headache!

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