Object Linking and Embedding

What Does Object Linking and Embedding Mean?

Object linking and embedding (OLE) is a Microsoft technology that facilitates the sharing of application data and objects written in different formats from multiple sources. Linking establishes a connection between two objects, and embedding facilitates application data insertion.


OLE is used for compound document management, as well as application data transfer via drag-and-drop and clipboard operations.

Techopedia Explains Object Linking and Embedding

An OLE object may display as an icon. Double clicking the icon opens the associated object application or asks the user to select an application for object editing.

Alternatively, an OLE object may display as actual contents, such as a graph or chart. For example, an external application chart, such as an Excel spreadsheet, may be inserted into a Word application. When the chart is activated in the Word document, the chart’s user interface loads, and the user is able to manipulate the external chart’s data inside the Word document.

OLE-supported software applications include:

  • Microsoft Windows applications, such as Excel, Word and PowerPoint
  • Corel WordPerfect
  • Adobe Acrobat
  • AutoCAD
  • Multimedia applications, like photos, audio/video clips and PowerPoint presentations.

OLE has certain disadvantages, as follows:

  • Embedded objects increase the host document file size, resulting in potential storage or loading difficulties.
  • Linked objects can break when a host document is moved to a location that does not have the original object application.
  • Interoperability is limited. If the embedded or linked object application is unavailable, the object cannot be manipulated or edited.

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Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.