Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Sequentially Numbering Elements in Your Document.

Sequentially Numbering Elements in Your Document

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated November 25, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


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Word allows you to automatically number items in your document. For instance, you can automatically number figures, tables, or illustrations. If you later reorder these items, Word automatically updates the numbers so they are in order. To sequentially number items in your text, follow these steps:

  1. Position the insertion point where you want the sequential number to appear. For instance, this would be in the caption for the table or figure.
  2. Press Ctrl+F9 to insert field brackets. Make sure the insertion point stays between the brackets.
  3. Type "seq " followed by the name of the element. This name is up to you, but should be the same for each item in this sequence. For instance, you could type "seq figures" or "seq tables" (without the quote marks).
  4. Press F9 to update the field information. Word replaces the field with the next number in the sequence you have specified.

You should realize that these steps add and update a single item number within your sequence. If you have added multiple SEQ fields and you want to update them all, then you'll need to select the entire document (Ctrl+A) and then press F9.

You should also be aware that if you have Track Changes turned on in your document, the numbering done by SEQ fields can seem to be completely out of whack at times. The way around this is to resolve (accept or reject) all the changes in your document and then update the SEQ fields.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (5680) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Sequentially Numbering Elements in Your Document.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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What is two less than 3?

2024-03-06 14:24:19

Paul Stregevsky

Two points:

1. "If you have added multiple SEQ fields and you want to update them all, then you'll need to select the entire document (Ctrl+A) and then press F9." Or select File > Print, then return to the document.

2. I don't understand why someone would bother with manual field codes when they could more easily select the table or figure, then select Insert Caption from the context menu. What am I missing? (see Figure 1 below)

Figure 1. Inserting an autonumbering caption from Word's context menu.


2024-03-05 18:17:28

Martin

Thanks for updating this tip. I've been tearing my hair out trying to work out to to automate the numbering of a large number of illustrations in the text an article I'm writing. There will be suggestions of new illustrations and reordering of illustrations by co-writers and I didn't want to have to go through the whole thing figure by figure each time they changed. This was perfect for my situation. Many thanks.


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