Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. 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: Numbering With Sequence Fields.

Numbering with Sequence Fields

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 10, 2020)


Word includes a special sequencing field that you can use to do all sorts of numbering. You can even use the SEQ field to help create broken numbered lists. (A broken numbered list is one in which the flow of the list is interrupted by paragraphs of a different format.) This approach to creating numbered lists is particularly helpful and much less prone to the problems inherent in Word's built-in list numbering. For the purposes of this tip, the format of the sequence field is as follows:

{seq ident}

In this format, ident is replaced with a unique identifier for the sequence in question. Thus, you could have several sequences in a single document. For instance, one numbered sequence could use an identifier of MajorNum1, and another use an identifier of MajorNum2. The identifiers you use are entirely up to you.

You should understand that the sequence field can be much more powerful than implied in this tip. If you want additional information on how it can be used, you should refer to the on-line help for the SEQ field.

When you use the sequence field, and then combine it with the AutoText capabilities of Word, you have a powerful combination for creating numbered lists in your documents. As an example of how you can do this, 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 braces. Make sure the insertion point stays between the braces.
  3. Type "seq NumList" (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.
  5. If you want a period, tab, or some other character after the number, enter it after the number generated by the SEQ field.
  6. Select everything you created in steps 1 through 5.
  7. Press Alt+F3. Word displays the Create New Building Block dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  8. Figure 1. The Create New Building Block dialog box.

  9. In the Name field enter a name by which you want this highlighted text known. This should be something short and meaningful, such as NumList or even NL.
  10. Click on the OK button. The dialog box closes.

Now whenever you want to insert the number, type the name you defined in step 7, and then press the F3 key. The field is entered in the document. Note that the number always shows up as 1, but it is updated when you print, or when you select the entire list and press F9.

The process described in this tip works best if you have a single list in your document. Note that the sequence field starts at the beginning of the document and numbers through the whole document, based on the identifier you use. If you are going to have multiple lists in your document, then you can add a second AutoText entry to help with this. The only difference in the above steps is that the SEQ field you define would look like this:

{ seq NumList \r1 }

The addition of the \r1 switch causes Word to start the sequence counter over at 1. You would use this whenever you wanted to start a new list and use the regular field for the rest of your numbered items. (If you want to start the list over at a number other than 1, use the starting number right after \r.)

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (8180) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Numbering With Sequence Fields.

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 2 + 9?

2018-10-24 05:51:31


I've just started using this tool, but if I go back earlier in the document and insert a number, the later numbers don't auto-update. How do I get them to do this? And how about lists of the form 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 etc?

2018-10-15 17:39:34

H. S. Teacher

Could this be adapted to use a custom numbering list? I'm trying to number items using the following list:
a b c d e ab ac ad ae bc bd be cd ce de abc abd abe acd ace ade bcd bce bde cde abcd abce abde acde bcde abcde

I've tried a number of ways using the SEQ field, without success. Thanks very much for this excellent website.

2018-09-24 11:24:56

William J. Wolfe

"Is it possible to create a document with a number in the top corner that will auto number every time the document is opened, e.g the first time it is opened thw number could be 10 then the next time it is opened the number would be 11 and so on "

This is not a "SEQ" field issue, but is possible with an "AutoOpen" macro that would increment a counter. I would suggest:

1. Create a Custom Document Property
a. go to File | Info | Properties | Advanced Properties | Custom tab
b. Fill in a name, e.g., "OpenCount", type "Number", Value "1" (or zero), clcik "Add"

2. Format the document with a page-1 header
a. Page Layout tab | Page Setup menu | Layout tab | check "Different first page

3. In the page-1 header, insert a field linked to the Opencount property
a. Press Ctrl-F9
b. inside the field braces, key in: DocProperty "OpenCount"
C. Press F9 to update, the field should show the value you entered above.

4. Save the file as a "*.docm" file, e.g., "TestCounter.docm"
a. File | Save As (or press F12)
b. Save As Type: select "Word Macro-Enabled Docuemnt (*.docm)

5. Go to the Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) macro compiler:
a. Developer Tab | Visual Basic button, or press Press F11
i. If you do not have a Developer Tab, enable it by going to:
ii. File | Options | Customize Ribbon
iii. In the "Customize the Ribbon" menu (right hand side):
A. Click the "Developer" checkbox
B. Click "OK."
6. In the VBA compiler,
a. Select the project pertaining to your document (Project(TestCounter) in my example)
b. Right-click the selected project
c. From the context-sensitive menu, select:
i. Insert | Module
ii. Select the new module ("Module1")
iii. Go to the module's properties
iv. In the "Name" field , select the text "Module1" and key in (rename the module" "AutoOpen"
v. In the module code area, paste in the following SubRoutine:

Sub Main()
ActiveDocument.CustomDocumentProperties("OpenCount").Value = _
ActiveDocument.CustomDocumentProperties("OpenCount").Value + 1
End Sub

vi. Save your document. Every time you open it, it should increment the counter in the Document Property, then update the field in the page-1 header.

Yes, this is complicated for a non-programmer, but it should work if you follow the steps exactly.

Post if you have problems!

-Bill W.

2017-07-04 11:54:34


This works well unless you're trying to add these fields to text boxes. In Word 2013 it seems like it may work for a text box or two, but then decides to start the numbering over. Is there a way to get this to work with multiple text boxes?

Listnum appears to work with multiple text boxes, except you have to display a trailing period or paren that you can't get rid of.

2017-02-11 16:37:41


Is it possible to create a document with a number in the top corner that will auto number every time the document is opened, e.g the first time it is opened thw number could be 10 then the next time it is opened the number would be 11 and so on

2016-11-23 04:43:52

Morten Schmidt

Thanks for this tip, it is close to what I need in my requirement specification - but my problem is that I need the (requirement-)numbers to be allocated once a requirement is defined, and then stay with that value 'forever', and at the same time be sure to have unique (requirement-)numbers.

In fact, the number/value should be allocated automatically as the next in line 'when inserted', and then stay until it maybe is actively deleted.

It doesn't matter that all (requirement-)numbers over time will not be there, but its mandatory that every present (requirement-)number only exists once!

Is this possible?

2016-11-22 21:38:51


thank you, very useful

2016-09-23 12:09:11

Ted Duke

Being a "nit picker" myself, may I point out that, technically, what is referred to as a "bracket" is really a "brace?"

{} = Braces {UPPER CASE}
[] = Brackets [lowercase]

I don't do much of these kinds of things in Word, so perhaps this comment is not of much use to anyone. For more about keyboard's key's names:

2016-09-22 08:02:21


This tip was very helpful. Now I have been able to automatically number dozens of examples in a linguistics paper, and as I revise the paper and insert new examples between the existing examples, the numbering is automatically adjusted. Now the next step is how to use bookmarks for the references to the examples in the text of the paper. The references need to point to specific examples, and need to be automatically adjusted when the numbering of examples is adjusted. Any ideas on how to do this?

2015-12-09 15:19:23


I have been generating 150-400 page reports with multiple lists in tables. Word's auto numbering would only go so far in applying sequential numbering but then it just stops and I could not use it any more. I had to manually type in the numbered list which was quite annoying and very time consuming. Then I came across your Word Tip. Awesome! It worked. Thanks so very much.

2015-09-15 08:35:07

Cheryll P

I have multiple documents that I would like to link together, ie each document is a chapter. Each chapter has automatic numbering.

Is it possible to have each chapter automatically update if I remove a document or add in a new one?

2015-06-14 08:21:59


Hi, Please, I need to write Of.0001-FFALCON-DILC in secuence with the field SEQ How could I get this?
Thank you

2014-12-20 11:23:22


Just struggled through exactly the same issue. Copy the 1st page onto the second, right click on the each inserted number, and click update field, then select that page, copy and then paste for as many pages as you need. Select all these pages and hit F9, and as if by magic, all the number will fill in.

2014-10-23 17:12:54

Sandy Hymas

How do I specify the number I want to start my sequence (Step 4)
I want to start with 79196 not 1

2014-10-04 12:29:27

Allen W

I am trying to use mailmerge to print tickets. I tried using a column of sequential numbers on a spreadsheet and inserting that as a field into the mailmerge, but oddly, it used number 8 eight times on the first page, number 16 eight times on the second page, etc. So, I tried using a sequencing field as you describe. It worked great for the first page (numbers 1-8) but when I completed the mailmerge, it repeated numbers 1-8 on each successive sheet. What do I have to do to make this work in a mailmerge?

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