Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. 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: Ensuring Standardized Numbering.

Ensuring Standardized Numbering

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 28, 2017)

Keith wrote about a problem he was having in his company. It seems that when he formats numbered lists in a document, those lists don't always look the same when the document is opened on other people's systems. What Keith is experiencing is something that seems to be a limitation of Word—when you use the built-in numbering tools (like the ones on the ribbon) you are setting up a numbering scheme that may only work on your system and nobody else's. The reason I say "may" is because setting up numbering in this way is not "static." If you select one of the numbering options from the ribbon, you are doing nothing but saying "use this library item to display my numbering." (The library is the collection of numbering options presented when you click the down-arrow at the right of the Numbering tool. There are seven options in the library.) If you open the same document on a different person's machine, and they have customized the numbering schemes in their library, then the numbering in your document will look different on their system. If you open the same document on your system after you have changed the formatting in the gallery, that document may look different on your system, as well. Because the built-in numbering tools don't provide reliable results, most long-time Word users shy away from using them. (That's a polite way of saying that they avoid them like the plague.) Instead, they either do their numbering manually, or they use one of Word's numbering fields to create their numbering. For instance, the SEQ field is probably the most commonly used field for numbering. It is easy to use, as has been described in other issues of WordTips, and it eliminates most numbering problems in Word. Other fields (also described in other issues of WordTips) include LISTNUM, AUTONUM, AUTONUMLGL, and AUTONUMOUT. Once you know how to use the fields, implementing them in your documents provides much better results than you could get with Word's automatic numbering tools. The same sorts of ideas apply to numbering outlines and headings as well—steer clear of the built-in tools. If you need to create numbered headings or numbered outlines, there's a resource at Shauna Kelly's Web site that you may find useful on this very topic:

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (9742) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Ensuring Standardized Numbering.

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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