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: Field Reference to Number of Prior Pages.

Field Reference to Number of Prior Pages

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated February 3, 2024)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Stephanie has a document comprising two sections. The first section consists of a single title page. The second section is quite long, and at several points in the document Stephanie has text that states "...see information in the preceding X pages." She is looking for a field to use in the place of "X" so that the text always shows the number of pages prior to the page on which the field appears, without counting the title page (first section).

If the page numbering is continuous, you could just use a nested field like this:

{ = { page } - 2 }

This would give the current page in the document, minus one for the current page and minus one for the title page that you don't want to count. If page numbering restarts in section 2, you would use the following nested field instead:

{ = { page } - 1 }

If your document becomes more complex by adding additional sections (more than the two described), and each section could re-start page numbering, then the job is more difficult. The solution is to add a field that looks like this somewhere in each section:

{ sectionpages }

Select the field and format it as hidden text so that it won't show up in the final document. In addition, select the field and give it a bookmark name. These bookmarks should have names such as "section1count," "section2count," etc.

With the fields bookmarked, you now have a way to know how many pages are in each of your sections. This means that you can build the "preceding X pages" field in the following manner:

{ = { page } — 1 + { ref section1count } + { ref section2count } }

Remember that you can enter empty field braces into a document by pressing Ctrl+F9.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10604) 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: Field Reference to Number of Prior Pages.

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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