Changing the Link to Previous Default for Headers and Footers

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated February 5, 2022)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Paul works as a technical writer and creates some documents that have an endless requirement to set new headers and footers for each document section. It is a pain to continually need to display the correct dialog box and clear the "link to previous" checkbox for both the headers and footers. Paul wonders if there is a way he can set the default to disassociate headers and footers when creating a section. He would prefer it to be the other way around, where he needs to explicitly set "link to previous" when he needs it.

There is no way to handle this with a setting in Word; it seems that the setting always returns to "link to previous." Instead, you'll need to use a macro to accomplish a workaround for what you want. It is a relatively simple task to create a macro that creates a new section break and unlinks the headers and footers.

Sub AddNewSection()
    Selection.InsertBreak Type:=wdSectionBreakNextPage
    ActiveWindow.ActivePane.View.SeekView = wdSeekCurrentPageHeader
    Selection.HeaderFooter.LinkToPrevious = False

    ActiveWindow.ActivePane.View.SeekView = wdSeekCurrentPageFooter
    Selection.HeaderFooter.LinkToPrevious = False
    ActiveWindow.ActivePane.View.SeekView = wdSeekMainDocument
End Sub

The macro inserts a section break and then turns off the "link to previous" setting for the new section. Understand that in the very process of adding the new section break, that new section will have the header and footer set to be the same as the previous section. They are then unlinked, however, so they can safely be edited without affecting the previous section.

You could easily add this macro to your Quick Access Toolbar or define a shortcut key to run it. The macro adds a "next page" section break; if you want a different type of section break, all you need to do is replace the wdSectionBreakNextPage with one of the other constants for sections breaks: wdSectionBreakContinuous (continuous section break), wdSectionBreakEvenPage (even-page section break), or wdSectionBreakOddPage (odd-page section break).

If you, instead, simply want to change all the "link to previous" settings for all the existing sections in your document, you can do so by using a different macro approach.

Sub UnlinkAllHeadersFooters()
    Dim s As Section
    On Error Resume Next

    For Each s In ActiveDocument.Sections
        s.Headers(wdHeaderFooterEvenPages).LinkToPrevious = False
        s.Headers(wdHeaderFooterFirstPage).LinkToPrevious = False
        s.Headers(wdHeaderFooterPrimary).LinkToPrevious = False
        s.Footers(wdHeaderFooterEvenPages).LinkToPrevious = False
        s.Footers(wdHeaderFooterFirstPage).LinkToPrevious = False
        s.Footers(wdHeaderFooterPrimary).LinkToPrevious = False
    Next s
End Sub

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the WordTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13401) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

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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