Bookmark Error when Printing

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated September 29, 2020)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016


Neville is trying to print documents and, at times, he'll see the message "Error! Bookmark not defined!" in the printout. This only happens on some documents, but he doesn't understand why it is happening.

Bookmarks can be used for any number of purposes in a document. The first thing you need to do is figure out where the error is occurring. For instance, is it happening in a table of contents, table of authorities, or an index? All of these rely on bookmarks to work properly. If you see this message in one of these special elements, simply update the fields in your document (press Ctrl+A and then press F9) and the message should rectify itself.

You may also see the error if you try to copy a special element (such as a table of contents) to a blank document. Since the element relies on references that are not in that blank document, you'll see the error message.

If a bookmark was used to create a cross-reference in the document and you see the error at the place where the cross-reference should appear, then it means that the bookmark referenced in the cross-reference field is no longer valid. This may occur if the bookmark was deleted or if the bookmark name was mistyped in the cross-reference field. The only way around the problem is to delete the cross-reference field or make sure that the bookmark it references actually exists in the document.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13416) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016.

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 7 + 1?

2016-01-04 10:00:04

Jennifer Thomas

The bookmarks that get lost in our environment are typically cross references (Xref) and TOC fields.

To just extract a TOC from a document, select only the TOC first | ctrl+shift+f9 | paste the converted-to-text version, and then undo in the original document to put the TOC field back.

For Xrefs, I recommend that, before changing the order paragraphs that are Xref links, the user should select all and then press ctrl+shift+f9 to change the fields to text.

Then, when the paragraph sequence is stable, they can run our microsystems' tool to find Xref text and replace it with the Xref field automatically.

I wouldn't necessarily recommend that without some automated cross referencing program (because putting Xrefs back manually can be a hassle), but it's a nice trick for avoiding the error and not losing what it used to say.

2016-01-03 05:49:29

Ken Endacott

It would be nice if a duplicate name warning was given when you try to add a bookmark with the same name as an existing bookmark. Instead, the old position is lost and the bookmark now refers to the new position. The warning should allow you to continue if you really do want to move the location of the bookmark.

Tables of Contents and other tables create hidden bookmarks that you can display by ticking the hidden bookmark option. If you delete the TOC then the bookmarks remain and if you then re-create the TOC a new set of bookmarks with new system generated names is created. A document can accumulate hundreds or even thousands of unused bookmarks.

2016-01-02 10:08:29

John McCorkle

I use bookmarks extensively in technical journal articles, books, patents, and reports. It is infuriating when Word looses its automatic cross-references/bookmarks. This loss happens to me so often that I use almost no automatic bookmarks anymore. I name almost every bookmark myself. For example, figures are named Fig_underbar_name. Equations are named Eq_underbar_name. Tables are named Tab_underbar_name. (I use an underbar since Word does not allow a space or a dash to be in a bookmark name.) Adding a cross-reference that links to one of these bookmarks is easy because these names are easy to find in the Bookmarks-list pop-up. Furthermore, this practice gives me much better control, allowing me to meet different style guides of different publications. For example, my figure bookmark can be just a the figure number, it can be "Figure X", it can be "Figure X.", it can be the entire "Figure X. blah blah blah" caption. Best of all, and the main point of this comment is, when Word inevitably looses a link and prints "ERROR! BOOKMARK NOT FOUND!" I just click on toggle-codes to reveal the bookmark and I get a nice human readable bookmark name that tells me exactly what the bookmark is supposed to link to so I can quickly and easily fix it with guaranteed accuracy--back to cross-referencing the right thing. I handle those pesky "ERROR! BOOKMARK NOT FOUND!" messages in a few seconds and with no worries now.

One more benefit, this practice allows me to copy/paste text with cross-references between documents more reliably and with better control. Technically, you need to be sure the doc you are pasting into is not already using a bookmark_name that is used in the text being pasted in--unless the duplicate bookmark_name is supposed to be superseded by the text being pasted in. In practice, I have never had a conflict and the bookmarks superseded exactly as desired.

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