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Word 2007: Using SEQ fields for numbering

March 8, 2010

There are a couple of ways you can set up Word 2007/2010 to use SEQ fields for numbering — you can set them up as AutoCorrect entries or as Quick Parts. Both ways work; the method you choose is up to you. This long article describes how to create the SEQ fields and the numbering style in your Normal.dotm template; how to save the SEQ fields as AutoCorrect entries in Word 2007/2010 (and how to use them); and how to save (and use) them as Quick Parts. The most consuming part of this process is settings up the fields and the style; once they’re set up, using them is super easy.

Please note: While some of this information may be relevant to Word 2003, Quick Parts is new to Word 2007, so this article will only focus on Word 2007/2010. For Word 2003 instructions on creating SEQ fields as AutoCorrect entries, see David Knopf’s excellent Autonumbering with RoboHelp and Microsoft Word article: http://knopf.com/tips/autonumber.html.

Create the SEQ field to reset the number to 1

  1. Right-click on the Normal.dotm template, then select Open (in Vista, the Normal.dotm template is stored under C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates by default).
  2. Place your cursor on a blank line.
  3. Go to the Insert tab > Text group, then click the Quick Parts icon.
  4. Select Field.
  5. Select Seq from the list of Field names. SEQ displays in the Field codes text box on the right.
  6. Add this after SEQ: Step \r 1 (this will be the ‘reset numbering to 1′ field).
  7. Click OK. You should notice that ‘1‘ is inserted into the template. If you have field code shading turned on (Word Options > Advanced > Show Document Content section > Field Shading: Always), it will have a gray background.
  8. Press Enter to create a new line for the next SEQ field you’ll add — the one that will deal with all numbers other than 1.

Create the SEQ field for numbers other than 1

  1. Go to the Insert tab > Text group, then click the Quick Parts icon.
  2. Select Field.
  3. Select Seq from the list of Field names.
  4. Add this after SEQ: Step \n (this will be used for all numbers other than 1).
  5. Click OK. You should notice that ‘2‘ is inserted into the template if you added this field below the first one.

Add periods and tabs to the fields (optional)

  1. Make sure you have the Show/Hide marker turned on (Home tab, Paragraph group).
  2. Select the lines with 1 and 2 on them, then right-click and select Toggle Field Codes to display the code associated with these fields. Note: * MERGEFORMAT is added to the fields if you left the Preserve formatting during updates check box selected on the Field dialog box (this is the default).
  3. Position your cursor AFTER the closing curly bracket ( } ) of the first field, then add a period followed by a tab. Repeat for the second field.
  4. Leave the field codes displayed as you’ll need them later.

Create a new style for the SEQ field numbering

You won’t use any of the standard List Number styles for SEQ field numbering. You need to create your own style if you want correct indentation and alignment with the tab position of the first word after the number. In this example, I’ll create a new style called Step Number, but you can call it whatever you want. In this example, I’ve also used the default settings for tab and hanging indent positions — you can change these later if you want.

  1. Click the Styles dialog launcher on the Home tab > Styles group.
  2. Click the AA icon  at the bottom left of the Styles pane to create a new style.
  3. Give the new style a name — in this example, we’ll use Step Number.
  4. Make Step Number the Style for the following paragraph. Leave the other settings as they are for now — you can always change them later.
  5. Click Format, then select Paragraph to open the Paragraph dialog box.
  6. Adjust the paragraph settings to suit your preference, making sure you add a Hanging indent value (1.27 cm or 1/2 inch is the default).
  7. Click Tabs to open the Tabs dialog box.
  8. Set the left tab stop position (1.27 cm or 1/2 inch is the default).
  9. Click OK to close each dialog box.

Create the AutoCorrect entries for the fields

Note: AutoCorrect is one way to store and use the SEQ fields — you can use this AutoCorrect method and/or the Quick Parts method described later in this article.

  1. Make sure the field codes are displayed (see Step 2 in the Add periods and tabs section).
  2. Select the first field code (the SEQ Step \r 1 one), its following period and tab marker but DO NOT select the paragraph marker.
  3. Go to Word Options (under the Microsoft Office button) > Proofing.
  4. Click the AutoCorrect Options button.
  5. Your selection is already displayed in the text box on the right and Formatted text is already selected. In the Replace text box, type 1] (Why ’1]’? Because you’re unlikely to use this sequence of characters in normal writing, and because it’s what David Knopf suggested back in his original article — and why change something that works?)
  6. Click Add then click OK.
  7. Select the second field code (the SEQ Step \n one), its following period and tab marker but DO NOT select the paragraph marker.
  8. Go to Word Options (under the Microsoft Office button) > Proofing.
  9. Click the AutoCorrect Options button.
  10. Again, your selection is already displayed in the text box on the right and Formatted text is already selected. In the Replace text box, type n] .
  11. Click Add then click OK.

Test your AutoCorrect numbering

  1. Go to a blank line anywhere in the document.
  2. Type 1] and press Enter. You should see 1. and a tab space.
  3. Type n] on the next line and press Enter. You should see 2. and a tab space.
  4. Type n] on the next line and press Enter. You should see 3. and a tab space.
  5. Type 1] on the next line and press Enter. you should see 1. and a tab space — remember, 1] resets the numbering to 1.
  6. Select all numbered lines and apply the Step Number style to them. To check the indentation, alignment and text wrapping, add placeholder text for each numbered item.

Create Quick Parts for the fields

Note: Quick Parts is one way to store and use the SEQ fields — you can use this Quick Parts method and/or the AutoCorrect method described earlier in this article. As far as I can tell, you do not have to have the field codes displayed to add these fields as Quick Parts, but it may be easier to see which is which if you do.

  1. Select the first field code (the SEQ Step \r 1 one), its following period and tab marker but DO NOT select the paragraph marker.
  2. Go to the Insert tab > Text group, then click the Quick Parts icon.
  3. Select Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery.
  4. Give the new building block a Name (in this example, I’ve used SEQ Step 1) and add a Description (optional). Leave the other settings as they are for now — you can always change them later.
  5. Click OK.
  6. Select the second field code (the SEQ Step \n one), its following period and tab marker but DO NOT select the paragraph marker.
  7. Go to the Insert tab > Text group, then click the Quick Parts icon.
  8. Select Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery.
  9. Give the new building block a Name (in this example, I’ve used SEQ Step n) and add a Description (optional).
  10. Click OK.

Test your Quick Parts numbering

  1. Put your cursor on a blank line in your document.
  2. Go to the Insert tab > Text group, then click the Quick Parts icon. Your two new Quick Parts entries are listed in the drop-down — hover over each to see the Description you added displayed as a tooltip.
  3. Click SEQ Step 1 to insert a 1. into the document. Press Enter to go to the next line.
  4. Click the Quick Parts icon again, and this time select SEQ Step n to insert 2. into the document.
  5. Repeat step 4 to keep adding numbers to the sequence.
  6. When you want to start a new number sequence, click the Quick Parts icon and select SEQ Step 1.
  7. Select all numbered lines and apply the Step Number style to them. To check the indentation, alignment and text wrapping, add placeholder text for each numbered item.

Clean up your template

  1. Before saving these changes to your Normal.dotm, remove all text and fields from the document.
  2. Save the template, and say Yes to saving the changes to the Building Blocks document as well.

That’s it! From now on, all you have to do to add SEQ field numbering is either type in your AutoCorrect text (1] and n]) or select the options from your Quick Parts list. If you find your numbering gets out of whack (remember, the numbers don’t update when you insert a new number between two existing numbers, or delete a number), select the sequence and press F9 (Hint: To update all fields for the entire document, press Ctrl+A then F9).

BONUS!!

Linking to a step number

Using SEQ fields gives you the extra benefit of being able to link to step numbers in the text. You cannot do this in Word using standard number styles or automated numbering. Here’s how:

  1. Select the SEQ field number you want to link to — don’t select the period, the tab, any of the text, or the paragraph marker.
  2. Go to the Insert tab > Links group and click the Bookmark icon.
  3. Give the bookmark a unique but meaningful name, then click Add. (For example, if the step describes how to print, then use print as the bookmark name.)
  4. In the body of the text place the cursor where you want to refer to that step, then go to the Insert tab > Links group and click the Cross-reference icon.
  5. Change the Type to Bookmark, and leave the Insert reference to as Bookmark text.
  6. Click Insert, then Close.
  7. The text now displays the step number — if you later remove a step before this step, just update the fields with F9 and the cross-reference will update to display the correct number.

[Link last checked March 2010]

29 comments

  1. This looks like a great idea.

    What if someone wants to do something like mult-level lists with fields?

    For example:

    1.0
    1.1
    1.1.1
    etc…


  2. Excellent article. How is the Alpha (A,B,C) reset?


  3. According to the Microsoft site, you add an ‘alphabetic’ switch:

    \*alphabetic This switch displays results as alphabetic characters. The result has the same case as the word “alphabetic” in the field code. For example, { SEQ appendix \* ALPHABETIC } displays B (instead of 2), and { SEQ appendix \* alphabetic } displays b.
    To select this option in the Field Options dialog box, click a, b, c,.

    (from http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/insert-and-format-field-codes-HA010338798.aspx)


  4. [...] use several obscure features in Word, like the seq field code, but I’m also painfully aware of drawbacks like its capricious approach to numbering [...]


  5. Wow! This article is great! It’s the best method for dealing with step numbering in technical documentation that is created in Word. Thanks a lot!


  6. I am numbering comp meal vouchers for a hospital food service company. The GM wants the numbers to show as 0001 to 5000. How can I get the 000 to show up before the 1 when sequencing the vouchers?


  7. Hi Anthony

    I found part of your solution! You can set it so the sequence displays as a four-digit number with zeroes replacing any missing digits (e.g. 0003 instead of 3).

    To get this type of sequence, you add a ‘zero’ switch (as partially described here: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/insert-and-format-field-codes-HA010338798.aspx). Your field codes should look like this:

    { seq Step \r 1 \# 0000 }
    { seq Step \n \# 0000 }

    Note: There are spaces between ‘r’ and ’1′, between ’1′ and ‘\#’, between ‘n’ and ‘\#’, and between ‘#’ and ’0000′

    I couldn’t figure out a way to stop the sequence numbering at 5000.

    –Rhonda


  8. Hi Rhonda,

    I’m writing a requirements document and would like to number each requirement in increments of 10. For example:
    1.1.10
    1.1.20
    1.1.30
    ….and so on.

    Any idea how to accomplish this?

    Thanks for your help,

    Linc


  9. Short of doing it manually (!), Linc, I’d suggest you experiment with some of the number formatting switches for a field code, as described here: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/insert-and-format-field-codes-HA010338798.aspx#BM8.

    Also, see if there’s anything in my post about setting up multilevel list numbering that might help: http://cybertext.wordpress.com/2010/06/22/word-2007-taming-multilevel-list-numbering/.

    However, I think what you’re asking for can’t be done easily (at all?) in Word.

    –Rhonda


  10. I have a purchase order document that needs the po # updated everytime you go into the template. How do you do that? I have a text box that will accept the format but its not updating please advise.


  11. I have Word 2010, and I think I did what you said. But it only works for 1. and 2. “3]” becomes 3]. If I try n], it capitalizes and I just get N].

    In Word 2003, could start a numbering sequence by using autotext to insert a sequence field. If I selected the range of number and pressed F9, it would resequence. But no such luck with 2010.

    Bill


  12. Hi Bill

    I’ve just tested this in a blank Word 2010 document and it works fine. In the AutoCorrect section, I explain that you only have to set up TWO auto corrects — one for 1] (which resets the first number of a sequence to 1), and one for n] which is used to add ALL subsequent numbers (‘n’ represents any number other than 1).

    So, once you have those set up (following my instructions exactly), all you have to do to start a new sequence is type 1] for the first item in the list. For each other item, you just type n]. There’s no 2] or 3] involved at all — just 1] and n]. .

    Can I get you to try it again and see if it works?

    –Rhonda


  13. Rhonda–Thanks.

    Here’s what I get.

    1)

    N]

    Could that cap “N” throw it off?


  14. Hi Bill

    The fact that the AutoCorrect is putting in N] indicates that steps 7 to 10 of the ‘Create the AutoCorrect entries for the fields’ wasn’t done correctly. Unfortunately, this is computer-specific, so even if you sent me the document, I couldn’t check your AutoCorrect entries.

    What I suggest is that you open up your list of AutoCorrect entries and scroll down to n] to see what it’s correcting it to — it should be { SEQ Step \n….} etc.

    –Rhonda


  15. I went back and did it from scratch and it worked fine. I think I did something wrong in Autotext. Thanks. I bought you a giant cup of coffee.


  16. I’m pleased you got it to work, Bill. And thanks for the coffee!

    –Rhonda


  17. Hi Rhonda,

    I am helping someone create a technical document that contains 3 columns

    Col1 Col2 Col3
    1 [text] a [text] i [text]
    ii [text]

    b [text] i [text]

    2 [text] a [text] i [text
    b [text] i [text]
    ii [text]

    I want to be able to associate and sequence bullets across rows. Using the example above, I want Col1 #1 to associate to Col2 a and Col3 i and ii. Then when I advance to Col2 b, I want Col3 to become i

    Is there any way to set this up in Word?

    Thanks and I’d buy you a giant margarita if you can guide me on this one:)


  18. Hi Laura

    Phew! Not that I’m aware of. As far as I know, Word doesn’t number across tables, only down. And you’re adding a further layer of complexity by wanting sub-numbering going across too.

    I suggest you ask this one on the Microsoft Answers forum (http://answers.microsoft.com/) for Word, where one of the Word MVPs might have a solution.

    Of course, there’s always manual entry ;-)

    –Rhonda


  19. [...] the field code SEQ is the winning choice. SEQ is a sequence numbering code often used for things like figures or [...]


  20. Hi Rhonda
    Please answer Lorraine’s inquiry as I have the same one!
    Sequential numbers for PO’s…

    Thanks


  21. Hi Faisal

    I didn’t answer Lorraine’s query as I’ve never tried to do this sort of thing in a text box. I suspect it may not work — many other things don’t work in text boxes, such as spell check. Is it possible for you to put this number into a (borderless) table cell? The SEQ field should work then.

    Alternatively, I suggest you ask this one on the Microsoft Answers forum (http://answers.microsoft.com/) for Word, where one of the Word MVPs might have a solution.

    –Rhonda


  22. Rhonda, thank you for your great article! Is it possible to sequence two lists simultaneously? I want to have a list running for my Table and my Figure numbers.


  23. Hi Joshua

    I haven’t tried it, but you should be able to use a different identifier. The example above uses ‘Step’, but I don’t think that name is important — the important thing is that it’s a unique identifier, so I suspect ‘table’ or ‘fig’ could be substituted for ‘step’.

    Word already sequences table and figure numbering correctly, so is there a reason you don’t want to use the standard ‘insert caption’ functions for this numbering?

    –Rhonda


  24. Rhonda, Thank you for your amazingly quick and thorough reply! You are correct, Word does the Table and Figure numbering splendidly. I was trying to reference those numbers in the text, which I see is a function done quite well in Word using Cross Reference: ‘In Word 2007 and 2010: Display the References tab. In the Captions group, click on the Cross-reference button.’ Thanks again, Joshua.


  25. I’ve tried this for 1st, 2nd etc and it works perfectly. Does anyone know of a way to force the suffixes (st, nd, th, etc) into superscript automatically?


  26. This is terrific – thanks! I am so tired of Word’s standard numbering that gets so full of problems – especially when you have multiple number streams in one document. I will use it for Word 2010.


  27. Hi Rhonda

    Thank you very much. I learnt number seq from here and applied it on my transport booking pad and this save me hours of work. Now can you please show me how to do something like 120/12, then 120/13, 120/14 and so on with seq.

    Many thanks.


  28. Hi Nayana

    I haven’t tried this… But according to the Microsoft instructions about field switches (http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/insert-and-format-field-codes-HA010338798.aspx), you can add text to a field code. The text must be in single quote marks, and displays as a constant for the field. The examples on that web page show the text at the end of the field, but you could try it earlier in the field by testing putting ’120/’ in front of where the SEQ number will go.

    It might be worth a try.

    –Rhonda


  29. Close, but not quite what I’m looking for. I need the numbering to advance one number automatically when I open the document; so a unique sequential number can be referenced in the future. My auditors don’t want missing numbers for the voucher that I create. Does this make sense to you?



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