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Tech Tips

How to Master Page Numbers in Microsoft Word

By Danielle DavisRoe

In this new tips series, the legal technology training experts at Affinity Consulting Group offer straightforward answers to common questions about popular software programs used in law offices.

Regularly find yourself wrestling with Microsoft Word’s page-numbering feature?

You’re not alone. The following tips show you how to add, customize and manipulate page numbers in your Word documents like a pro.

microsort word text book

Adding Page Numbers in MS Word

There are two ways to add page numbers: 1) adding it to the top or bottom of the page, or 2) inserting it in the current position. Both options are available from the Insert ribbon > Page Number button or the Header/Footer Tools ribbon > Page Number button.

While the first method may seem easier, there are significant problems with it. First, Word adds an unnecessary, extra hard return after the page number, which you’re going to have to delete. Second (and most importantly), anything that was previously typed in the footer or header will be deleted. You will have to re-create that content. This is typically a problem for document IDs, file paths, initial blocks, document titles and letterhead.

To add a page number using the second (recommended) method above:

  1. Open the header/footer: For the footer, click on Insert ribbon > Header & Footer group > Footer button > Edit Footer. For the header, click on Insert ribbon > Header & Footer group > Header button > Edit Header.
  2. Click in the desired location: Put your cursor where you’d like to insert the page number in the header/footer.
  3. Insert the page number: On the ribbon, click on the Header & Footer ribbon > Header & Footer group > Page Number button > Current Position > Plain Number.

Adding the Total Number of Pages

When using the recommended method above to insert a page number, you need to add the total page count (if desired) separately:

  1. Open the header/footer: For the footer, click on Insert ribbon > Header & Footer group > Footer button > Edit Footer. For the header, click on Insert ribbon > Header & Footer group > Header button > Edit Header.
  2. Click in the desired location: Put your cursor where you’d like to insert the total number of pages in the header/footer.
  3. Insert the field code: Click on Headers & Footers ribbon > Insert group > Quick Parts button > Field button.
    • Set Categories to All.
    • Under Field names, select NumPages.
    • Change the Field Properties as desired.
    • Skipping Numbering on the First Page

To skip numbering on the first page of your document, you need to enable the Different First Page Footer:

  1. Open the header/footer: For the footer, click on Insert ribbon > Header & Footer group > Footer button > Edit Footer. For the header, click on Insert ribbon > Header & Footer group > Header button > Edit Header.
  2. Turn on Different First Page Footer: Header and Footer ribbon > Options group > check the Different First Page box.

Page Numbers and Section Breaks

Sometimes you need to change page numbering in the middle of your document (start over, stop page numbering, start page numbering, change page number style, etc.). To do so, you need to break up your document into multiple sections using section breaks. Section breaks can be inserted from the Layout ribbon > Page Setup group > Breaks button > Section Breaks group > Next Page.

Change Page Numbering for New Sections

You need a section break every time you need to change page numbering. However, once you’ve inserted the section break, you also need to cut the link between your multiple headers/footers. Each section has its own set of headers and footers. A section’s headers or footers can be the same or different from the preceding section. By default, Word automatically links every header and footer to the one in the section before it. So, whenever you make a change in one section, the change is automatically made in every linked header and footer. To cut the link:

  1. Open the header/footer: For the footer, click on Insert ribbon > Header & Footer group > Footer button > Edit Footer. For the header, click on Insert ribbon > Header & Footer group > Header button > Edit Header.
  2. Cut the link: Toggle off the Headers & Footers ribbon > Navigation group > Link to Previous.

You must repeat for every section where you need to make a change in the header and footer. You will also need to separately cut the link for each header and footer within a section, including different first page headers and footers.

Add the Total Number of Pages in a Section

If your document uses section breaks, you may want to add the total number of pages in that section, rather than the total number in the whole document. For example, if your document includes exhibits that are numbered separately or not numbered at all, the body may need to include the total number of pages in the body (rather than the whole document).

  1. Open the header/footer: For the footer, click on Insert ribbon > Header & Footer group > Footer button > Edit Footer. For the header, click on Insert ribbon > Header & Footer group > Header button > Edit Header.
  2. Click in the desired location: Put your cursor where you’d like to insert the page number in the header/footer.
  3. Insert the field code: Click on Headers & Footers ribbon > Insert group > Quick Parts button > Field button.
    • Set Categories to All.
    • Under Field names, select SectionPages.
    • Change the Field Properties as desired.

Get All the Microsoft Word Tips

These tips are from the Affinity Consulting Group book “Microsoft Word for Legal Professionals.” Written specifically for lawyers and legal professionals, the book is an easy read, full of numbered steps and screen illustrations. It represents a 21-year compilation of how to tackle just about every Word issue encountered by Affinity Consulting Group in a legal environment, as well as legal word processing tips, tricks and little-known techniques. Download your copy of the book in the Attorney at Work bookstore, or opt for a license for all your attorneys. A version for Mac users is available as well: “Word for Mac for Legal Professionals” — 2019 and Office 365.

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Danielle Danielle DavisRoe

Danielle DavisRoe is a senior consultant with Affinity Consulting Group’s legal document automation team (@affinitylegal). Whether it’s teaching clients a new skill, writing a macro to automate a complicated task, fixing a document that doesn’t work properly, or automating a complex set of documents, Danielle is 100% focused on making the lives of her clients better. She has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business and a Juris Doctorate from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

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