Numbering document pages within sections using Microsoft Word

Correctly numbering pages within sections of large documents is important for reader navigation. Here's how to perform the task in Microsoft Word.

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Microsoft Word includes several features designed to ease the potential pain of formatting a lengthy document, including the seemingly mundane task of numbering pages. However, displaying the proper number on a page can be extremely important in large documents, especially if that page is referenced via a table of contents or an index, or is used in a footnote reference. Whether it is an academic work such as a dissertation, or a technical document such as a software design specification, correctly numbering pages is necessary for effective communication.


The process to display page number information based on the number of actual pages per section rather than actual pages in the entire document is relatively simple. However, Microsoft has chosen not to make the method as simple as clicking a button on a toolbar, which is all that is required for many other numbering schemes.

Set the section break

The first step is to break your document into sections. Place the cursor on the line where you want your next section to start and navigate to the Insert | Break menu to get the dialog box shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Section break

Under Section break types click the Next Page radio button and click the OK button.

Page numbering

Now you need to set the page numbers for each section to start at the number "1." This step is a little tricky—place the cursor at the beginning of each section and navigate the menu to View | Header and footer. The resulting screen will reveal the appropriate toolbar (See Figure B).

Figure B


Click on the Format page number button on the toolbar to get to the dialog box shown in Figure C. There are other ways to reach this dialog, but this way avoids several complications. Since page numbers are most often displayed in either a footer or header, this method serves two purposes. Besides setting the proper page number for a section, this method also brings you to the toolbar where headers and footers are defined.

Figure C

Format page numbers

After setting the page numbers as you want them, click the OK button to return to your document. You'll have to set the page numbers for each section in your document.

Displaying the pages

Now that everything is all set up, you can display the page numbers anywhere you feel it is appropriate. The header and footer toolbar from above has several default field code inserts you can use, but if you want to display "page X of Y" where "Y" is the number of pages in the particular section, you will have to do a little more work.

To get this format you have to enter this set of field codes in your document or in the header or footer areas:


The key to inserting field codes is that you do not just type in the curly brackets. The curly brackets are inserted by typing CTRL-F9, which will create an empty set of curly brackets that you then fill in with the appropriate codes. Take a look at Figure B for an example.

Next Steps: Build your skills with these hand-picked resources
>Fast Track: Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP
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>How to control the page numbering in a Word document
>Ins and outs of page numbering in Word
>Microsoft Office Online Word Homepage


Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to,, and TechRepublic.

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