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Office Q&A: Word page numbering and Excel's Find feature

The latest crop of reader-submitted Office problems involve page numbering in Word and finding values in an Excel worksheet.

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This month, I help two readers with interesting problems. The solutions are easy to implement but not necessarily easy to figure out unless you know where to look. John wants to reset page numbers in each section of a Word document. Stanley needs help with an Excel Find task that can't locate existing data. In both cases, the solution was simple, but not readily apparent.

I'm using Office 2016 desktop apps on a Windows 10 64-bit system. For your convenience, you can download the Word .docx demonstration file. There are no instructions for earlier versions, but both solutions are compatible and you should have no problem applying them.

Reset Word page numbers

John is working with a multi-section document that has a page number field in the header. He doesn't want the field to count the first page in each section. Rather, the physical page 2 in each section should display the page number 1. Because the document already exists, the quickest way to get this result is to use the Page Number Format Start At option. The most important thing to understand is that what works for John might not work in another document.

To keep things simple and still have enough going on that you can see the differences from one page to another and one section to another, the example document has four pages and two sections. It's difficult to see in Figure A, so you'll have to take my word for it. There's a Next Page page break at the end of the first section on page 2. You can add a similar page break to a document as follows:

  1. Position the cursor at the end of the last page of section 1.
  2. Click the Layout tab.
  3. From the Breaks dropdown in the Page Setup group, choose Next Page (Figure B).
  4. To see the page break code (Figure C), click Show/Hide in the Paragraph group on the Home tab. You can work with or without these codes showing, but in this case the visible codes are helpful.

Figure A

Figure A

This example document has four pages and two sections—two pages per section.

Figure B

Figure B

Insert a page break.

Figure C

Figure C

It helps to display formatting codes.

The next step is to enter a page number field as follows:

  1. If your sections are connected, open a header by double-clicking the white space above the text.
  2. Click Page Number in the Header & Footer group (on the contextual Design tab).
  3. Choose a position (Figure D) to display the current page number in the header. At this point, the document numbers the pages as expected: 1 through 4.

Figure D

Figure D

Choose a position option.

Next, we'll inhibit page numbering for the first page in each section:

  1. Select page 1 in section 1.
  2. Open the header section (if necessary) and check the Different First Page option in the Options group and the page number for the first page will disappear.
  3. Our last step is to reset the remaining numbers in that section to exclude page one from the count:
  4. From the Page Number dropdown choose Format Page Numbers in the Header & Footer group.
  5. In the resulting dialog, click the Start At option and enter the value 0 (Figure E).
  6. Click OK. As you can see in Figure F, the page number isn't visible on page 1 and page 2's page number is 1.

Figure E

20160505.jpg

Inhibit the header for the first page and reset the Start At option so the count ignores the first page.

Figure F

Figure F

Section 1 has the right page-numbering scheme.

Repeat this process at the first and second page of each section. Figure G shows all four pages. Again, the figure is small, but take my word for it. The first page in each section displays no page number; the second page in each section displays the number 1, regardless of its actual position within the document as a whole.

Figure G

Figure G

Figure G

The first page in each section displays no page number.

Remember, a working document might have other page numbering and section properties that conflict with this simple solution. In this example the sections are linked, so we don't lose anything by disabling the header for page one. That won't always be the case.

Fortunately, this isn't the only way to accomplish this configuration. It is a good study of how sections work with the Start At option. Sections allow you to duplicate the same numbers from section to section.

If you're using Word Online, you can insert a page number into a header or footer and you can define a different header for the first page, but it won't be visible in all online views. You can't insert section breaks or format the page number to reset the starting value. If you have a 365 subscription, choose to edit in Word, not Word Online.

To learn more about page numbering in Word, read the following articles:

Find values in Excel

Stanley is experiencing intermittent problems finding values he knows exist in an Excel workbook. The two simplest reasons follow:

  • He's searching the wrong sheet.
  • The search string isn't an exact match.

There could be other problems, but these are the most frequent, so that's where I advised Stanley to start troubleshooting.

Now, let's look at both possible errors, beginning with the wrong sheet error. Suppose you're working in Sheet2 and you want to find the search string Susan. You press [Ctrl]+F, enter the search string, and click Find Next. Excel might return the error shown in Figure H if you're searching the sheet instead of the entire workbook and your search value isn't in the current sheet.

Figure H

Figure H

An easy search task returns an unexpected error.

If you click Options (shown in the above figure), you can quickly see that Excel is searching only the current sheet. If you change the Within option to Workbook, Excel finds the search string, even though it isn't on the active sheet, Sheet2.

A second common pitfall is to mismatch search strings. Can you find the error in Figure I? Probably not, so I'll tell you: There's a space character at the end of the search string. If you delete the space character, Excel finds the value. This can happen with a space character at either end of the search string. It can also happen if the sheet-level value has an extra space and the Match Entire Cell Contents option is enabled.

Figure I

Figure I

The search string must match the actual value.

In Stanley's case, though, it was neither of these problems. Once he opened the options and looked at the settings, he discovered the feature was searching for the search string in formulas and not values. These settings allow for flexibility, but they can cause confusion and frustration if you don't realize they exist and that you might need to fine-tune them a bit to get the expected results.

Send me your question about Office

I answer readers' questions when I can, but there's no guarantee. Don't send files unless requested; initial requests for help that arrive with attached files will be deleted unread. When contacting me, be as specific as possible. For example, "Please troubleshoot my workbook and fix what's wrong" probably won't get a response, but "Can you tell me why this formula isn't returning the expected results?" might. Please mention the app and version that you're using. I'm not reimbursed by TechRepublic for my time or expertise when helping readers, nor do I ask for a fee from readers I help. You can contact me at susansalesharkins@gmail.com.

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About Susan Harkins

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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