10 steps to setting up page numbering in Word sections

If you've ever been outfoxed by Word's page numbering options in a multiple-section document, here's good news: Controlling how the pages in each section are numbered is actually pretty easy. Susan Harkins demystifies this Word feature.

According to Microsoft, a section is "a portion of a document in which you set certain page formatting options." It might help to think of sections as rooms in a house. They're all part of the same dwelling, but each room has its own purpose and décor. This autonomy lends flexibility, but it can lead to questions about numbering pages -- where do you start numbering, does each section start over with page 1, and so on. Fortunately, adding sections actually makes complex page numbering schemes easier, not more difficult.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Determine page numbering needs for each section

Before you can number anything, you have to discern what each section comprises. The results will be specific to each document. For instance, a book can have several elements, or sections: a title page, a table of contents, numerous chapters, and so on. Sections allow you to treat each of these elements as a single unit.

Once you identify the sections, you must decide how you want to number each one: Where is page 1, will each section begin with page 1, and so on.

2: Create the sections

Once you know what constitutes a section, you can get to work creating them. Creating a section is easy. For instance, Figure A shows a preview of a document with five elements: a title page, a table of contents, chapter 1, an appendix, and an index. Let's create a section break between the table of contents and the first page of chapter 1 as follows:

  1. Position the insertion point between the two elements. If there's a page break between them, it's often easier to insert the section break at the end of the preceding page. Click Show/Hide to display formatting marks, if necessary (in the Paragraph group on the Home tab in Word 2007 and 2010).
  2. From the Insert menu, choose Break and choose Next Page in the Section Break Types section, as shown in Figure B. In Word 2007 and 2010, click the Page Layout tab | Breaks in the Page Setup group | Next Page.
  3. Click OK.

Figure A

You can treat each of these elements as a section.

Figure B

Enter a section break.

3: Check for extra pages

If there's a page break between the two elements before you insert the section break, you'll end up with an extra page, as shown in Figure C. If this happens, just delete it. Work from the end of the preceding page so you're less likely to miss that extra page.

Figure C

Print Preview shows a new blank and unnecessary page between the table of contents and the first page of chapter 1.

This is one time when planning comes in handy. If you know you're going to divide the document into sections, insert section breaks instead of page breaks. On the other hand, it's easy to delete the extra pages.

4: Add a header or footer -- maybe

Most page numbers appear in a document's header or footer section (although that's not strictly necessary). To add a header, choose Header And Footer from the View menu. In Word 2007 and 2010, double-click above the top margin or click the Insert tab | Header (in the Header & Footer group) | Blank.

5: Enable page numbering

As mentioned, page numbering doesn't always begin with the first page. For instance, in the example book document, you might want to avoid page numbering until the first page of chapter 1. In this case, you'd select the first page of chapter 1 -- that's also the first page of section 2. Then, to enable page numbering for chapter 1 and beyond, you'd open the header (or footer, depending on where you want the page number to appear). On the Header And Footer toolbar (that Word launches when you open a header or footer), click Insert Page Number. In Word 2007 and 2010, click the Design context tab | Page Number (in the Header & Footer group) | Top of Page | Plain Number 1. (The last two options are preferential.)

As you can see in Figure D, Word displays the page number 3. That's because the current page is the third page in the document. At this point, page numbering still evaluates the entire document, even though you're currently working in a section. (Don't close the header or browse to another page.)

Figure D

By default, page number continuous from section to section.

6: Break the connection

As you just learned in the previous step, page numbering isn't autonomous in sections by default. You must break the connection between the two sections. To break the connection between the first and second sections, click Link To Previous on the Header And Footer toolbar. (If you closed the header in the last step, reopen it and Word will display the Header And Footer toolbar.) In Word 2007 and 2010, click the Design context tab | Link To Previous (in the Navigation group).

The page number is still 3, but don't worry.

7: Reset page numbering

Breaking the connection isn't enough; you must also reset the page numbering option, as follows:

  1. On the Header And Footer toolbar, click Format Page Number. In Word 2007 and 2010, click the Design context tab | Page Number (in the Header & Footer group) | Format Page Number.
  2. n the resulting dialog box, select the Start At option in the Page Number section. Enter 1, as shown in Figure E.
  3. Click OK. As you can see in Figure F, the page number is now 1, even though this page is actually the third page in the document.

Figure E

Reset page number for the current section.

Figure F

After resetting the section's page number, the first page of the section is 1.

8: Disable page numbering for the title page

Chapter 1 begins with the page number 1 -- that's good. But the first two pages of the document, the title page and table of contents page, still display page numbers 1 and 2, respectively. Fortunately, you can easily inhibit this legacy numbering as follows:

  1. Go to the first page and open the header (if necessary).
  2. Highlight the page number.
  3. Press Delete.

Notice that deleting the page number field on page 1 also deletes the page number field on page 2. That's because these two pages are both part of the same section.

9: Number the appendix

If you check the appendix page (page 4 in the document), you'll see that it displays the page number 2. Similarly, the last page, the index, displays the number 3. As far as Word is concerned, the appendix and index pages are part of the second section, which begins with chapter 1. Right now, there's only one section break in the document.

There's an easy fix for this situation. Simply add a section break after the chapter 1 section. Position the insertion point at the end of the chapter and repeat the steps in #2. Unlike before, you don't have to break the connection and reset the page number, because you changed those default settings earlier.

10: Number the index

You'll probably want the index page to have its own page numbering, similar to the chapter and appendix section. The easy answer is to make a section for the index by repeating the process in #9. Position the insertion point at the end of the appendix and insert a section break.


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.


Hi Thanks for the post.

I have 3 sections. Section 1 no page count or numbering.

Section 2 page in portrait with  page count and numbering.

Section 3 page in landscape page count and numbering must continue.

I cant use page x of y where y is section count and I can not use page count.

Any suggestions.




Hi, thanks for the post.

I have 3 sections. Section 1 is title page and Table of contents.

Section 2 is pages in portrait and section three pages in landscape.

The headers and footer differ in that they are bigger.

When I do page X of Y how do I link the two section page count together? 

Cant use page count, Ill get all the pages and cant use section count only get the ones for the second wnd then 3rd section.

Thanks for the help.


I frequently print forms.  Usually I get the form up;  then go to print command and ask it for say 20 copies.

My boss wants each form printed to have a unique, sequential number...
Word perfect (which I used to use) makes it easy.  Is there any way to get MS-word-2010 to perform this function.


Hello, I'm formatting a document and I'm kind of locked into how it must look. I inserted section breaks in order to populate the Table of Contents, and I need a footer that reflects each section, but page numbers that are continuous. I can't seem to get figure out how to do this, without numbering each page myself. And if I number or add the footer titles myself page by page, will that allow future worker drones the ability to insert new sections? And yes, I must have a footer of the section title and the page number at the bottom of the page. Thank you in advance!


Thank you for this post. One question please... I have a 3 section document. The 1st has no page number; the 2nd is lower Roman (i, ii, etc). The 3rd section is arabic numerals (1,2,3). For the third section I would like display the page number as "Page x of y" where "y" is the number of pages in the third section. "y" is currently displaying as the total number of the document (field NumPages). Do I have the ability to do what I want to?


Funny that we both had the same problem in November 2012... Anyways, I found a solution for Word 2007. 1. Go through the motions listed in this article (create sections, unlink, restart numbering) 2. Create the format you need (e.g. "x of y" or "Page x of y"...) 3. For each section's "y", highlight the y, right click, select "edit field" 4. In the "Field names" choice column (left side of dialog box), change the selection from "NumPages" to SectionPages". Cheers!