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Software

Add line numbers to a Word document

If asked to add line numbers to a Word document, would you say I'm sorry, Word can't do that? Many users would, and they'd be wrong.

It isn't often that we need to number lines in a Word document, but the need does arise occasionally. For instance, developers and programmers often display line numbers with code. Of course, you're not writing code in a Word document, but you might insert code into the middle of a technical document. If you do, you might just want to include line numbers for that code. Regardless of why you want line numbers, the surprising fact is that Word will comply and without much effort on your part.

The easy part is enabling the feature, as follows:

2003

2007/2010

  1. From the File menu, choose Page Setup.
  2. Click the Layout tab.
  3. Click Line Numbering (at the bottom).
  4. Check the Add Line Numbering option.
  5. Check the appropriate options.

  1. Click the Page Layout tab.
  2. In the Page Setup group, click Line Numbers.
  3. Choose the appropriate option, such as Continuous.

There's a little bit of version confusion, but it's a small obstacle. By default, Word 2003 begins numbering at the beginning of the document and restarts numbering with each new page and of course, you can change those settings. In Word 2007 and 2010, enabling the feature includes specifying how to number each new page or section. It's not so different, it only seems a bit different at first.

Once you add line numbers, you're not stuck with them, not strictly speaking any way. To suppress line numbering (in Word 2003) for a section of text, right-click the selected text and choose Paragraph from the resulting context menu. Click the Line and Page Breaks tab and check the Suppress Line Numbers option and click OK.

Similarly, Word 2007 and 2010 let you suppress specified areas. Simply select the paragraph(s) in question and choose Suppress For Current Paragraph from the Line Numbers option in the Page Setup group.

By default, the feature begins with 1 and increments by one. You can start with a different number and you can change the increment value. To do so, change the options via the Line Numbers dialog, as follows:

2003

2007/2010

  1. From the File men, choose Page Setup.
  2. Click the Layout tab.
  3. Click Line Numbering (at the bottom).

  1. Click the Page Layout tab.
  2. In the Page Setup group, click Line Numbers.
  3. Choose Line Numbering Options.

To change the first number, edit the Start At value. The From Text option lets you determine the space between the number and the text. By changing the Count By value, you can change the increment value. The Numbering options are self-explanatory—you can restart numbering at the beginning of each new page or each new section.

You might never need this feature, but if the need arises, you'll be able to say Yes! I can do that for you!

About

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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