Office solution: How to continue numbering from one table column to another

This week, learn the solution to the challenge: Can you continue numbering by column? Hint: It's not intuitive.

Last week, I asked you for a solution that forces columnar numbering in a Word table. Word numbers by row first, as shown below; it numbers the first two cells in the first row before dropping down to the next row to continue numbering.

Jobermeyer1960 was the first to share the technique I ended up using:

  1. Highlight the first column (only one column) and click the Numbering option in the Font group on the Home tab (on the Formatting toolbar in Word 2003). Word will number the items in columnar order.
  2. Click the second column and click the Numbering option. Word will assign the same set of numbers to the second column.
  3. Right-click the number in the first row of the second column and choose Set Numbering Value.
  4. In the resulting dialog, click the Continue From Previous List option and then check the Advance Value option and enter the next number in the sequence. In this example, the last number in the previous column is 3, so enter 4, and click OK.

This route will get you the results you want, but it isn't dynamic. Number the columns when the table is completely done to avoid resetting options. It seems a bit counter-intuitive to me and I can't help but think there's a better solution than this clunky one.

Most of you seemed to miss the requirement that you had to number down the column and then continue numbering with the first cell in the second column-in snaking fashion. I apologize if I didn't make that request clear! Thanks for another great challenge everyone!


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.


Select the entire table using the Table Select tool then click the Numbering command. Word will number down the first column, then go to the next, and so on, using the correct numbering sequence. If you wish to add another item in any column, click at the end of the previous item in the column, press Enter and the new line will be correctly numbered.


I missed the original discussion so I will throw a suggestion in now. If you create two tables with one column each, one above the other, Select them both and insert numbering. Then add a second column to the bottom table. Move the bottom table up to the right of the top table. To align them adjust the table propeties of the left table to "Allow overlap" and horizntal positioning to a margin distance from the edge of the page and vertical positioning to 0 cm from the paragraph. For the second table adjust to "Allow overlap" and horizontal positioning to the margin plus the width of the first table and the vertical positioning to 0 cm from the paragraph. it will now look like you have only one table with three columns. This is more work to setup but if you expect to add or remove rows it may be worth it since you just add the same number of rows to each table and the numbering takes care of itself.

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