Microsoft Word: How to cross-reference a sequence number

If you found this post, then you are getting into the more advanced areas of Word. Namely, creating sequences, presumably to form your own custom lists. Sequences are a simple yet powerful tool which allows you to create an automatically-incrementing sequence of digits. As a software professional, I use this feature a lot when creating ordered list of tests or requirements.

A sequence is a type of Field in Word.
To create one, you just click on the Insert menu, then Field...
Change the Categories value to Numbering, and select Seq in the Field Names box.
In the Field codes box, add a unique name, e.g. MySeq, after the word SEQ. Leave a space between SEQ and the sequence name.

You can also add options which control the way the sequence is displayed, but that is out of scope. A good site to look at is:

When creating a sequence you give it a name and I believe you can have an unlimited amount in your document. You often combine a prefix with the sequence, e.g. E1, R1, N1, to indicate which sequence is being used. Another common way to use them is to place the sequence field in a table cell, as a way of numbering each table row.

Anyway enough of the general stuff - amazingly, in Word (up to 2003, haven't checked in 2007) you cannot just go ahead and cross-refence a sequence. You would think this would be a normal feature, as it is a common task to want to reference a sequence number elsewhere. For example you may want to say "see requirement R37" and reference sequence number 37 in the Requirements sequence.

So the way you accomplish this is:

Go to each sequence value you want to reference.
Select the whole item, including the sequence number and any prefix/suffix.
Click on the Insert menu, then Bookmark...
Under Bookmark name, create a unique bookmark name, e.g. Req37.
Click Add.

You sequence value is now bookmarked.
Now you can reference it elsewhere:
Click on the place in your document where you want the cross-reference to be placed.
Click on the Insert menu, then Reference, then Cross-Reference...
Select Reference Type "Bookmark" and select "Bookmark text" in the "Insert reference to" list.
You will see your bookmark in the list. Click on it, then click on the Insert button.
You should see the sequence value inserted into your document.
Test it by Ctrl-clicking on the reference.

That's it! Hope that helps.


Anonymous said...

This helps! However, and for the life of me I do not know how, I was able to add a sequence I called refs to my drop down menu for cross-referencing. I did so in office 2003 and have not been able to replicate it since... this is a huge bother when I work on my thesis from other computers. Any ideas?

Anonymous said...

Sequences are created within INSERT > REFERENCES > CAPTION, in the window there should be a button : "New Label" or something like that (sorry I only got a french version of Word).

Once this is done, the new "label" is available in the refs drop down menu. However, I do not know where Word stores these "labels" and each time one changes computer, the labels do not exist on the new computer... Anyone knows how to export these captions within the .doc file ?

The idea of referencing a sequence with a bookmark might be a good work around solution, but I would have thought that Word had automatically a way of detecting the sequences as if one uses the INSERT CROSS REFERENCE, Word generates a REF field with a horrible reference field like _Ref195381270 without inserting a bookmark on the referenced sequence number. Anyone knows how to do this manually ?

Anonymous said...

I found the solution. The idea is to add a "bookmark" in the SEQ field that has to be referenced. Te SEQ field has a bookmark option detailed in the link provided in the above article.

And then one has to use a REF field to reference that bookmark.

Unknown said...

@3rd comment -

exactly right - you have to create a bookmark first, and then reference it. I have noticed that it helps to highlight a couple of characters when creating the bookmark otherwise it is hard to change later.

Also, if you go to the list of bookmarks, you can get Word to show you the locations by going to Insert -> Bookmark, choosing the bookmark and then pressing Go To (this is from Word 2007).

That's why it's good to make meaningful bookmark names - to be able to find them again! To be honest this feature could be much stronger, as it really is useful if you need to create a lot of internal links in your documents.

Thanks commenters! Great tips and info everyone!

Anonymous said...

Alternatively, whatever you name your sequence, you may go to caption, add, then create new label. Create a new label with the same name as your sequence and from then on, you can cross reference this new label type, which will match your sequence.


Unknown said...

Thanks for that tip. Very useful!

OK3 said...

If you have bookmarked some text, containing sequence field, you can reference it by adding a bookmark to a field code: { seq }, so it will show the bookmarked number.

But it will not be a hyperlink to a sequence item.

Unknown said...

Thanks OK3 - that's helpful!

Anonymous said...

No no no: don't use Sequences if you want to cross-reference; instead do this:
Use Insert Caption
Select New Label
Type the name; e.g. MyReference & OK
(Optionally tick Exclude label from caption - if you just want numbering)
Click OK.

Now when you go to Cross-reference there will be a new item in the list which you can select.

OK3 said...

It's just another way to insert sequence field.


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