Hi, if you want free updates from my blog, you can enter your email address here.

Reader Question – Update Cross-Reference Footnote Numbers in Word

I recently received a great question from a reader, Dani. I’m guessing she read my post on using Word cross-references, since that’s the topic of her question. Here’s what she asked:

When I use the cross-referencing feature in footnotes, the notes do not automatically update. They seem to ‘know’ that the corresponding fn number has been changed (when I control + click on the cross-referenced footnote, it takes me to the correct footnote), but it continues to call it by the old number. Any advice?

The problem for Dani was that Word does not automatically update the value of linked fields. It knows that footnotes have moved, but it doesn’t display the new number, until you tell it to.

You can update linked fields by selecting them and then pressing F9. You can also select all (by using CTRL+A) and press F9 to update all your fields. However, Dani discovered that footnotes will only update using this method if you first put the cursor in the footnotes area. Then pressing CTRL+A and F9 will update everything. Odd, but it works.

Also, you can tell Word to automatically update fields before printing. Here’s how:

  • On the Tools menu, click Options, and then click the Print tab.
  • Under Printing options, do one of the following:
    • To update fields, select the Update fields check box.
    • To update linked information, select the Update links check box.

I hope this info helps out some other people as well. Cross-references are a great feature in Word, but they’re a pain sometimes.

Also, never hesitate to contact me with any question, problem, or idea. I love to be in touch with you awesome readers; that’s one of the joys of blogging. Feel free to post a comment or drop me a line.

[tags]legal andrew, cross-reference, word, microsoft word[/tags]

Get more legal tips

Sign-up below to receive my bi-monthly email newsletter with free legal tips. All fields are required.

See also...


9 Responses to “Reader Question – Update Cross-Reference Footnote Numbers in Word”

  1. [...] UPDATE – 1-27-2007 – Dani wrote in, asking about updating her linked footnote numbers. I tried to help, but she really solved the problem herself, discovering a weird Word “feature” in the process. Read about it here: Reader Question – Update Cross-Reference Footnote Numbers in Word [...]

  2. Tegwynn
    January 8th, 2008

    Hi, I am also having trouble with the footnotes in word – along research paper. I need to add an additional note, but when I do so it adds it as a footnote but will only start from no. 1; it is as if it doesn’t recognise the rest of the footnotes at all as all their numbeers stay the same – so I end up with 1,2,1,3,4…etc. Any suggesttions?

  3. Andrew Flusche
    January 8th, 2008


    This is an odd problem. But Word is full of them!

    Have you tried using the footnote update trick in the post above? Another thing to try is copying a portion of your text into another document and adding the footnote there. Perhaps something in your original document is corrupted.

    Best of luck!

  4. Adele
    May 9th, 2008

    Thank you!!! You saved my law school paper (due in a couple hours, with a bunch of supra/infra cross references that weren’t updating with the internal cross reference feature). On my computer, selecting all (manually or with the Control-A feature) didn’t work, but I just quickly highlighted each one individually and did F9.

  5. Grant Owens
    June 3rd, 2008

    I have exactly what Dani describes and F9 does not work for me. Not per field, not for the whole document selected.

  6. Andrew Flusche
    June 5th, 2008

    @Grant – I’m sorry, but I have no clue what else to do. You could try the Office Expert Forums for more help.

  7. Jenny
    June 11th, 2008

    Hi Andrew – Microsoft should pay you – your advice has been a lifesaver in my PhD which is now over 500 pages and > 21 Mb – Thanks.

  8. Guillermo Hernandez
    July 3rd, 2009

    I had a similar problem with reference from footers and headers, and I figure out that when you select PRINT PREVIEW, word automatically updates all the reference.

    I hope this helps someone else.



  9. Andrew
    July 11th, 2009

    Another way of doing this is to customize your formatting toolbar (CTRL click and look for command “Update Field”. Then whenever you need to update your footnote cross references, click in any footnote, ctrl-a then hit the new button in your formatting bar to update all cross references

    Hope this helps. Best solution I can offer and works for me.

Comments are automatically closed on older posts.

  • Legal tips by email

    Sign-up below to get email tips and exclusive discounts on videos, webinars, and future items.

    All fields are required.

  • Receive updates

    By email
    By rss (full feed)
  • About Andrew Flusche

    Lawyer, bicyclist, husband.
    More about me...
    Tumble Log
    View Andrew Flusche's profile on LinkedIn
    Andrew Flusche's Facebook Profile
  • Popular Posts