Insert and Manage Dynamic Cross-Reference Fields in Microsoft Word

by Avantix Learning Team | Updated July 25, 2020

Applies to: Microsoft® Word® 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019 or 365 (Windows)

In Microsoft Word, you can insert a cross-reference to content in another part of your Word document and then update it if the target of the cross-reference changes. A cross-reference can refer to a heading, bookmark, the caption of a table or figure as well as other target items. Since a cross-reference is a field, it can be updated and formatted manually, using styles or using switches in the field.

Recommended article: How to Keep Text Together in Microsoft Word

The information inserted by a cross-reference field can be text, a page number, a section number, a paragraph number, a caption number, a caption label or a combination of items. The cross-reference field is a code so it can also include special information in the code (called a switch) that make the field act or appear in a specific way. For example, a cross-reference field may act as a hyperlink so you can jump directly to the target of the cross-reference by Ctrl-clicking the field.

It’s easiest to create cross-references to built-in heading styles but they can also be used with bookmarks, footnotes or endnotes.

For example, you could insert a cross-reference to a built-in heading style as follows:

See Section 4: About Our Services on page 5.

In this case, the cross-reference refers to a style’s paragraph number, paragraph text and a page number so you would need to insert three separate cross-references and type some of the text (like the word See) as well as appropriate spacing.

Inserting a cross-reference to a built-in heading

It’s common to create a cross-reference to a built-in heading in Microsoft Word.

To insert a cross-reference to a built-in heading in the current document:

  1. Position the cursor where you want to insert your cross-reference.
  2. Type text that you want to precede the cross-reference (such as See) and any necessary spacing.
  3. Click the References tab in the Ribbon.
  4. In the Captions group, click Cross-reference. A dialog box appears.
  5. In the Reference type drop-down menu, select Heading.
  6. In the Reference to drop-down menu, select Heading text, Page number, Heading number, Heading number (no content) or Heading number (full content).
  7. In the For which heading list, click the item you want to reference.
  8. Ensure Insert as hyperlink is selected If you want to be able to Ctrl-click the cross-reference to jump to the referenced item.
  9. Click Insert. Word inserts an invisible bookmark to the target.
  10. Repeat for other items you want to include in the cross-reference. The dialog box can remain open.
  11. Click Close.

In the following example, note that Heading has been selected as the Reference type in the Cross-reference dialog box:

Insert cross-reference dialog box in Microsoft Word to a built-in heading.

In the Cross-reference dialog box, the Separate numbers with and Include above/below check boxes are enabled under some conditions.

All paragraphs that are formatted with one of the built-in heading styles (Heading 1-9) are automatically shown in the dialog box. Although you can use outline levels, it’s best to use the built-in heading styles (these appear in the Home tab in the Ribbon in the Styles group and in other areas in Word).

Inserting a cross-reference to a bookmark

You can also insert a bookmark and then insert a cross-reference to the bookmark.

To insert a cross-reference to a bookmark in the current document:

  1. Position the cursor where you want to insert a bookmark.
  2. Click the Insert tab in the Ribbon.
  3. Click Bookmark in the Links group. A dialog box appears.
  4. Type a name for the bookmark without spaces.
  5. Click Add.
  6. Click where you want to insert the cross-reference to the bookmark.
  7. Type text that you want to precede the cross-reference (such as See) and any necessary spacing.
  8. Click the References tab in the Ribbon.
  9. In the Captions group, click Cross-reference. A dialog box appears.
  10. In the Reference type drop-down menu, select Bookmark.
  11. In the Reference to drop-down menu, select Bookmark text, Page number or one of the other options as required.
  12. In the For which heading list, click the item you want to reference.
  13. Ensure Insert as hyperlink is selected If you want to be able to Ctrl-click the cross-reference to jump to the referenced item.
  14. Click Insert.
  15. Repeat for other items you want to include in the cross-reference. The dialog box can remain open.
  16. Click Close.

The following is an example of a bookmark created in the Bookmark dialog box:

Insert bookmark dialog box in Microsoft Word.

Inserting a cross-reference to a table or figure

You can cross-reference tables and figures in Word if you have inserted captions using Insert Caption on the References tab in the Ribbon.

To insert a cross-reference to a table or figure in the current document:

  1. Click where you want to insert the cross-reference to the table or figure (which has already been captioned).
  2. Type text that you want to precede the cross-reference (such as See) and any necessary spacing.
  3. Click the References tab in the Ribbon.
  4. In the Captions group, click Cross-reference. A dialog box appears.
  5. In the Reference type drop-down menu, select Table or Figure.
  6. In the Reference to drop-down menu, select the required option – Entire caption (which includes the figure caption or table title with the label and number), Only label and number (such as Table 10), Only caption text (which includes the figure caption or table title without the label and number), Page number or Above/below (which inserts the word above or below with no additional text related to the table or figure).
  7. In the For which heading list, click the table or figure you want to reference.
  8. Ensure Insert as hyperlink is selected If you want to be able to Ctrl-click the cross-reference to jump to the referenced item.
  9. Click Insert.
  10. Repeat for other items you want to include in the cross-reference. The dialog box can remain open.
  11. Click Close.

In the following example, note that Table has been selected as the Reference type in the Cross-reference dialog box:

Insert cross-reference dialog box in Microsoft Word to table.

Showing or hiding field codes

Cross-references are fields. Normally, the result of a field is displayed but you can also view the field codes.

To show or hide all field codes in your document, press Alt + F9.

The following is an example of a field code:

{ REF _Ref46507086 \h }

Understanding cross-reference field codes

When you insert a cross-reference, a field code will be inserted based on what the reference refers to.

There are three types of cross-reference fields in Word – PAGEREF, NOTEREF and REF. The first part of the field code of a cross-reference field indicates which type of field it is.

A cross-reference field that refers to the page on which the target is found is a PAGEREF type. When you select Page number as the Reference to insert in the Cross-reference dialog box, the inserted cross-reference field will be PAGEREF.

A cross-reference field with a footnote or an endnote as the target will be the NOTEREF type.

All other cross-reference fields will be the REF type.

Part of the field code inside a cross-reference field refers to a bookmark that points to the target. A bookmark in Word is a named location or a named block of text or other content in a document.

If you refer to a built-in heading style in a cross-reference, Word automatically adds a bookmark around the heading text at the beginning and the end (excluding the paragraph mark) if a bookmark is not already found. The name of the bookmark is included in the field code of the cross-reference field. Bookmarks that are automatically added are named _Ref followed by eight or nine digits.

If you are inserting a cross-reference to a caption, a bookmark will also be added to enclose the part of the caption content to be displayed by the cross-reference field. The bookmark will include different parts of the caption depending on the kind of caption reference you select (such as the entire caption or only the label and number).

The following is an example of a cross-reference for a REF field:

{ REF _Ref449977221 \p \h \d”.”\* CHARFORMAT }

The syntax for REF fields is:

{ REF Bookmark [\* Format Switch ] [Switches ] }

Switches are optional.

The underscore at the start of the bookmark name means that the bookmark is being treated as a hidden bookmark in Word. You cannot add hidden bookmarks manually.

Hidden bookmarks are invisible in the document even if you turn on display of bookmarks. You can view invisible bookmarks in the Bookmarks dialog box, but you must turn on Hidden bookmarks to display them.

Formatting cross-references

Cross-references can be formatted manually, using styles or using switches in the field code. A switch holds special information that causes the field to act or appear in a specific way.

One easy way to format a cross-reference is by using a character style such as Emphasis or Intense Emphasis.

To apply the Emphasis, Intense Emphasis or Intense Reference character style to a cross-reference:

  1. Select the cross-reference as well as any surrounding text that refers to it.
  2. Click the Home tab in the Ribbon.
  3. Click the More down arrow in the Style gallery in the Styles group.
  4. Click Emphasis, Intense Emphasis or Intense Reference.

The benefit of this method is that you can later modify the style or find and replace the style with a different style.

In a future article, we’ll take a look at more advanced formatting techniques for cross-references.

Updating cross-references

If a document has been edited, you will likely need to update the cross-references since cross-references do not update automatically.

It is important that the markers that are added at the beginning and end of the target of a cross-reference are not deleted or moved during editing. If they are, you will need to reinsert the cross-reference because you will receive an error when you update.

You can update cross-references manually by pressing Ctrl + A to select all and then pressing F9.

Cross-references will also be updated when you switch to Print Preview or when you print (if the Word option Update fields before printing is turned on).

To ensure that fields are updated before printing:

  1. Click the File tab in the Ribbon.
  2. Click Options.
  3. Select Display in the categories on the left.
  4. In Printing options, select Update fields before printing.
  5. Click OK.

Be sure to check after update to see if there are any errors in your cross-references.

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Summary
How to Insert, Format and Update Cross-References in Word
Article Name
How to Insert, Format and Update Cross-References in Word
Description
In Microsoft Word, you can insert a cross-reference to content in another part of your Word document and then update it if the target of the cross-reference changes. A cross-reference can refer to a heading, bookmark, the caption of a table or figure as well as other target items.
Author
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Avantix Learning

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