Numbering Front Matter (Ribbon)

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How to set up a document with front matter numbered separately in Word 2007 and above

Important Note: This article is for versions of Word that use the Ribbon, that is, Word 2007 and above, including Word in Office 365. For instructions for numbering front matter in previous versions, see  “How to set up a document with front matter numbered separately in Word 2003 and earlier.”

Word users often ask, “How can I set up a document that has the title page, table of contents, and so on numbered with roman numerals and the rest of the document with arabic numerals starting at 1?”

Publishers call the preliminary pages in a book the “front matter.” They aren’t always numbered separately — some books start with the title page as page 1 and are paginated continuously throughout — but when there is a significant amount of front matter, it’s conventional to number it using lowercase roman numerals.

This is quite easy to do but not obvious, especially if you are inexperienced in using sections. Bill Coan’s article on “How to control the page numbering in a Word document” is a splendid reference on the general subject of page numbering. What follow are specific instructions for setting up the type of document described above.

Step 1: Separate the main document from the front matter

The first thing you have to do is create two sections in the document by inserting a section break.

  1. If you have a manual page break (Ctrl+Enter) between the front matter and the main document, remove it.

  2. With the insertion point at the beginning of the page you want to be page 1 of the main book (that is, at the beginning of the first paragraph on the page), click
    Page Layout | Page Setup | Breaks | Section Breaks: Odd Page
    as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. The Breaks gallery in Word 2010.

  1. If you have opted to display the section on the status bar (right-click the status bar and choose “Section”), you will see that it now says “Section: 2.”

Step 2: Insert page numbering in the main document

The next step is to insert the 1, 2, 3 numbering in the main part of the document.

  1. Double-click in the header (or footer) area to activate it. The contextual Header & Footer Tools | Design tab (Figure 2) will be displayed.

Figure 2. The Header & Footer Tools | Design tab in (from top) Word 2007, 2010, and 2013

  1. Place the insertion point where you want to insert the page number.

If a page number is all you need in the header/footer, you can use paragraph alignment (Left, Right, or Center) to position the number.

If your header/footer will contain other text (such as a running head), you can use the built-in tab stops (a center one at the center of the line and a right-aligned one at the right margin) to position text and page numbers. If you have changed the document margins, you may need to reposition these tab stops. By default, however, these tab stops are alignment tabs, which will readjust automatically as the margins change.

  1. In the Header & Footer group, click Page Number and then Current Position (Figure 3). Select the desired page number style from the gallery. If all you want is a Plain Number, you can avoid the page number gallery entirely by pressing Alt+Shift+P where you want the page number to appear. This shortcut inserts a PAGE field anywhere in your document.

Figure 3. The Page Number menu.

  1. Click Page Number again, then Format Page Numbers…

  2. In the Page Number Format dialog (Figure 4), change the Page numbering setting from “Continue from previous section” to “Start at 1,” and click OK.

Figure 4. The Page Number Format dialog.

  1. If you will want a different position for the page numbers in the front matter (or if you want to omit page numbers for the front matter section), click the Link to Previous button in the Navigation section to turn it off. Although it is not necessary to unlink headers and footers to restart numbering or change the number format, you do have to unlink them in order to make a header or footer different or to leave it blank. For more on this (and headers and footers generally) see “Making the most of headers and footers.”

Step 3: Insert page numbering in the front matter

Now you will insert your i, ii, iii numbering in the front matter.

  1. In the Navigation group on the Header & Footer Tools | Design tab, click Previous Section.

  2. Use Header & Footer | Page Number | Format Page Numbers… to open the Format Page Number dialog (Figure 4) and change the Number format from  “1, 2, 3,” to “i, ii, iii.” Click OK.

  3. If you have unlinked this section from the following one, you will have to insert and position your page number as in Step 2. If not, you will already have a page number in the same position but now with a different format (roman numerals).

  4. You may want to format the page number as italic; this is a nice touch for roman numerals.

  5. To return to your document, click the red Close Header and Footer button (in the Close group on the far right end of the Ribbon) or double-click in the document area.

Step 4: Fine-tuning number placement

At this point you may be saying, “But now I have the number i on my title page. I don’t want a number to appear on my title page.” Or perhaps you want page numbers to appear in the header most of the time but in the footer on the first page of each chapter. No problem!

Numbering the front matter

  1. With the insertion point in Section 1, double-click in the header or footer area again.

  2. In the Options group on the Header & Footer Tools | Design tab (see Figure 2), check the box for “Different First Page.”

  3. You’ll see that you now have a separate First Page Header and First Page Footer. You can leave them empty, and there will be no page number on the first page.

Numbering the main document

As you’ve just seen, checking “Different First Page” allows you to have two different headers and footers in a section. In fact, you can actually have three: if you check the box for “Different Odd and Even” you’ll have an Odd Page Header/Footer and Even Page Header/Footer in place of the simple Header/Footer. Here’s how you can use these features.

  1. If you choose “Different First Page” in your main document, then you can put a page number in the First Page Footer and in the default Header (which appears on every page of a section except the first).

  2. If you also choose “Different Odd and Even,” you can put the page number on the outside of the page, that is, on the left side of the Even Page Header and the right side of the Odd Page Header.

  3. Obviously, if you have more than one chapter in the document, then you’ll need to have a section for each chapter. Once you have the headers and footers set up as you want them, insert a Next Page or Odd Page section break at the beginning of each chapter.

  4. When you have multiple chapters/sections, you may need to change the header or footer text from one to the next. In order to do this, you can unlink the header or footer in one section from the previous one. To do this (before changing the text), click the Link to Previous button in the Navigation group on the Header & Footer Tools | Design tab to turn it off.

This unlinks the header or footer in the current section from the corresponding header or footer in the previous section (see Tip 1 below). Note, however, that it is often unnecessary to unlink the sections in order to change the header/footer content; see “Beyond numbering” (below).

Beyond numbering

If you’re laying out a document that is complex enough to have separately numbered front matter and separate chapters in the main document, you may also want “running heads,” the headers you see in books that have the book or chapter title on one side and the chapter title or author’s name on the other. Using the “Different Odd and Even” setting, you can easily accomplish this.

If you are using the book title and author’s name as running heads, they will be the same throughout the book, but what if you plan to include the chapter title? Or maybe you’d even like to pick up subheads in the book. Do you have to change the header in every section? No!

Word makes this easy with the StyleRef field. For the sake of illustration, let’s say you want to use the chapter title in a header and that you have used the Heading 1 style for your chapter titles. In the header, place the following field:

{ STYLEREF "Heading 1" }

Although you can construct this field by hand, the easy way to insert it is to use Insert | Text | Quick Parts | Field… Select the StyleRef field and Word will present a list of styles used in the document. Choose Heading 1, press OK, and you’re all set. The text in your header will change each time Heading 1 changes (you can, of course, also use this for a lower-level heading or any other style).

If you’re laying out a formal book, you may find that there are pages in the front matter other than the title page that should not show a page number — the copyright page, for example. Once you have begun to understand how section breaks and especially the Link to Previous feature work, you will be able to insert additional section breaks in order to further customize the headers and footers in the front matter (for example, if your table of contents runs for several pages, you may want a running head on the subsequent pages that says “Table of Contents”).


A few caveats with regard to page numbering and headers/footers:

  1. Link to Previous is specific to each header and footer. For example, you can unlink the First Page Footer in Sections 1 and 2 and leave the First Page Header linked. This is what you would do if you always want a blank header on the first page of a section but want page numbers in some First Page Footers but not others. Similarly, you can unlink the Odd Page Header without affecting the Even Page Header (or the Odd or Even Page Footer). Each header or footer is linked (or not) only to the corresponding type of header or footer in the previous section.

  2. Another thing worth knowing (to save you a lot of wheel spinning) is that, while you can turn the “Different First Page” setting on or off for each section independently, “Different Odd and Even” is a document-level setting; it’s all or nothing. Even if your odd and even header or footer will be the same throughout a section, you’ll just have to insert the same text twice.

With practice, you will learn to set up all the text and numbering that will not change throughout the document before inserting section breaks or unlinking headers or footers between sections.

  1. The instructions above have told you how to have different numbering in the front matter and the body of the document, but what if you want a section with no page numbers? As noted above, although it is not necessary to unlink headers and footers to restart numbering or change the number format, you do have to unlink them in order to leave a header or footer blank. For more on this (and headers and footers generally) see “Making the most of headers and footers.” The essential point, however, is that, except in instances where you can cause text to change by using a StyleRef field, anytime you want a different (or blank) header or footer, you will have to insert one or more section breaks and unlink the new section from those on either side of it.

This article copyright © 2008, 2012, 2014, 2019 by Suzanne S. Barnhill.