Monday, January 9, 2017

Fun with Page Numbers in Microsoft Word

Are you tired of boring old page numbers in your Word document's header or footer? Do you feel like your doctoral dissertation is missing that certain je ne sais quoi to make your advisors smile? Are you looking for a way to distract readers from the mediocre writing in the novel you've spent the last eight years writing?

I can help.

Word inserts page numbers by using field codes, but field codes can do a lot more, including math. By following the steps below, you can make Word automatically show the page number as "This is page [N]. Coming soon: Page [N+1]!"
  1. On the Insert tab, choose either Header > Edit Header (if you want the number at the top) or Footer > Edit Footer (if you want it at the bottom).
  2. Type This is page followed by a space.
  3. On the left side of the Design tab, choose Page Number > Current Position > Plain Number.
  4. Type . Coming soon: Page followed by a space.
  5. Click the Insert tab and choose Quick Parts > Field.
  6. Select the first option in the Field Names list, = (Formula), and then click the Formula button on the right.
    Screen shot of the Field Codes window.
  7. Enter the formula =2+1 and click OK.Your header/footer should now say "This is page 1. Coming soon: Page 3."
  8. Type an exclamation point. Or three as befits your level of excitation.
  9. The header/footer is currently showing the results of the field codes and not the field codes themselves. Press Alt+F9 to reveal the field codes. The header/footer should look like this:
  10. Now here comes the tricky part: nesting a field code within a field code. Select the entire first field code, from brace to brace, and press Ctrl+C to copy it.
  11. In the second field code, select the 2 (which was only a placeholder), and press Ctrl+V to paste. Your header/footer should look like this now:
  12. Now Press Alt+F9. You should have a new, somewhat silly and pointless header or footer.

From this base, you can really begin to express your nerdsomeness. You can put all kinds of basic math in the formula field code by using +, -, / (division), and * (multiplication). And, of course, the part that isn't in a field code can be whatever you want it to be. You can also format the text however you want. Also remember that you can create different odd and even page headers and footers.

Play around with it and see what absurdities you can create. (Share your best ones in the comments below.) Here are some possibilities to get you started:
  • Page [N]. If you're looking for page [N+3], you're in the wrong place.
  • Welcome to Page [N], only 10 pages away from Page [N+10]!
  • Page [N]. (Aren't you glad you finally made it through Page [N-1]?)
  • [On even pages:] Page [N], which is twice as good as page [N/2].
  • [On odd pages:] Believe it or not, also page [N-1].