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Tracking a figure in your Word document as it moves

Every create a Word document and added figures and such to show what you are doing?  You say to yourself "That really ads to my document.  I am going to add more!"  So you do.  You add another figure or two.  Before you know it, everyone has an idea about another figure you can add to your document.

Now the coolness has worn off and it is just a pain in the butt to add new figures.  Every time you add a new figure, all of the numbering changes and you have to go through your entire document and update any references to the figures.  You know, where you have said something cool and then added "(see figure nn)" so people know where to look for your very cool figure (and if you are very cool, you have added a hyperlink to the figure so they don't have to track it down if it might be on another page or chapter).

There is a simple solution to this madness.  If you do this from the beginning of your document, it won't be a hassle nor add much time to the creation of your document.

Basic Concept

  • Add your image
  • Add a caption
  • Add a Bookmark
  • Reference your figure with the Word field called "SEQ"

Now when you move your figure and caption around the document, the sequence number will change in your figure and your reference to it can be updated by updating all of the fields in the document (Ctrl + A to select the whole document and F9 to refresh all the fields.)

Step by Step

Past your image into the document.  I like to center them. Just my style, you can put them wherever you would like to have them.  It is totally up to you.  The image should be on its own line (i.e. paragraph) and layout set as "In line with text."

Add a Caption

Make sure to add a "Caption" by right clicking your image and choosing " Caption…" (see Figure 1)

Image 001
Figure 1 – Add Caption

Add a Bookmark

Then select the caption and the image and add a "Bookmark" (Insert – Bookmark…).  Give it a name that would make sense.  I called mine "Add_Caption" (no spaces allowed in the bookmark name.)

Insert a Seq Field

Now you are set to reference your figure within your document.  To do this, you will add a document "Field" to your document.  Click on the "Insert" menu and select "Field…" (see Figure 2)

Figure 2 – Field Menu

The field you want is "Seq."  It is found in the "Numbering" category in the "Field" dialog (see Figure 3).  Select "Seq" and then click on the "Options…" button.

Figure 3 – Field Dialog

Under the "Field Specific Switches" tab in the "Field Options" dialog, you will want to select the flag "\c" to insert the nearest preceding sequence number and click on "Add to Field" to add this flag to your field code (see Figure 4).  If you do this enough, you may find it faster to just key in the "\c" in the field code text box.


Figure 4 – Field Options Switches

And so that the Seq field knows what value you would like to use, you will need to select the bookmark from the "Bookmarks" tab (see Figure 5).  Or just key the thing if you want remember what you called it.

Figure 5 – Field Options Bookmarks

Secret to making it all work

Now you are almost done.  Here is the part they don't really make clear on how to get this to work.  You have indicated that you want the sequence number for the specified bookmark, but not the type of sequence number you want.  You need to key this one is since Microsoft does not provide this in their fancy GUI.

I have found that the best place to add the "Label" is before the"\c".  So, on any of the dialog boxes where you have the "Field codes:" input box, key in the label name of the type of sequence to which you would like to refer.  In this example, we are using a "Figure".  The sequence will now look something like this:

SEQ figure \c Field_Options_Bookmarks

Click all of the OK's and you will have your sequence number imbedded into your document!  When you go look at the code, you will notice that word has added some formatting stuff to your code but don't worry about it.  Word just likes adding its own things here and there.

Adding the Hyperlink

If you want to add a hyperlink from your "(see Figure N)" reference, simply highlight the text you want to become a hyperlink and press Ctrl+k (or go to the "Insert" menu and select "Hyperlink…")

The "Insert Hyperlink" dialog will appear (see Figure 6).  Click on the "Bookmark…" button and select the bookmark for your refernce.  Then click through the OK's.

Figure 6 – Insert Hyperlink

How simple is that?  The more you do this, the easier it will be.  Make sure to always add a caption to your figures and then add the Bookmark.  It only takes a few seconds and if you ever need to refer to that figure, you can!  Also remember to add the label name into your field code so Word knows that sequence you are talking about.