Don’t Repeat Yourself: Microsoft Word Bookmarks, Cross-references, and Formulas

Recently I was working on a contract. Word was naturally the choice app for a text-heavy document with a few exceptions.

A number of the figures in the document had to be referenced a number of times, and in a few cases they were added up or multiplied (think 50% deposit of $X).

Not liking to repeat myself, coupled with my penchant for perfection and accuracy, I turned to Microsoft Word’s bookmarking, cross-referencing & even less known formula feature.

Bookmarking & Cross-Referencing

First step to not repeating yourself is to bookmark the initial value.
1. Highlight the value to bookmark.
2. Choose INSERT, .
3. Type a BOOKMARK NAME, then [Click] ADD.

Next, wherever you want the value repeated, simply insert a cross-reference.

1. Choose REFERENCE, .
As a bonus, check INSERT AS A HYPERLINK. This allows people to on the cross-reference to jump to the original bookmark.
4. [Click] INSERT.

Calculations using Bookmarks

Now comes the really powerful stuff.
You can also insert calculation fields:
1. Choose INSERT, , then FIELD.
2. Under FORMULAS, select , then [Click] FORMULA
3. Fill out similar to

To make sure you get things right, use PASTE FUNCTION and PASTE BOOKMARK (both paste into the FORMULA field)

Updating your fields
To update a calculated field, select it & press F9. To update an entire document press to select everything, then press F9.

Weird gotcha:
It seems that text boxes using the old “DOC” format seem get in the way of F9. In my tests using Word 2013 when I selected everything using Ctrl-A including text boxes, F9 did not work. Saving to the newer DOCX format resolved the issue (and saving back to DOC re-introduced it).
If you aren’t sure which version you are using take a look at your title bar. This example is in the old format:

Bookmark destruction
FINALLY: Bookmarks can somewhat easily be destroyed when typing, so be careful when changing the bookmark value. To help, with dollar amounts you can include the $ in the bookmarked text. Word will still consider it a number value for your calculations:

And, it might be a good idea to play around with legacy formfields (they automatically create bookmarks). Especially useful if you won’t be the only one working with the document.


2 thoughts on “Don’t Repeat Yourself: Microsoft Word Bookmarks, Cross-references, and Formulas

  1. I’m cross referencing bookmarks and trying to change the font attributes. The first word come out in the correct format, but subsequent words in that field are in the bookmarked field’s style. I have tried turning off preserve formatting (it keeps reverting). I tried adding /*charformat, but the same thing happens

  2. Hello Sharon,
    First – thank you for reading our blog!

    Here is how you would use charformat to make the cross reference always come out one particular format (for all the text)

    1. Show the field codes by [Right Clicking] then selecting TOGGLE FIELD CODES (this you know already – but helping out our loyal readers! :))
    2. Format the first character of the field name how you would like the entire field to be.
    3. Add \* charformat to the end of the field code (making sure to have a space after).
    4. Press F9 to update the field!

    For Example:
    { REF bookmark1 \h \* charformat }

    Will format the entire field bold & italic.

    A few notes:
    - Preserve formatting goes on automatically once you make a formatting change to part of the text in the crossreference field (Word assumes you would like to preserve the formatting)
    - IF you then toggle off preserve formatting, Word will strip the formatting. If you added \* charformat you will suddenly see the text with seemingly no formatting (not the formatting of the cross referenced text & not the formatting you tried to implement with charformat). This is because the formatting applied to the field name has been removed & needs to be re-applied (following the steps above).

    I hope that helps & I understood your problem!

    Best regards,

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