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Automatic Numbers with Leading Zeroes

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Automatic Numbers with Leading Zeroes.

Word provides a tool that allows you to add automatic numbering to paragraphs; this tool has been discussed in other WordTips. At some point you may want to add leading zeros to your numbering, such as with 00001, 00002, 00003, etc.

If you add the leading zeros to what you type (type four zeros, the number one, a period, a tab, and your paragraph text), then when you press Enter Word will format the paragraph so it is numbered. The problem is that all of your leading zeros are, with the exception of one of them, removed in the process. This means that you end up with 01 instead of 00001 at the beginning of the paragraph.

You can, if you desire, display the Numbered tab of the Bullets and Numbering dialog box, and you'll have the chance to customize the way the numbering is done. (Just click the Customize button to display the Customize Numbered List dialog box.) You can then add additional zeros to the beginning of the format for the paragraph.

One drawback to this approach is that the zeros you add are not really a part of the format; they are, instead, just additional characters that precede the numbers managed by Word. This isn't a problem until you get more than 99 items in your numbered list. The number 00099 looks fine, but the next paragraph will be 000100, which is obviously wrong. You could then adjust the formatting of the paragraph so you only have two extra zeros at the lead and that numbering starts at 100 with that paragraph, but this can be bothersome when you later add or remove paragraphs from within your numbered list.

Because of this drawback, many people use a different method of automatic numbering when special formats (like the leading zeros) are needed. The most common approach is to use the SEQ field. For example, you could use the following format to do implement the leading zeros:

{SEQ MyList \# "00000"}

Using a SEQ field like this at the beginning of each of your paragraphs will provide the leading-zero numbers that you want. You'll need to update the fields after making any changes to the list, but you'll get the results you want.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (437) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Automatic Numbers with Leading Zeroes.

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