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Understanding and Using Bookmarks

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: Understanding and Using Bookmarks.

Bookmarks allow you to assign names to text or to positions in your document. In this way you locate them easily, just like when you put a physical bookmark in a book to save your place. Once a bookmark is defined, you can use the Go To option from the Edit menu to move the insertion point to the bookmark location.

In Word, bookmarks are saved with the document file. Thus, you can assign bookmarks in different files that use the same name. Each file can have up to approximately 450 bookmarks defined. Names for bookmarks must follow these rules:

  1.  Names must begin with a letter of the alphabet
  2.  Names can contain only letters, numbers, and the underscore
  3.  Names cannot contain spaces or punctuation marks

To insert a bookmark, follow these steps:

  1. Position the insertion point where you want the bookmark to be inserted. Alternately, select the text you want named with the bookmark.
  2. Choose the Bookmark option from the Insert menu. Word displays the Bookmark dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Bookmark dialog box.

  4. Enter a name for your bookmark.
  5. Click on Add.

A word of warning with bookmarks: they can move! If you define a bookmark as a location only (in other words, you don't select text before defining the bookmark), and then move the text which appears at that location elsewhere, the bookmark stays where it was; it does not move with the text. It is not always intuitive when this will happen. For example, if you insert text ahead of a defined bookmark, the bookmark will stay with the original text. If, however, you position the cursor at the beginning of a bookmarked line and press Enter a few times, the bookmark does not move. The "unmoving bookmarks" become a real pain if you use them within tables, at the beginning of a column. It is not unusual to sort the table and have the bookmarks not move with the text, as you might expect.

The solution to this problem is to anchor the bookmark to selected text (select text and then define the bookmark). However, this produces other side effects. For example, if the selected text includes a complete paragraph (including the paragraph marker), and you add some text in a new line or paragraph, the added text becomes part of the selected text for the bookmark.

Finally, moving or copying bookmarked text to a new document will copy the bookmarks as well as the text. Moving bookmarked text to a new location in the same document also copies the bookmark, but copying bookmarked text to another location in the same document does not replicate the bookmark.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1014) 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: Understanding and Using Bookmarks.

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Comments for this tip:

Philip Smith    22 May 2016, 13:40
I made it as far as "4. 4.Click on Add." and then stopped because no further instructions appear.

You might consider adding the steps on how to actually apply a bookmark so that the reference is in the text. Just a suggestion.
Phil Reinemann    21 Jul 2015, 19:31
In Word 2007 all I can see is to change the name and Add it.

I recommend you find one of the bookmarks (you might have to display them via Word Options -> Advanced - Display area) select the bookmarked text in the document and Add it with the new name. Then in the bookmark list select the old name and delete it.
Then re-bookmark all the cross references.
It might be better to Find/Replace all the old ones with the new name before deleting the old bookmark name.
MMSbo772    12 Mar 2015, 14:32
I was wondering about this myself. I haven't found anything yet on renaming/editing a bookmark, so what I'll do (until I find an answer) is add another bookmark with the new name. If I find I can rename the first one, I can delete the second one (after making the cross-references point to the right place). In other tools (for example, FrameMaker), if you put two bookmarks next to each other, it's sometimes hard to select the right one, so I'll put the new bookmark a word or two away from the original one.
BlackPoplar    20 Feb 2014, 07:05
What about editing the bookmark name after it's created and applied?

I created bookmarks "Appendix_1", "Appendix_2" etc., and then used cross-references throughout the report.

After a review, I now need more than 9 appendices.

Can I re-name the bookmarks to "Appendix_01", "Appendix_02", etc., in order to have then in order in the list?

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