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Changing Existing Captions

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: Changing Existing Captions.

Francisco uses automatic captions in his documents. When he set up the captions, they worked great. Now he needs to change all the captions that appear in the document, but he can't find a way to do that using the captioning capabilities of Word. Francisco wonders what is the best way to make the necessary changes to all the captions.

The answer depends on what you want to change about the captions. If you want to change the formatting they use (font, size, alignment, etc.), then you may want to see which style is being used for your captions. (It is probably the Caption style, but you'll want to double-check in your document.) You can make the desired changes in the style properties, and this should then apply to all the captions in the document.

If you want to change some of the text in the captions, you need to modify the fields used to create the captions. (Automatic captions are implemented through the use of fields in the document.) You can change the text in the fields by first displaying the field codes in your document (press Shift+F9). You should be able to see what the field codes look like for your captions; examine one to see how it is constructed, looking specifically for the text you want to change.

Next press Ctrl+H to display the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box. Use the controls in the dialog box to specify the caption text you want to change (from within the field you examined) and what you want the text to be. You can then use the controls to step through all the occurrences of the text and change it, as desired.

There are other things you can change in the fields using this same technique. For instance, you may want to change the numbering of your captions from Arabic to Roman. If you examine the field code used for a caption, it may appear similar to this:

{Seq Figure *\ arabic}

You can easily use the Find and Replace method to change the word "arabic" to "roman." When you are done making the changes, press Alt+F9 to change the field codes back to their results.

If your caption changing needs are a bit more complex (perhaps, for example, you want to change the caption to appear above a figure instead of below it, or vice-versa), then the best bet is to change the settings for automatic captions and then delete all the existing captions. You can then use cut and paste (cut the figure and paste it back in the same position) to force Word to automatically add the caption with the new settings.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (3888) 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: Changing Existing Captions.

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