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Disappearing Footnotes

Jackie is having a problem with the footnotes in a document. It seems that some of the footnotes in the first chapter of her Ph.D. thesis have disappeared. She can view them in Normal view, but she needs to also view them in Page Layout view so she can ultimately print them out. Jackie wonders what is causing the problem.

There are a number of things to check. First, you should check the obvious formatting-related issues. Are some of your footnotes formatted as Hidden text? If they are and you have Word configured to not print Hidden text, the footnotes will not be visible in Print Preview.

You'll also want to check to make sure that Track Changes isn't turned on. It is possible, if it is turned on, that you've actually deleted some of your footnotes. They may still be visible in some views of your document, but wouldn't be visible in Print Preview if you are looking at the "final" document with markup taken into account.

You should also not assume that what you see in Print Layout view is equivalent to what you will see when you actually print your document. Take a look at your thesis in Print Preview and see if your footnotes all show up there. Some users have reported large discrepancies between what is displayed in Print Layout view and what shows up in Print Preview.

You could also have problems if the text of your document is within a large table in which a single table row extends for several pages. Word defers any footnotes in the row to the page where the row ends. If the row ends so close to the bottom of the page that there is not room for all the footnotes, instead of being carried to the next page, the footnotes are just ignored. This problem can be solved by breaking the row up into several rows; any row that long is bound to contain more than one paragraph, and it can be split so that there is one row for each paragraph.

It's also possible, given that this is a thesis, that the length of the footnotes is such that they are overpowering the page. I would think that Word would just take as much room as needed for footnotes, even if that left only a few lines of text on each page, but there may be some limitation. If the footnotes are that long, it might be more satisfactory to convert them to endnotes. At the very least you could try converting the footnotes to endnotes and seeing if they all show up in the endnotes. This may at least give you a starting point for figuring out what is going on.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (7831) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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Comments for this tip:

Art    06 Jun 2014, 00:25
Thanks to Gene for the first comment that may explain what happens to me.

As I said earlier, I get this problem in long documents and short documents. It happens regardless of whether track changes is on or off. I never format anything as hidden text. I use no tables. I almost always use Times New Roman. The disappearing footnotes are not necessarily large, and are not in a position where they may have to be broken between two pages.

Inserting page breaks isn't a useful solution when I'm still working on a document, adding and deleting text. I don't want the page breaks to be fixed while I'm writing or editing.

Turning off auto-recover might work, but it's too big a risk. I guess I'll just live with the problem. As I said in November 2012, so far I've always been able to recover the disappeared footnote by saving the document, closing it, and reopening it.

Thanks to all.
Gene    04 Jun 2014, 09:44
The disappearing footnote problem is a bug with auto-recover. Turn that feature off and your footnotes will not disappear. Just be sure to save often. This is a well-documented bug.
Joel    16 May 2014, 14:58
I was having this issue. Tried everything I read online. The thing that worked was changing the font to Times New Roman from whatever I had it as before.
Pete    07 Mar 2014, 10:01
Insert Page Break fixed my problem. I had a 3-page table with Tracked Changes. Footnotes on the first 2 pages became invisible whenever I viewed the document in "Final" mode. None of the methods in this article helped, but a Page Break on the 3rd page fixed it.
Russ Herald    22 Feb 2013, 06:49
Just to say thanks for this tip. It just helped us with footnotes in a 2007 document that were only partially visible until we turned Track Changes off, and then chose to view the document in its Final form.
Art    21 Nov 2012, 12:37
Veronica - you can call me at 202-457-0800.
Veronica    20 Nov 2012, 14:54
Art, I live for documents like this. (I'm a training and support specialist for a law firm.) Could you send me an example or two of this problem? Either redact it or remove any personal info. What version of Word do you use? I have access to Word 2002, 2003, 2007 and 2010. If push came to shove, I would look at it in Word 97 too but that would take an extra couple of days. If you're game, let me know where I can call you. I'm in Chicago.
Art    20 Nov 2012, 02:43
I have this problem constantly and for none of the reasons you suggest. It happens in short documents of a few pages. It happens regardless of whether track changes is on or off. I never format anything as hidden text. I use no tables. The disappearing footnotes are not necessarily large, and are not in a position where they may have to be broken between two pages. Word just periodically burps and the footnote (or part of it) is gone from the screen. So far I've always been able to recover it by saving the document, closing it, and reopening it. But what a pain in the neck!

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