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: Differences between SEQ and LISTNUM Fields.

Differences between SEQ and LISTNUM Fields

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 28, 2019)

Tish wonders what the difference is between the SEQ and LISTNUM fields. She has a document that she would like to have divided into numbered sections, and she needs something that will update automatically if she adds or deletes a section, and something that will allow her to cross-reference.

Let's start by looking at the differences between the two fields. Here are the respective syntaxes for the two fields:

{ SEQ name [bookmark] [switches] }
{ LISTNUM "name" [switches] }

Right off the bat you can see that the SEQ field allows you to include an optional bookmark name that refers to bookmarked text elsewhere in your document. This means that you can use SEQ for cross-references, but you cannot use LISTNUM for cross-references.

It is interesting that various Help file information in Word states that LISTNUM is better for complex numbered lists. The only situation where I have found this to be true is if you want the field to interact with any automatic numbering in your document. You can, for instance, modify how automatic numbering is used within a document by using special "name" parameters that refer to the built-in numbering sequences (such as "NumberDefault", "OutlineDefault", and "LegalDefault").

While the SEQ field won't allow you to interact with automatic numbering, it provides a wider array of switches than does the LISTNUM field. (You can see a full accounting of the available switches for both fields by searching the WordTips Web site or by accessing Word's Help system.)

Experienced Word users generally find that the SEQ field is more versatile and powerful, under most circumstances, than the LISTNUM field. For this reason, you will most often find the SEQ field used for any custom numbering solutions.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (3441) 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: Differences between SEQ and LISTNUM Fields.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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