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: Repeating Column Information on Each Page.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 28, 2018)
Katie has a Word document that is basically a giant table. The first column is a step number. The second column is information or user directions. If Katie has a step that is very long, spanning several pages, she wants the step number from the first column to show up on each page so she always knows what step number she's on.
There is no way to do this in Word. The reason is that if a row spans multiple pages, there is no way to "start over" the contents of a column on subsequent pages while letting the other columns continue in a normal fashion. (You can repeat entire rows at the top of each page, but not repeat only selected columns in a row.) The workaround is to make sure that rows don't span pages, instead always starting at the top of each new page. That way you could manually type the information to be repeated into the first column on those subsequent pages. This, of course, is rather tedious and prone to problems if your pagination changes due to edits or layout modifications.
There is a larger problem to be aware of, however. If you use Word's table feature to organize your data in the manner described, you run the risk of your documents being more subject to corruption than if you organize your data differently. I've known people who have created documents that consist of tables spanning hundreds of pages. (Not a single row, mind you, but a table with many, many rows.) Invariably those documents are headed for problems because Word doesn't do a great job on keeping such long tables stable.
It is a better solution to look at use multiple smaller tables or, better yet, to create documents that use tables very sparingly. This may require a rethinking of how your data is laid out on the page, but the benefit of not ending up with corrupted documents is well worth the time.
WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (6616) 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: Repeating Column Information on Each Page.
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