Handy Tips for Headers and Footers in Microsoft Word

Wednesday Sep 12th 2012 by Helen Bradley

Headers and footers make navigating documents easier. These creative tips will show you how to make the most out of headers and footers in Microsoft Word.

Small businesses can easily add a professional look to Word documents by placing information, such as page numbers, author and title, in the document's header or footer. It's a real time saver, too. Once you set up a header or footer, the content appears on every page of your document automatically. Plus, Word updates the content, which saves you the effort of doing it manually.

Page numbers are the most popular information to include in headers and footers, but I'll show you other uses for them and a few tips and tricks for creating them.

Microsoft Word Header and Footer Basics

Add a header or footer to any document by clicking Insert > Header. Microsoft Word comes with built-in headers, and you can create your own. To use a built-in header, select one from the list, such as Titles, and then type the document title and year where indicated.

These built-in headers use content controls, which makes it easy to use another header if you want. Simply choose a different header and the old header will be removed and the new header will appear in its place. Any content -- like the title -- that you typed into the old header will appear in the new one automatically. This gives you more flexibility and means you don't have to type in everything all over again if you change your mind.

Header and footer tips in Microsoft Word

Figure 1: Word offers a number of stylish headers in Word that are easily interchangeable.

Make Your Own Header

Clicking on Insert > Header > Edit Header takes you to the header area where you can design your own header. You can also toggle between the header and footer by clicking Go to Footer and Go to Header. To return to the document, either double-click in the body of the document or click Close Header and Footer. Here are some ideas for custom header effects.

Make Your Own Page Tabs

You can make it easy for someone to stay oriented as they flip through a document by creating tabs with the section names that run down the right-side of the page. Even though these tabs reside on the right of the page, you still created them as headers.

To make a page tab, choose Insert > Header > Edit Header, and then choose Insert > Shapes. Now select the rounded-edge rectangle. Drag the shape down the top-right edge of the page. Right-click the shape, and choose Add Text and type the section topic.

Rotate the text by taking these steps: click inside the shape and choose Drawing Tools > Format tab > Text Direction. Click to rotate the text to the desired position. Format the shape and the text as desired using the Drawing Tools > Format tab options and the text options on the Home tab.

header and footer tips in Microsoft Word

Figure 2: To create page tabs, add a shape to the header and then rotate the text.

To add tabs for each section of the document, return to the document and go to the beginning of the next section. If you don't have the document divided into sections, you'll need to do so now. Place the cursor where the new section should begin and choose Page Layout > Breaks > Next Page. Then choose Insert > Header > Edit Header, and you will see that the new section has the same header as the first. To unlink these, disable the Link to Previous option on the Ribbon.

Now create a tab for this section of the document using the steps outlined above. For example you may want to change the tab color and its contents and position it in a different place on the page. When you are done, return to the document and continue to add Section breaks where needed, and create separate headers with the tabs for each section.

Header and footer tips for Microsoft Word

Figure 3: If you create multiple sections in a document, you can have different headers in each section.

Footer Showing the Next Page

Typically when you add a page number to a header, you use the current page number. But in the footer you can be more creative and add a footer that tells the reader the number of the next page, and that says "ends" on the last page.

Here's how you do it. Choose Insert > Footer > Edit Footer. Press the Tab key twice to move to the right side of the page. Type the code listed below pressing Ctrl + F9 each time you need a set of curly brace field codes. Note: the braces you type using your keyboard are not the same type, and they won't work. You must press Ctrl+F9 every time you need the curly braces.

{IF{PAGE}={NUMPAGES} "ends" ".../{={PAGE}+1}"}

This code will show the next page number for each page of the document and shows "ends" on the last page.  

Header and footer tips in Microsoft Word

Figure 4: This code displays the next page number or "ends" on the last page of a document.

Page Numbers in Shapes

Want to make your regular page numbers look more interesting? Place them inside shapes. Choose Insert > Header > Edit Header to go to the document header. To place the page number in the footer, click Go to Footer. Choose Insert > Shapes, select a shape and draw it where you want the page number to go. Click the shape, and use the settings on the Drawing Tools > Format tab to format the shape.

To add the page number, right-click on the shape and then choose Add Text. Click the Header and Footers Tools > Design tab and click Page Number > Current Position > Plain Number. The page number will be inserted into the shape, and you can now format the text by setting your desired font and size. The page number will be on every page of the document.

Header and footer tips in Microsoft Word

Figure 5: You can page numbers in custom-formatted shapes in the page header or footer.

Images in Headers

Word also lets you add images, your company logo for example, to your document headers. Move to the header and choose Insert > Picture. Select an image from your hard drive and size it to fit inside the header area. Alternately you can make the header bigger by dragging on its border. You can add multiple images and even add text in a Text Box. The images and text will appear on every page of the document.

Header and footer tips in Microsoft Word

Figure 6: You can add one or more images to a header -- either your logo or something relevant to the document topic.

If you have a document with a header and footer that you want to use repeatedly, save the document as a template so you can use it any time. For example, set up a document with a header that includes your logo and address so you can use it as a letterhead for writing letters.

Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her website, HelenBradley.com.

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