Numbering equations in Word 2007

Microsoft Word isn’t the best software for technical writing, but sometimes we have to use it.  Here is the best way I’ve found to emulate the automatic equation numbering that LaTeX has been doing for years:

Insert an equation (old-style)

Use the Object button on the Insert tab to bring up the dialog box.  Choose Microsoft Equation 3.0 and enter an equation.

Insert equation

Insert equation

In Word 2007 and later, you can also use the new style of equations, but you’ll need to use a different method for numbering the new equations.  Be warned that the new style is not compatible with Powerpoint 2007 or Word for Mac, which is why I’m not using them yet.

Create tab stops

We’ll create two tab stops: a right tab for the equation number, and a center tab stop for the equation. Note the tab type button, which is circled in the images below.  Right or left-click this button to change the tab stop type, and then click on the ruler to add a tab stop.  I estimated the center of the page, but you may want to calculate exactly where the center tab should go.

Insert right tab stop

Insert right tab stop

Insert center tab stop

Insert center tab stop

Create an equation style (optional)

If you’re going to enter several equations, create an Equation style so that the tab stops will be set automatically:

Create equation style

Create equation style

Center the equation

Put the cursor in front of the equation object, and press Tab to center it:

Center equation

Center the equation

Place the cursor after the equation and press Tab again to go to the right margin.

Insert equation number

We’ll use sequence fields to automatically number the equations.

Insert sequence field, part 1

Insert sequence field, part 1

Choose “Seq” from the dialog box.  On the line to the right, enter a name like “Equation” for this sequence.  If you create another sequence field for another equation, it has to have the SAME field name as the other equations!

Insert sequence field, part 2

Insert sequence field, part 2

Create a Bookmark

In order to reference the equations by number, we have to bookmark the sequence field.  Click and drag to highlight the entire sequence field, and click the Bookmark button on the Insert tab:

Insert bookmark

Insert bookmark

Enter a unique name that describes this particular equation (no space allowed).

Insert cross-reference

When you want to refer to an equation number in the text, click “Cross-reference” on the Insert tab.  Choose “Bookmarks” from the pull-down menu, and select the name of the equation that you just bookmarked:

Insert cross reference

Insert cross reference

Add more equations

The fast way to add more equations is to copy and paste everything you just created.  However, you’ll have to update the sequence field manually.  Just select the sequence field and press F9 to update the number:

Paste and update field

Paste and update field

Conclusions

Word is not the best software for technical writing, but sometimes you’re stuck with it due to the requirements of advisers, collaborators, journals, etc.  I think this is the best way to keep track of equation numbers automatically.

References

Instructions for using equations in older versions of Word.

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