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Cross-References Can Add Value and Increase Useability

Microsoft Word is an indispensable tool for sharing information among colleagues, across agencies or organizations, and with academia and the public. Most everyone has some experience creating Word documents, but we can all benefit from using this program better.

This image shows a computer screen with a Microsoft Word document open.

The way a Microsoft Word document is formatted can either enhance a user’s experience or cause frustration. Regardless of the length of the document, having to scroll through numerous pages to locate a graphic or other informational element can be annoying and interrupt the flow.


One way to alleviate this problem is by inserting cross‑references. Similar to how hyperlinks link to external content, cross-references link to components within the same document. Elements such as figures, tables, charts, and text can all be set up in a cross-reference to increase useability and make for a better user experience.


What Should be Linked?

Which elements are linked as cross-references in a document depends on the type of information being conveyed. For instance, scholarly reports and other professional publications usually contain a list of references at the end of the document—far away from the in-text callout. Expecting a user to navigate to the list of references to view source documentation each time a reference is called out in the text is unrealistic and potentially frustrating. Instead, adding cross-references to each numbered or author–date style reference allows users to be taken directly to the reference noted should they wish to explore an idea or topic further.


Another common use for cross-references is to link to figures and tables within a document. The initial in-text callout for a figure or table usually appears near the element, making accessing the information contained therein simple. However, if that same figure or table is called out later in the text, it is more difficult for a user to remember where the element was located and to navigate accordingly. Inserting cross-references for figure and table callouts allows for easier access to important graphic or tabular information. And, if any numbered elements are added or removed from a document, all cross-references can be updated with a few keystrokes, automatically renumbering and resequencing the affected elements.

Did you know that Windows users can automatically update all cross references by pressing Ctrl+A to select all content and then pressing Fn+F9. Mac users can achieve the same result by pressing Shift+Option+Command+U or Command+A and then pressing F9.

Additional elements, including headings, bookmarks, and footnotes, can all be cross-referenced to add additional value to users. The possibilities are virtually limitless and depend only on the level of functionality desired and the amount of information your audience demands.


If you found this information insightful, be on the lookout for additional posts in our Mastering Office 365 series.


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MacroSys prides itself on its trained, knowledgeable staff who can help you meet your strategic marketing, communications, and IT goals. To learn more about our capabilities and how partnering with MacroSys can help you meet your objectives, visit www.macrosysrt.com.

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