Magic Numbers

When I was in first grade, a magician came to our school, and I’ve been interested in magic ever since. One thing I’ve learned is that magic is largely psychological; it depends heavily on what magicians call “misdirection”–getting the audience to look at or think about something that furthers the magician’s deception.

This principle can be used in software, too, as I recently discovered when putting together my Author Tools template:

Microsoft Word is notorious for getting automatically numbered lists out of whack, but the Author Tools template handles them quite nicely, mostly because of a little trick–Word’s ability to reset the start of a list.

If you’ve used Word’s automatically numbered lists, you’ve probably noticed that *any* lists in the document are actually part of the *same* list. So, if you make a list like this–

1. Bread.

2. Peanut butter.

3. Pickles.

–and then type some unnumbered text after it, as I’m doing with this paragraph–then the next list you make will look like this:

4. Chihuahuas.

5. Dachshunds.

6. Basset hounds.

The second list is numbered with the first, but obviously it shouldn’t be. Fortunately, you can reset the numbering (and apply a numbered style) with this macro:

Sub ListNumberedStart()
With Selection.Paragraphs
.Style = "List Number"
With .First.Range.ListFormat
.ApplyListTemplate .ListTemplate, False
End With
End With
End Sub

If you don’t know how to use such macros, you’ll find instructions here:

For ease of use, you might want to attach the macro to a keyboard shortcut, as explained here:

And now for the magical misdirection: Instead of using the macro to *restart* an existing list, use it every time you need to *start* a new list. If you need to continue an existing list, use Word’s automatic numbering feature (which you’d usually use to start a list). Notice that this is exactly the opposite of what you might think should happen. But presto! It works!

By the way, when I talk about Word’s automatic numbering feature, I am *not* talking about the buttons on the formatting toolbar, which will cause you no end of trouble. Instead, I’m talking about using paragraph styles that *include* the numbering–in this case, the one named List Number.

Rumor has it that Word wizard and MVP Steve Hudson is helping Microsoft solve their numbering problems for the next release of Word. I sure hope so.

More on Steve’s stuff here:



Aaron Shepard wrote:

“I came across a bad problem in Word 2004 for Mac. Unlike Windows versions and former Mac versions, this one antialiases all imported graphics, and will even change black-and-white line art to grayscale to do it. That means fuzzy charts and diagrams when printed. It’s a scandal.

“The only way to avoid it is to insert art as EPS. On the Mac, that also enables you to place a CMYK graphic!”

Recently on the Word-PC List, Kristen Ebert-Wagner asked how to keep Word from printing graphics–in other words, how to print text only. I suggested that she try importing the Word document into Writer and printing from there:

Kristen reported:

“It works! OfficeWriter distinguishes between graphics and drawing objects and, furthermore, allows you to include and/or exclude either in printing. Word offers this option for drawing objects only. Thanks–this is a fast, easy solution.”

I thought this might be worth passing on for others who are faced with the same problem.

Many thanks to Aaron and Kristen.



Wondering about the upcoming release of Microsoft Office 2007? You’ll find the official explanation here:

But if you want the inside scoop, see Jensen Harris: An Office User Interface Blog:

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