With a Word 2010 doc I've been inserting a lot of cross-references to Headings and choosing the option to display the Heading Text. But, when I go and actually change the text of the heading that the cross-reference is referencing, the cross-reference doesn't change its text. Is that expected? If not, how do I set things up so that if I change the text of a Heading that all cross-references would automatically update their text to match?

To diagnose, I toggled Field Codes (ALT-F9) so that codes are visible. Then, after I modified a Heading, I inserted a new cross-reference next to the old cross-reference whose text wasn't changing. I was a little surprised to see that the two field codes were not referencing the same Ref#. I guess that might be a clue but I still don't know how to fix it.


Old trick to update all references without needing to select those would be to Go to File\Print and then back to document view. Yes, you do not need to print or click anything, just see the print preview menu and that is it. Print menu automatically updates all links in the document.

Works on Word 2010.

  • Also works in Word for Mac v15.16. Thanks! – Kathy Jan 16 '16 at 18:08

Typically, not all fields update immediately to reflect the source text. Print preview used to be one way to force things to update (I think it still works too), otherwise press Ctrl+A (select all) then F9 to update fields

NB: this won't work for any fields which are in the header or footer as they are not included in the "select all".

  • 1
    Normally, I would agree with this answer... but for some reason in my current document Ctrl-A F9 doesn't work. Selecting a subset of text does, so I assume I am selecting something "clever" that is blocking it. – itj Sep 17 '12 at 12:39

I've just stumbled across this problem. For me the following solution worked:

Do not just add text to the referenced heading. You have to start writing somewhere before the last character and delete the remaining character(s) afterwards. This assures that the reference gets update by (Ctrl+A) F9.

An example to clarify:

  1. "heading text"
  2. "heading with a new meaningtext"
  3. "heading with a new meaning"

More information can be found here: DocTools Cross-references troubleshooting


Had this problem, and was able to troubleshoot with the revealing code idea (Alt + F9). Turns out there was a field that was blocking the update when everything was selcted. It was: { SHAPE \*MERGEFORMAT } a rectagle with a texture fill. I selected everything but that, did F9 and it worked.


When you insert a cross-reference MS Word creates a hidden bookmark that spans exactly the text of the heading.

This has two consequences:

  • When you insert text after the heading text it is not considered part of the bookmark, hence John's answer of adding text in the middle of the heading instead.

  • When you split an existing heading and write text in between the two newly created headings the bookmark is expanded to span the two split headings and the text in between. For this reason it is better to add new headings rather than splitting existing ones.

If you already ended up with a lot of split headings like me the solution is to update the hidden bookmark to reflect only a part of the heading

First figure out the hidden bookmark reference:

  1. Click the cross-reference
  2. Press Alt + F9 to show the references
  3. Note the bookmark reference that starts with _Ref in {REF _Refxxxxxxxxx}
  4. Press Alt + F9 again to hide the references

Then re-apply the same bookmark to the correct heading:

  1. Using the mouse select the text of the correct heading (either the first or the second one that were formed by splitting the heading)
  2. Keep the text selected and show the bookmarks dialog by clicking: Insert menu -> links -> bookmark
  3. Make sure that the check box "Hidden bookmarks" is checked
  4. Re-apply the same bookmark to the selected text by select from the bookmarks list the _Ref that you noted above and pressing the "Add" button
  5. Use Ctrl + A then F9 to update the cross-reference.

More information can be found in Microsoft bug report Cross-reference links in Word do not update to the correct heading number after you insert a new heading

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