Start Page: Wrapping your head(ers) around footers

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WilsonRead Indiana Rule of Appellate Procedure 43H (available at Can you adjust a document header to comply with that rule? Perhaps you are preparing a last will and testament and want the footer of each page to have signature lines, except for the last page of the document. Hopefully this article will help you wrap your head around these tools in Microsoft Word.

Know your head(er) from your foot(er)

The header of a Microsoft Word document is the space at the top of your document. You can guess where the footer is. They operate with the same rules, so the terms are used interchangeably herein. Headers/footers can be filled with text, images, fields — almost anything. Anything in a header/footer appears on each page of the document by default. This is helpful, especially when combined with Word’s date and page number capabilities. 

Keep information in your head(er)

How do these work in practice? Open a blank Word document. Click Insert | Header. Review the options. You will see several built-in headers, including some fancy options. These are ideas for what is possible with headers (and footers). Click the first Blank header.

Word takes you to the header and you will see a space to “Type here”. Important note: make sure you delete this field or type something in it. Otherwise, you may print a document that says “Type here.” Don’t ask me how I know this. Type “Letter to Smith” and click Close Header & Footer.

Now, type “=rand(10)” and press Enter (or insert a page break). Word will fill in some random text for you, making your document two pages long. Scroll to page two. At the header of page two, you will see the phrase “Letter to Smith” in grayed-out text. This indicates that the text is located inside the header. You will also notice that this phrase appears exactly as it appears on page one and will continue throughout the document with each new page.

But, what if you want the first page to have a blank header so you can print it on letterhead? Word has an easy solution for this scenario. Click Insert | Header | Edit Header. Word will open the Header & Footer Tools menu item. Under Options, check Different First Page. The page one header is marked as a First Page Header and is blank. Click Close Header and Footer. On page two, you should see “Letter to Smith” in the header. 

2 head(er)s are better than 1

Each section of your Word document can have its own headers/footers. Since headers and footers work the same way, we need to know how to link/unlink headers/footers together so we can have different types of both in our document.

On page two, click Layout | Breaks | Next Page to insert a section break. Scroll to page three and you will see that there is no header or footer for that page. Click Insert |Footer and choose the first option. Word will take you to the footer of your document. You should see “First Page Footer -Section 2-.” On the right- hand side of the screen, you will see a box that says “Same as Previous.” This little indicator is easily missed, but is often the cause of header/footer frustration.

If we want the header/footer to be the same as the previous section of our document, there’s nothing to do. But, we want the prior footer to have signature lines and this footer to be blank. To accomplish this, first uncheck Link to Previous on the toolbar. The page three footer is now its own footer and can be customized however you like. Leave it blank. (If necessary, delete the words “Type here.”) Scroll to the page two footer and type a signature line in the footer. Click Close Header & Footer.

Scroll to page two. The header should read “Letter to Smith.” The footer should be blank.

On page three, the header is blank. If you edit the header (double click in the header area or click Insert | Header | Edit Header), you will see this is a First Page header for section 2 since Different First Page is checked under the Header options.

Also, the header is Same as Previous because we only unlinked the footer on page three, not the header. Because this is the first page of section 2, there is no “previous” header to apply. Is your head(er) spinning yet?

Because of all this craziness, it’s really easy to get confused and/or annoyed with Word. The most troubling is when you type and format some text in the header/footer area and Word removes it when you check Different First Page or Link to Previous. When that happens, take a deep breath. Then, press Ctrl Z or Undo. Select the text in the header/footer and copy it. Make the adjustments to the footer (e.g., deselect Link to Previous), and then paste your work back in the new header/footer.


In an ideal world, you would take a few minutes to map out your document and determine where you need different headers and footers. Plan out the section breaks in advance, make the appropriate menu selections and then apply your formatting. Since that almost never happens in practice, remember the undo/copy and paste trick — it will save you a lot of time and frustration. Or, email me. You can put your foot(er) up while I’ll take care of the head(er)ache.•


• Seth R. Wilson is an attorney with Adler Tesnar & Whalin in Noblesville. In addition to practicing law, he helps manage the day-to-day technology operations of the firm. Seth writes about legal technology at and is a frequent speaker on the subject. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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