Microsoft Word is often used where other software would do much better. However, there are situations when Word’s unique functionalities are necessary for an academic workflow. Among the most important of such features is the ability to automatically number, cross-refer, and list captions in academic texts.
Captions are titles of Tables, Figures, Equations, Boxes and other pieces of content which are separate from the main text. Academic standards require that captions are sequentially numbered, referred to in the main text, and sometimes listed in the beginning of the publication. MS Word has a set of features to effectively manage your captions.
Use Insert …Caption… command to add a new caption. I have a special keyboard shortcut for this command because I use it so often. The command invokes a dialogue window which lets you to choose the type of caption (among default as well as user-defined) and the number format. Numbers can be of many different formats, can start at any number or letter, and can include chapter numbers (e.g. Figure 3.2, Box 6-a). You can change the formatting of the captions by using the Insert Caption dialoque window and clicking on Numbering … Word automatically assigns the number based on the caption of the same type directly preceding the one you’re inserting. When you add, remove or move around your captions MS Word automatically renumbers them to retain the correct sequence.
As a bonus, each caption is assigned the same Caption style, which can be adjusted to make the document look professional, for example to set your captions a certain distance from the preceding text or make sure that they are always on the same page with the following paragraph (which is essential not to have a page break between, say, a table and its caption).
To mention a caption in the text use the Insert… Cross-reference command (I also have a keyboard shortcut, in fact one of my most frequently used). This command brings up a dialogue window where you can choose whether you want to refer only to the number of the caption, the label and number (e.g. “as shown in Figure 5.1”), the whole text of the caption, the page number on which the caption is located, or whether it is above or below your mention.
The Insert … Cross-Reference function can be used to refer to virtually any numbered or specifically styled content, not only to captions. For example, “this discussion continues in section 5–3″, or ”as detailed in Footnote 18 on page 64“. Cross-references are updated automatically (and what a pain it would be to do this manually!).
Finally, MS Word can automatically produce a list of captions (e.g. of tables, figures etc in your document) with their numbers, titles and page numbers. Use Insert … Index and Tables… command and choose the type of captions you want listed as well as the format of your list.
I find it interesting that such an indispensable feature seems to be only available in Word. This largely explains why I almost always use Word for the final stages of academic writing. Fortunately, MS Word 2011 for Mac has a decent user interface (reminding of the no-nonsense although certainly not pretty Word for Windows of the early 2000s which I was very used to) and is pretty fast and stable. However, transferring texts from Scrivener and then adding automatic captions and cross-references is certainly tedious so I am always open to an alternative solution for caption management.