This is another issue that keeps coming back over and over again. Field codes normally look like normal text unless you move parts of the text, which may then result in an “Error! Reference not found.” message instead of the text (further down I’ll show you what field codes are if you don’t know). It would be thus very handy if we could make the field codes visible aka toggle field codes on and off.


Toggle Field Codes

The quick way to toggle field codes is using the keyboard shortcut: ALT + F9.


Word Options

The more complicated way is going via the Word Options

office button plus options
Press the Window options button -> Options -> click advanced -> scroll down to ‘show document content’ and check or un-check ‘Show field codes instead of their values’.

Advanced options -show document content

It could be that you don’t see field codes on your screen but in your prints. Then you need to go via Options button -> Options -> advanced -> scroll further down to ‘Print’ and un-check ‘Print field codes instead of their values’
Advanced options print


What are field codes?

Microsoft Word uses field codes as placeholders for data that might change in a document and for creating labels and form letters in mail-merge documents.
When you use particular commands Word inserts field codes automatically. For example when you insert page numbers or a table of contents, cross-link to content like headers figure captions, etc. or even hyperlinks are field codes.
Field codes are indicated by the curly brackets ‘{‘ and ‘}‘.


  • The field code for page number: {PAGE\*MERGEFORMAT}
  • The field code for table of contents can look like this: {TOC\o “1-3” \h \z \u}
  • A Hyperlink to a web address may look like this: {HYPERLINK “”}

I think you get the concept. Often these field codes link to content in the document (e.g. a table of contents). When this content is moved you’ll get a “Error! Reference not found.“, which at this point if you are not the author of the document makes it impossible to guess what the text may have said before. This is why it is advisable to remove all field codes before you distribute a final document.