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Numbering figures and tables header image

Throw away that calculator!

In previous posts, we’ve looked at numbering of chapters and then numbering of parts, acts and scenes.

In this post, my focus in on tables – not only how to number them automatically, but also how to cross refer to them in your text. Ready?

Placeholders and named auto numbering

Placeholders are tags which, during compilation are replaced with actual numbers. Scrivener does the counting for you.

The tag starts with <$ and ends with another >. Between that, you specify what is to be numbered and choose the name for your auto-numbered sequence.

  • For tables, you might use <$n:table>.
  • For figures, you might use <$I: figure> or <$r:image>

The letter after the $ determines the style of numbering

  • n for 1, 2, 3, …
  • r for i, ii, iii, …
  • R for I, II, III, …
  • l for a, b, c, …
  • L for A, B, C, …
  • w for one, two, three, …
  • W for ONE, TWO, THREE, …

After the colon (:), you don’t have to use words like ‘table, ‘figure’ or ‘image’ but it makes sense to choose a name which is both memorable and meaningful.

Auto numbering of tables

The way to number your tables is not much different from that of numbering chapter, parts, acts and scenes.

  • Decide which style of numbering system you want: n, r, R, I, L, w or W.
  • Decide on a name for your numbered sequence.

Put the two together and use this placeholder every time you insert a table.

Sample tables for numbering

If you decide to insert a new table somewhere, or delete one, you don’t have to worry about the numbering. During the next compile, Scrivener will renumber them for you, automatically.

Cross-referencing the current table

If you want to refer to the most recently numbered table (ie the table with the current number), the placeholder <$n#table> does the trick.

Simple cross-referencing of current table

When you compile, the numbering is done for you.

Compiled result of sample tables for numbering


If you need to refer to any other tables, elsewhere in the document, this requires an additional level of complexity, but it is still straightforward!

Cross-referencing tables elsewhere in a document

To cross refer to tables from elsewhere in the document, as well as the name you’ve chosen for the placeholder, you need a keyword for each table as well. And rather than using #table, you need to give the name (table) and your chosen keyword for that table.

More complex cross referencing using keywordsThe net result is that Scrivener then replaces these placeholders by the correct numbers when you compile your manuscript. Inserting or deleting tables can still be done, and you don’t have to worry about the numbering at all.

Compiled result of complex cross-referencing using keywords

Choosing keywords

I’ve used MyFirstExample and MySecondExample as my keywords. Notice there are no spaces within the keyword.

What might make sense for you would be to use the actual title of the table (omitting the spaces) or as much of it you need to create unique keywords.

Scrivener increments the number whenever it meets a new keyword, so they do need to be different.

Auto numbering figures and images

The same system works for any feature that you want to number – and that you’d like Scrivener to do the counting for you.

So, this not only applies to figures and images. You might have exercises, questions, tasks, tips … and you can let Scrivener do the numbering for you.

This gives you great flexibility during the writing stage, and ensures no mistakes in the numbering when your book is ready to publish.

Questions? Need a helping hand? Want a demo?

To watch me demonstrating how set up auto numbering in Scrivener, or to ask any questions, book a Simply Scrivener Special.

To help me to prepare, you could also complete this short questionnaire.

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  • April

    23 May 2023 at 23:30

    This was very helpful, Anne. Thanks for your work on this. I learned that I could also organize an Appendix this way! I thought I was restricted to Figures and Tables, but your post got me thinkign about an Appendix, which I would set up with “See Appendix “

  • Scott

    15 March 2022 at 15:23

    Anne, this is very helpful. Quick question, though. What if I want to label my tables with the numbers? Suppose I have three tables in chapter 4, and I want them to be labelled 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3? And then, in another chapter, I want to reference Table 4.2? Thanks!

  • Todd Katz

    5 December 2021 at 23:54

    Very helpful, thank you.

  • Jeff Franz-Lien

    25 May 2020 at 08:27

    Good system. Compile returns a number when I just enter a tag to my text. But when I try to add placeholders, Compile ignores and just prints the code I entered. Does it not work in Windows Scrivener?

  • Fred

    17 July 2019 at 19:43

    Thank you. This was very helpful.

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