Word Footnote hidden bug

Hiding footnotes in Word triggers an annoying bug that’s been there for at least ten years. There’s no sign of it being fixed.

While looking into Footnotes and Endnotes in Word for Office-Watch.com we came upon a strange bug. Anyone trying to hide the footnotes in a document will strike it. Here’s the bug and a workaround.

Start with some footnotes like this:

Footnotes complete image from Word 2010 & 2013 Footnote hidden bug at Office-Watch.com

Sometimes you want to hide the footnotes so you can release a ‘clean’ version of the document without the references or details. The usual way to do that is hiding the footnotes and references using the in-built styles.

Changing the Footnote Text style to Font | Hidden attribute hides all the footnotes as you’d expect. All the footnotes and the dividing line disappear.

Footnotes hidden image from Word 2010 & 2013 Footnote hidden bug at Office-Watch.com

That leaves the superscript references in the text controlled by the ‘Footnote Reference’ style. However when you change Footnote Reference style to Font | Hidden then Word seriously loses the plot:

Footnotes bug image from Word 2010 & 2013 Footnote hidden bug at Office-Watch.com

The dividing line reappears plus some images and objects (if any) reappear.  Even the numbering is wrong – notice the ‘1 2’ for the first footnote.

The presence of the images and object isn’t the problem, here’s an example with a text only footnote.

Footnotes bug - text only image from Word 2010 & 2013 Footnote hidden bug at Office-Watch.com

The order that you change the styles in makes no difference.

We’ve tried this in both Word 2010, Word 2013 all the way up to the latest Word 365 – there’s some minor display variations but essentially it’s the same bug in all releases of Word.

It’s not an obscure problem. We found it while trying to answer a question we’d received from a few readers i.e. how to print or make a copy of a Word document for distribution without footnotes. A reasonable enough request which is difficult to do in Word even without the bug.

As usual, the Microsoft Knowledge Base has no reference to this despite the passage of many years and doubtless many bug reports to Microsoft.


The workaround we can think of is to change the ‘Footnote Reference’ to Font | color White (or other background color) instead of Hidden. This leaves little spaces which can be reduced by changing the ‘Footnote Reference’ style to Font size 1pt (the minimum). See Hiding footnotes and endnotes

Aside from that, your only real choice is to clone the document, delete the footnotes entirely and print/publish the edited clone. That’s OK as a one off event but cumbersome if you need to do it regularly.

The real solution is for Microsoft to fix this long standing bug or, even better, provide a more elegant way to print/publish a document with an option to remove footnotes or endnotes from the published version.

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