Bates-Style Numbering in Acrobat

acrobat-readerAdobe Acrobat 9 Standard has the ability to do Bates-style numbering like you often see on document production in discovery. I used it today to number the appendix for a brief to the Minnesota Supreme Court, and it really made things easy on me.

It is not obvious, but this walkthrough should help you get this simple PDF editing trick right the first time.

First, open up the document you want to number. If you are going to produce a lot of different documents, it would be easier to put them together into one, big PDF.

Go to Document > Header & Footer > Add…


The Add Header and Footer dialog will come up. I usually put numbering in the lower right, so I use the Right Footer Text box. If you want to do Bates-style numbering, use this format: <<000001>>. You can start at whatever number you want, though, and add a prefix (such as App. <<1>> for an appellate appendix).


Note that, although the preview shows the brackets, they will not show up in the document. Hit OK, and the numbers will show up on every page.

This can save you a lot of time and paper when you are putting together documents for discovery. (Although it took me about a ream of paper before I found this feature and figured out how to use it.)


  1. Avatar Dave Stromfeld says:

    Good tip. But a better solution is to use the Bates Numbering feature within Acrobat Pro. This can apply true Bates numbers across a set of PDF files. See here for more info:

    Dave Stromfeld

  2. Sam Glover Sam G. says:

    Yes, but I do not have Acrobat Pro, and this works just fine.

  3. Avatar Randy Wallace says:

    Another handy little feature when doing this is to click the Appearance Options. A box pops up with the option to “Shrink document to avoid overwriting the document’s text and graphics.”

    This way, you can always see your bates numbers and you dont overwrite anything.

  4. Avatar Kerry Carroll says:

    Not sure if you are familiar with pdfDocs Desktop – but it is a PDF creation and management application designed specifically for the legal profession. Integrates into MS Office, MS SharePoint and all leading document management systems – Autonomy iManage, NetDocuments, Open Text eDOCS DM, DOCS Open and Worldox without requiring special connectors or plug-ins.

    Provides solutions for specific legal workflow – collation, annotation, redaction, file splitting, bates numbering, Closing Book creation and more.

    New release provides PDF matter folders — drag and drop an entire matter folder (retaining matter structure) into the application and publish as a secure PDF (or multiple PDF documents). Also provides dual integration with a DMS and MS SharePoint.

    See recent piece in Technolawyer on the pdfDocs Desktop 3.1 release.


  5. Is there a way to change the format of page numbers?

  6. Avatar Angela Elliott says:

    I followed the instructions to perform the bates stamping in Adobe Acrobat Standard 9, but the numbers do not move forward. In other words, every page in my document is now numbered as 000001. I tried adding the number in the right footer text box with brackets <> thinking that this may tell the computer to advance the number on each page, but the brackets appeared on the document, and the number never advanced beyond 1. Any suggestions.

  7. Sam Glover Sam G. says:

    You have to use double brackets. Or just select the box where you want the page numbers to appear, and click Insert Page Number.

  8. Avatar Carlos Mesa says:

    The poster who noted problems with the numbering not working (<> showing up on all pages) is correct in Adobe Acrobat 9 Standard. The obvious quick fix is to spend the money on the Pro Edition. But absent that as a viable solution I found a workable and practical solution for Adobe 9 Standard users.

    Get to the header/footer link and click in the box where you want the bates to show up (left footer text/center footer text/right footer text) and then click Insert Page Number. At that point the program will insert this–<>. No worries. Click the blue link that says Page Number and Date Format…

    Click the page starts at link and plug in 100000 or 100001. Voila! Bates numbers!

    Contact all that need to know and tell them that your bates numbering will be 100000 et seq. and that they are to use other numbers.

    By the way…you can put any text before the symbols and it will appear. Example….Def Bates No.<> will appear as Def Bates No. 100001.

    That’s it!

  9. Avatar Marlena says:

    Help! I bates numbered a huge file and I need to change the prefix from vail0001 to hawk0001. When I go in under tools I do a remove of bates numbers and it removes it from all documents and I save it. Then I go back in and try to add bates numbers with the correct prefix vail0001 automatically populates and I cannot remove it! AND if I add bates numbers in a different location it will not appear ANYWHERE! UGH…. What did I do?

    • Avatar Emmily says:


      Try doing the changes again but “save as” a different name. Close it and open again and see if the changes were saved. I did that recently and it worked for me!

  10. Avatar Tracy says:

    I found this post looking for an easier way than using footers in Acrobat 9 Standard, but since there isn’t one…what I have found is that you have to create separate footers for pages 1-9, 10-99, 100-999, 1000-9999, etc., and apply them to just those pages. You can make this process easier by creating “settings” and saving them.

    Open add header/footer
    Click “page number and date format” to select your beginning page number (this step is not necessary for beginning page 1, but is necessary for pages 10, 100, 1000, 10,000, etc.)
    Place your curser in the box you want to use (I use lower right)
    Type in the number of zeros you might typically need in your bates range (3, 4, 5) then click insert page number, which will insert <> following your zeros.
    Click “page range options” and select 1-9
    I also adjust my margins to .2, and select “shrink document” in appearance options.
    Click “okay”.
    This is the key: Click “save settings” at the top! Name it Bates 1-9. This setting is now saved. When you need bates range 1-9 for future documents, you simply go to “saved settings” and select Bates 1-9. You can then insert your case-specific prefix (ABCD) in the footer text box before the zeros.

    Repeat steps above for pages 10-99, 100-999, 1000-9999, etc., removing one zero for each additional digit in the number so that they appear as 00001, 00010, 00100, etc.

    Hope this helps.

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