Stopping DATE Fields from Updating when Opening a Document

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated September 16, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


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Thurletta opened a two-year-old letter, hoping to print it as evidence that she had written it two years ago. When opening, though, the date in the letter was updated, thereby making it useless for the evidentiary purpose she desired. She wonders if there is a way in Word to suppress the automatic update of fields when a document is opened.

When you use the Insert Date tool to add a date into a document, by default Word inserts the DATE field. This field always reflects the current date, which means that every time fields are updated in the document, the DATE field is updated to reflect today's date.

This can be a problem in situations like Thurletta's. Unfortunately, there is no way to stop those fields from updating when opening the document. There may be ways around the problem, however. One potential solution is to try these steps:

  1. Open the document you created two years ago.
  2. Select the date (the one that updated to today's date).
  3. Display the Insert tab of the ribbon.
  4. In the Text group, click Quick Parts | Fields. Word displays the Field dialog box.
  5. Choose Date and Time as the field category at the left side of the dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  6. Figure 1. The Field dialog box.

  7. Select CreateDate from the Field Names list.
  8. Click OK to close the Field dialog box and insert the field.

What these steps do is to replace the original DATE field with the CREATEDATE field, which always reflects the date the document was first created. This may well suffice, assuming that the document was actually created two years ago and not longer ago. (For instance, if your two-year-old document started out as a three-year-old document that you simply modified and saved under a different name.)

You could also see important dates related to your document by taking a look at the Properties dialog box. How you display the dialog box depends on the version of Word you are using:

  • If you are using Word 2007 click the Office button, then choose Prepare | Properties. Word displays the Document Information Panel at the top of the document. Use the Document Properties drop-down list (top-left corner of the Document Information Panel) to choose Advanced Properties. Word displays the Properties dialog box.
  • If you are using a later version of Word, click the File tab of the ribbon and then click Info | Properties | Advanced Properties. Word displays the Properties dialog box.

Regardless of which version of Word you are using, make sure the Statistics tab is displayed. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. The Statistics tab of the Properties dialog box.

Note that at the top of the dialog box you can see when the document was created, when it was last modified, and when it was last accessed. If you capture a screen shot of this information, that may suffice to prove when the document was actually written.

In conclusion, there is a lesson to be learned here: If you don't want the date shown in your documents to change, don't use the Insert Date tool. Instead, type the date the old fashioned way. Or, if you absolutely want to use the Insert Date tool, select the date (after it is inserted) and press Ctrl+Shift+F9. This "unlinks" the field, essentially converting it to static text—meaning the date won't change in the future.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1994) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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What is five more than 6?

2023-09-16 05:35:50

Dr. Bartolo

There are other options to consider as well.

One (my preference) is to use the SAVEDATE field rather than using the insert date tool. The latter creates a DATE field, not a SAVEDATE field. The result of using the SAVEDATE field only updates (a) after the file is saved and (b) when you highlight the field and press F9.

The other thing one could do is to select the DATE field result and press Ctrl + F11 before closing the file. That locks the result in place so that opening the file later, even years later, the DATE field result will not change. But that only works if you remember to lock the DATE field when you create the file.


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