Stopping DATE Fields from Updating when Opening a Document

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 27, 2016)

8

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, and 2016.

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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Comments

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What is nine minus 5?

2016-03-31 04:56:36

Duncan

I know this is shutting the door after the horse has bolted, but isn't it a better idea to save or print the document as PDF for archive? I've been doing this as a matter of course for years now.


2016-03-04 11:16:50

Patti

I don't use date properties in my files so I can't test this - but what if you had a date field that would update upon opening the file, but you don't open it? Can you just print the file from Windows Explorer by right-clicking & selecting Print? Or does that also make the field update?


2016-02-28 18:01:34

Jake

I use docproperty/Date Created in the Advanced Properties under the Custom Tab and use this in a field. The date will be whatever you set as the value and will only change when you modify the value.


2016-02-28 11:57:05

Calvin Wilson

One approach to prevent the issue with future documents might be to record a simple macro that inserts the current date in a specified format and without the auto update option selected.

I created the macro below and assigned it to the key sequence Alt+Shift+D, an existing key sequence for entering the date. The macro could just as easily be assigned to a button on the Quick Access Toolbar.

This approach won’t solve the problem with previously created documents in which the date exists as an updatable field, but it may help eliminate the problem for future documents.

Sub InsertCurrentDate()
'
' InsertCurrentDate Macro
' Inserts current date in the specified format (for example February 28, 2016) with the update automatically option not enabled (InsertAsFiled:=False).
'
Selection.InsertDateTime DateTimeFormat:="MMMM d, yyyy", InsertAsField:= _
False, DateLanguage:=wdEnglishUS, CalendarType:=wdCalendarWestern, _
InsertAsFullWidth:=False
End Sub


2016-02-28 05:25:38

Dr. Bartolo

Or lock the field using Ctrl+F11.

I use the SaveDate field (which only works after a file has been saved!) by updating using Ctrl+F9. If I lock the field afterwards (see above) the date used stays the same whatever happens to the file later.

If I draft a letter, save it, and then modify it two days later, the date can be updated to the later date using the Ctrl+F9 method above (if the field has been locked, unlock it first with Ctrl+Shift+F11).

A bit more fiddly, but you can get the best of all worlds that way.


2016-02-27 12:02:07

Ted Duke

This was interesting. I was unaware of the date field capability and I now know how to get statistics on documents. I intend to try it on books that I have been working on for over a decade and for which I did not create or save a history of when it was created. It will be interesting to see whether migrating from older to newer computers will have affected the history.


2016-02-27 06:57:35

Ray

I tried this on a Word 2007 document from Jan 2015.
The result was:
Created: 05 January 2015 21:28:39
Modified: 05 December 2014 13:25:01
Accessed: 27 February 2016 11:34:16

How can the created date be after the modified date?

[File history: 1. Originally prepared for use as a template but saved as docx. 2. Modified and data added from Excel possibly more than once. 3. Formatting of data adjusted. 4. Saved under new docx name.]

Another file with a more straightforward history - a letter dated 1 Jul 13 gave:
Created: 22 January 2015 14:25:29
Modified: 01 July 2013 17:44:59 !!!

Is this another "feature" of Word 2007?


2016-02-27 05:00:09

Jim Boyle

Re Word2010 - and perhaps other variants:

If you want a date reference on a document to reflect its latest incarnation, then use the "SaveDate" field for any date references. Provided you SAVE before printing or sending the document elsewhere, that should be effective.


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