Automatically Setting Document Properties

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated August 19, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021

Harwood works for a small town as a building inspector. They need to transform our operations to digital, and the State Library requires that any documents created in programs such as Word include metadata. The problem is that it takes extra time to access the document properties and fill in the required information. The only field that populates automatically is the Author name. Harwood wonders if there is a way to automatically set other document properties, such as file name.

Metadata, as Harwood is discovering, is specified in a Word document through the use of document properties. Word includes some basic document properties you can set and it includes document properties that are set automatically as you work with a document.

You can see both the basic and automatic document properties (and change some of the them) by clicking the File tab of the ribbon and then clicking Info at the left side of the screen. Word displays a whole bunch of information about your document, and at the right side you can see, under the Properties heading, some of the basic document properties that can be changed—such as Title, Tags, and Comments—and some of the automatic ones—such as Words, Total Editing Time, Created, and Last Modified.

If you want to change some of the properties, just click on them and type away. If you want to see more properties, then you can click on the down-arrow at the right of the Properties title and choosing Advanced Properties. Word displays the Properties dialog box. Using the controls in the dialog box you can view and make changes to the properties as desired. (Well, you can make changes to the non-automatic document properties.) You can even define custom document properties to be stored with your document. You can learn how to define custom document properties by referring to this WordTip:

If you want more information about document properties directly from Microsoft, this page on their website is helpful:

Of course, none of this helps Harwood that much. The reason is that setting the basic document properties or defining custom document properties can be quite labor intensive. You can try setting document properties in a template and then basing new documents on that template, but that doesn't change the need to still massage those properties in the new document.

The only way that I've been able to discover how to remove some of the tedium from setting document properties is to rely on a macro to do the work for me. For instance, the following is a pair of simple macros that create two custom document properties and sets their values:

Sub SetTwoProps()
    Dim sTemp As String
    Dim sMsg As String

    sMsg = "Results of Setting Properties:" & vbCrLf
    sTemp = "   State File Number was"
    If SetProp("StateFileNum", "X23TR7-001") Then
        sTemp = sTemp & " set"
        sTemp = sTemp & " NOT set"
    End If
    sMsg = sMsg & sTemp & vbCrLf

    sTemp = "   Document Filing Date was"
    If SetProp("DocFileDate", Format(Date, "dd Mmmm YYYY")) Then
        sTemp = sTemp & " set"
        sTemp = sTemp & " NOT set"
    End If
    sMsg = sMsg & sTemp

    MsgBox sMsg
End Sub
Function SetProp(sPropName As String, sPropValue As String) As Boolean
    Dim bExists As Boolean
    Dim vItem As Variant

    SetProp = False
    On Error GoTo ExitFunc

    ' See if document properties already exist
    bExists = False
    For Each vItem In ActiveDocument.CustomDocumentProperties
        If vItem.Name = sPropName Then
            bExists = True
            Exit For
        End If
    Next vItem

    ' Create document property if it doesn't exist
    ' If it does exist, just set its value
    If Not bExists Then
        ActiveDocument.CustomDocumentProperties.Add _
          Name:=sPropName, LinkToContent:=False, _
          Type:=msoPropertyTypeString, Value:=sPropValue
        ActiveDocument.CustomDocumentProperties(sPropName) = _
    End If

    ' Made it through successfully
    SetProp = True
End Function

To use these macros, you run the SetTwoProps macro to specify the property names, the values, and to display a results message (put together in the sMsg variable). The macro calls the SetProp function, which actually does the "heavy lifting" of setting the document property. It checks to see if the property already exists and, if it doesn't, it creates the property. It returns True or False, depending on whether the property setting was successful or not.

Harwood could use a macro similar to SetTwoProps to set the document properties necessary to satisfy the State Library. When you first create a document (or before you send the document off to the State Library) you could then run the macro to make sure the document properties are set the way they need to be set.


If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the WordTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (11418) applies to Microsoft Word 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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