Fields Won't Update when Printing

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated June 13, 2020)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365


Sheldon writes architectural construction specifications. He has a set of a few hundred master files that he modifies for each building project. He inserts fields in each file that link to a separate file and extract common information, such as the project title, project number, issue date, etc. Each project directory has one of these source files. When Sheldon printed a document, all of the fields and links used to update automatically, as they should. Recently, though, this stopped working; he now has to manually update the fields before printing. The Word options are unchanged and still include "Update fields before printing", "Update linked data before printing", and "Update automatic links at open." Sheldon wonders how he can make the automatic updating work again.

As Sheldon assumes, the automatic updating should work, especially if you have Word configured as Sheldon does. However, this could be a particularly vexing problem to track down. Chances are good that it is due to some partial or complete document corrupting. While that is easy enough to track down if you are working with a single document file, it is much more complex if you are working with hundreds of files.

First, try to determine if all the fields fail to automatically update. In other words, if you have 30 fields in your document that pull information from other files (presumably with the INCLUDEFILE field), then check to see that all 30 of them are not updated. If they aren't, then it is likely that the problem is with the document containing the fields. If only some of them are not updated, then the likely problem is the file being referenced by the fields not being updated.

You'll also want to check to see if the problem is with all of your documents. Create a new, blank document and create, within it, several INCLUDEFILE fields that reference other files. Check to see if it updates automatically. If it does, then you have a strong indicator that the problem isn't with Word, but with your other document file.

Once you've narrowed down whether the problem is with the document containing the fields or the documents referenced by the fields, you can start to examine the problem documents. For those documents, go through the standard process for dealing with corrupted documents. (Copy everything except the final paragraph mark to a new, blank document. Use the new document in preference to the old document that may be corrupted.)

Hopefully these procedures will help you to narrow down the problem and, perhaps, eliminate it.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13237) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365.

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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