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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Updating and Editing Fields

Now that you know about the fields you can insert, let’s look at how you can edit the properties of a field and update its values after insertion.

Updating a Field

Most fields are not automatically updated each time you open or save the document. (In this way, they differ from OLE linked objects, which are automatically updated by default.)

To update a single field, select it (or click anywhere in it) and press F9, or right-click the field and choose Update Field. If you have toggled the display of the field code string on, updating the field toggles it back to displaying the results.

To update multiple fields at once, select them as part of a contiguous selection range and press F9. To update all the fields in the entire document, select the entire document (Ctrl+A) and press F9. If the update takes too long, you can abort it by pressing Esc.

You can’t update all fields. Certain fields are not affected by performing an update because they do not pull information from a source that can be changed. For example, the {Print}, {MacroButton}, {GoToButton}, and {Eq} fields are like that.

In addition, certain fields are not affected by performing a manual update because they automatically update themselves. Examples include {Date}, {Time}, {Page}, and {Seq}. {Date} and {Time} update each time you open or print the document (or open it in Print Preview), and item-numbering fields such as {Page} and {Seq} update whenever there is a change in pagination or item sequencing, respectively.

Before we get into specifics, note that a lot of keyboard shortcuts are involved in working with fields, and some of them are the only way to accomplish a particular action. Table 16.2 includes a quick summary of these shortcuts.

Table 16.2. Summary of Keyboard Shortcuts for Fields



Save changes to the source file (only for {IncludeText})


Update the selected fields


Toggle field code display


Insert a blank set of field braces


Run macro (only for {MacroButton})


Unlink a field


Go to the next field


Go to the previous field


Lock a field from changes


Unlock a locked field


Locking Fields Against Updates

Some fields can be locked, so they are never updated even when someone issues an Update Field command on them. For example, if you use a field to enter the current date on the day the document was created, you would not want that field to update every time you open the document.

Some fields have a Prevent Fields from Being Updated check box in the Field dialog box. Marking this check box adds a \! switch in the code string for that field. You can type the switch into the code string manually if you find that easier than going back to the Field dialog box.

If the field you want to lock does not have that \! switch as part of its syntax, here’s another way: Click in the field and press Ctrl+F11. To confirm that the field has been locked, right-click it; the Update Field command is unavailable on the menu that appears.

To unlock a field that has been locked this way, click in it and press Ctrl+Shift+F11.

Updating Fields for Printing

By default, Word does not automatically update fields before printing. This is intentional, because it gives you more control over your data. If you would like to change this behavior so that all links are updated before printing, open the Word Options dialog box (File, Options), click Display, and mark the Update Fields Before Printing check box.

Finding and Moving Between Fields

Sometimes, it can be difficult to know where the fields are actually located in a document, especially when some of the fields do not contain visible content, such as a bookmark or index marker.

There are several ways to surmount this obstacle. One way is to select the entire document and toggle the field codes (Shift+F9). It doesn’t take you to the codes, but it makes them easy to see.

Another way, which you can actually combine with the preceding one, is to go to the next field code by pressing F11 or to the previous one by pressing Shift+F11. Word jumps to the beginning of the next or previous field. You might not see anything there (if the field is hidden), but after jumping to that spot, right-click the spot and choose Toggle Field Codes or press Shift+F9, and the field appears.

A third way is to use the Go To feature to move from one field to the next. On the Home tab, click the Find arrow, click Go To, and choose Field from the Go to What list and click Next to go to the next field.

arrow.jpg To review Go To as a method of finding objects, see “Using Go To,” p. 78.

Converting Fields to Plain Text

If you decide at some point that you will never want to update a particular field again, you can convert it to regular text (that is, unlink it). Doing so copies its current value into the document and then deletes the field placeholder.

Before unlinking a field, update it one last time (F9) if needed. Then, select it (or select multiple fields to operate on at once) and press Ctrl+Shift+F9. You can reverse an unlink with an Undo operation, but otherwise it’s a one-way route. To restore the field, you need to reinsert it from scratch.

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