The Missing Date Code in Your Microsoft Word Document

Rhombic calendar

You’ve probably already stumbled across one date-related field code: that Date field in Microsoft Word. And it’s a handy thing to have around when you want that letter you’re working on to always have today’s date on it.

But what if today’s date isn’t exactly what you need for, say, a pleading or other document? Here are some other date field tricks you probably don’t know about.

Unless otherwise noted below, all instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows.

Date and Time

The “today’s date” field code (available on the Insert tab in the Text section as “Date and Time”) can insert the current date and/or time into any Microsoft Word document. If you want it to automatically update each time you retrieve your document, leave that “update automatically” checkbox below checked; otherwise, it’ll insert a plain string of text that reflects the date and time when you inserted it.

Word 2010 insert automatic date 300x232 The Missing Date Code in Your Microsoft Word Document

But there are other field codes that can calculate dates for you. For example:

SaveDate

This is my favorite field code, because it inserts the date and/or time you last saved the document. Here are some spots I frequently use that field code:

  • In my letterhead template (saves me from typing/updating the date each time I start or edit a letter)
  • In the footer of a draft document to help distinguish one draft from another (handy when several drafts are floating around)
  • In Certificates of Service included in pleading templates (updates the date of service automatically just before I pdf the document for e-filing)

To insert that field code, go to the Insert tab and, under QuickParts, choose Field.

Word quick parts insert field The Missing Date Code in Your Microsoft Word Document

To make the SaveDate easier to find, I usually choose Date and Time under the Categories drop-down, which gives me a much shorter list of available field codes:

Word Insert Field 2010 300x199 The Missing Date Code in Your Microsoft Word Document

You can format the date several ways, depending on which option you choose to the right (under Field Properties).

The CreateDate (the date the document was created) and PrintDate (the date the document was last printed) field codes work in similar fashion.

Ordinal dates

Remember when I said I use the SaveDate field code to update the date in a Certificate of Service? That doesn’t mean that I can’t do that format with a calculated date just because the ever-popular “21st day of March, 2013″ doesn’t appear in the date format list above. I’ve created a QuickPart that formats the day as an ordinal date (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.), adds ” day of “, then adds the month and year. Storing it as a QuickPart means I can pop this into contracts, notary acknowledgements, etc., without having to go through all the steps below every single time.

In the QuickPart, I use SaveDate twice: once for the ordinal day and the second time for the month and year. Go to the Fields dialog box as shown above. Once there, pick SaveDate and then any of the formats to the right (doesn’t matter which one, because we’re going to isolate the day of the month anyway).

Word quick parts insert field date 1 300x199 The Missing Date Code in Your Microsoft Word Document

Word quick parts insert field date 2 300x199 The Missing Date Code in Your Microsoft Word Document
So, as you can see in step 1 above, we’re just leaving the “d” for the day of the month. Next, click Field Codes at the bottom (step 2 above). This is where we’ll format that “d” as an ordinal number (15th) by typing “\* ordinal” after the “d” as shown below.

Word quick parts insert field date 3 300x199 The Missing Date Code in Your Microsoft Word Document

Now, we’ll type ” day of ” (don’t forget those spaces) after our new ordinal number and move on to creating the MMMM, YYYY part. It’s a slight variation of the trick used above, except this time we’ll obviously isolate the month and year:

Word quick parts insert field date 4 300x199 The Missing Date Code in Your Microsoft Word Document

Once this is done, the result looks like this:

Word quick parts insert field date 5 300x62 The Missing Date Code in Your Microsoft Word Document

To save this as a QuickPart, select the entire phrase with your mouse or keyboard, then go to the Insert tab, click QuickParts, then click “Save Selection as a Quick Part” and name it something you’ll remember.

Calculated dates

Calculating dates (e.g., today + 30 days) in Microsoft Word is not for the faint of heart. Unlike Microsoft Excel, this isn’t a matter of embedding a fairly straightforward formula.

You’re not out of luck, though. As I’ve said before, where Microsoft leaves off, clever plug-in programmers often fill in the gaps. One of the cleverest I’ve seen is TheFormTool, which will not only calculate dates but make creating and using document templates really easy. If you’re a member of the Lawyerist LAB, you can take advantage of a $10 discount code for the Pro version of TheFormTool.

Just part of the wonderful world of field codes

SaveDate and its cousins are part of the powerful field codes feature that drives a lot of what you see in Microsoft Word. These hidden gems can be used in documents to help automate functions in your documents. Start experimenting with the date fields and work your way out from there.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fncll/6698099611/)

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