Update Fields in Your Microsoft Word Documents Manually or Automatically

by Avantix Learning Team | Updated April 6, 2021

Applies to: Microsoft® Word® 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019 or 365 (Windows)

If you have inserted fields in your Microsoft Word document, you can choose to update them manually or have them update automatically. For fields you update manually, you can update just one field or update all the fields in your Word document at once. Some fields, such as page numbers, will automatically update when you preview your document. Many fields are set by default to update when you open a document but you can also set an option in Microsoft Word to update fields when you preview your file.

You can insert fields in several ways in Word. Some fields are created when you use Word's built-in features (such as inserting a table of contents, a cross-reference, a bookmark or a page number). Other fields can be inserted using the Field dialog box or can be entered using keyboard shortcuts.

Recommended article: How to Insert Built-in and Custom Fields in Microsoft Word

Updating a single field

You can update a single field manually in two ways:

  1. Right-click the field and select Update Field. Depending on the type of field, another dialog box may appear where you can select other options (this occurs for example, with a tables of contents).
  2. Click the field and press F9.

Update field appears in the drop-down menu when you right-click a field:

Context menu that appears when you right-click on a field to update the field.

Updating all fields in the body of a Word document

To manually update all fields in the body of a Word document:

  1. Click in the body of the Word document.
  2. Press Ctrl + A.
  3. Press F9.

Updating fields in headers, footers or text boxes

Some fields in headers, footers or text boxes must be updated separately.

To update fields in headers, footers or text boxes:

  1. Click in the header, footer or text box.
  2. Pess Ctrl + A to select all.
  3. Press F9.

Page fields do not need to be updated manually.

Updating a table of contents field

If you update a table of contents, another dialog box appears. In the Update Table of Contents dialog box, select Update page numbers only if no content has changed. Select Update entire table to update page numbers and content.

Updating fields before printing or previewing

You can set an option in Microsoft Word to ensure that all fields are updated automatically before previewing (to preview, click the File tab in the Ribbon and then click Print):

  1. Click the File tab in the Ribbon and click Options at the bottom. A dialog box appears.
  2. Click Display in the categories on the left.
  3. Scroll down to the Printing options area in the panel on the right.
  4. Ensure the check box for Update fields before printing is checked.
  5. Click OK.

The Word Options dialog box where Update field before printing has been checked appears as follows:

Updating all fields in Word showing dialog box with update fields before printing checked.

Preventing field updating

You can prevent fields from updating by locking them.

To lock a field so that it is not updated, click the field, and then press Ctrl + F11. To unlock a field so that it can be updated, click the field, and then press Ctrl + Shift + F11.

Displaying fields with grey shading

You can change your options in Microsoft Word so that all fields are displayed with grey shading (the shading does not print). This can be helpful to determine where you have fields in your document.

To display fields with grey shading:

  1. Click the File tab in the Ribbon and click Options at the bottom. A dialog box appears.
  2. Click Advanced in the categories on the left.
  3. Scroll down to Show document content area in the panel on the right.
  4. Select Always from the drop-down menu for Field shading.
  5. Click OK.

The Word Options dialog box with Field shading set to Always appears as follows:

Microsoft Word dialog box with Field Shading turned on.

You may not want to display field shading permanently. The default setting is Field shading when selected.

Fields are a very powerful way of using variable content in Microsoft Word documents. However, if fields do not update, your document can display errors or inaccurate content.

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How to Update Fields in Microsoft Word
Article Name
How to Update Fields in Microsoft Word
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If you have inserted fields in your Microsoft Word document, you can choose to update them manually or have them update automatically. For fields you update manually, you can update just one field or update all the fields in your document at once. Some fields, such as page numbers, will automatically update when you preview your document.
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Avantix Learning

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