How to use a custom document property to repeat content in Microsoft Word

Laptop computer displaying logo of Microsoft Word
Image: monticellllo/Adobe Stock

Many Microsoft Word documents repeat the same information throughout the document. For instance, a contract might refer to the contract parties several times. An evaluation might refer to the employee or student more than once. Word offers a few ways to repeat content in a document, but one method you might not know about is Word document properties. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to use document properties to repeat content in a document. It’s easy and requires only a little setup.

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I’m using Microsoft 365 on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but you can use earlier versions. You can’t enter or update field properties in Word for the web; however, Word for the web will display the results of existing properties in a document. I’m using Word because that’s where you’ll use these properties the most, but this feature is available in other Office applications.

What are document properties in Word?

Word document properties store metadata about the file. Metadata is data about data. It describes and gives context to data. For instance, metadata can be the person who created the document and when, who last modified the document and so on. Word makes metadata available through document properties.

Word supports four types of document properties:

Standard properties

These apply to every document. They refer to author, title, subject and a few others. You can change these properties.

Automatically updated properties

These file system properties, such as the file size, the creation and last modified dates, the number of words in the document and so on. These property settings can change as the document changes, but you can’t change them.

Custom properties

These allow the author to assign text or numeric values to a custom property. There are a number of predefined names that you can define, or you can create your own. You can update these properties.

Document library properties

These are available when a document belongs to a document library on a website or a public folder.

Now that you know what document properties are, let’s learn how to access them in a Word document.

How to access document properties in Word

Word document properties are available for viewing, changing and creating from the backstage area. Click the File tab and choose Info from the left pane. To the right, look for a list of standard properties, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Word lists several properties in the backstage area.

To access these properties, click the Properties dropdown and choose Advanced Properties. The resulting dialog shown in Figure B provides access to all the document properties. Word divides the properties among five tabs. If you like, click each to see what’s available on each tab, but the one we want is the Custom tab.

Figure B

Use this dialog to access document properties.

How to use a document property in Word

Now let’s suppose you want to enter the date and time you created the document into the body of your document. You could guess, but using a document property is more precise. To use the document property, do the following:

  1. Position your cursor where you want to enter the date and time.
  2. Click the Insert tab.
  3. From the Quick Parts dropdown in the Text group, choose Document Properties toward the bottom of the list.
  4. From the resulting submenu, choose Author (Figure C).

Figure C

Choose a document property.

Figure D

Word inserts the author property and displays the author.

As you can see in Figure D, Word inserts the document property as a content control. If you want to repeat the document property elsewhere in the document, enter it again or copy it. When copying, be sure to click the control first, don’t copy only the contents. Then, paste the copy where you want it. If you update the first control, as shown in Figure E, Word updates the copy.

Figure E

Update the first control and Word updates the second.

Now let’s create a custom document property and use it to repeat information.

How to create a custom document property in Word

Custom document properties let you define a property for a document and use it in the same way.

To create a custom document property, do the following:

  1. Click the File tab and choose Info from the left pane.
  2. Choose Advanced Properties from the Properties dropdown.
  3. Click the Custom tab.
  4. Enter the name, specify the data type and enter the value: Member, Text, Doc Holiday (Figure F). Doing so adds the new custom property to the list below (Figure G).
  5. Click OK and return to the document.

Figure F

Enter the values for the custom document property.

Figure G

Add the custom property.

Now it’s time to use the document property to repeat the value, Doc Holiday, in a document:

  1. Position the cursor where you want to enter the name Doc Holiday.
  2. Click the Quick Parts dropdown, but this time choose Field. Custom document properties aren’t on the submenu.
  3. Select DocProperty in the Field Names control.
  4. Select Member, the name of the custom document property, in the Field Properties list (Figure H).
  5. Click OK.

Figure H

Find the custom document property.

This time, Word enters a field code, not a content control. Don’t worry, you can insert the field the same way, wherever it’s needed or copy it as we did the content control earlier, as shown in Figure I.

Figure I

Copy the control to repeat the value elsewhere in the document.

If you need to change the value of the custom document property, access it through the backstage and change the value setting. To see the change, you must update the fields. To do so, press Ctrl + A to select everything in the document and then press F9. For better or worse, doing so updates all fields in the document, not just the Member custom field. If you want to update them individually, right-click each and choose Update Field.

There are many ways to repeat content in a Word document. Creating a custom document property is one of the simplest, but it’s not well known. If you use it in a shared document, be sure to let collaborators know how to use it properly. Otherwise, someone might manually update the value or remove the content control or field.

If you’d like to learn two more ways to repeat values in a Word document, read Office Q&A: Two easy ways to repeat text in a Word document.

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