Fields and Forms in Word

Fields are the often-underappreciated placeholders that work behind the scenes in a document. They help perform the magic involved with many of the most powerful features in Word, such as mail merging, indexing, automatic generation of tables of contents, automatic figure numbering, cross-referencing, page numbering, and more.

There are many different types of fields, each with a specific purpose, but they break down into three main categories. You can use fields to do the following:

  • Insert text or graphics into the document, such as page numbering, dates and times, text from other documents, graphics from external files, document properties, or calculated values.
  • Mark a location for later use, such as with a bookmark, table of contents marker, or indexing code.
  • Perform an action, such as running a macro or opening a hyperlink in a web browser.

Yet another way to use fields is to create user-interactive forms. In this chapter, you see how fields work and how to insert them, and you find out how to use form fields to create forms.

 

How Word Uses Fields

Many people use fields in Word without even realizing it because so many of Word’s features automatically insert and modify fields. For example, when you insert a date or time and set it to be automatically updated, Word inserts a {Date} or {Time} code. And when you create an OLE link to an object, Word inserts a {Link} code.

Throughout this book, you’ve learned about fields in an indirect way. Whenever a feature has been discussed that used a field, you’ve learned to insert that field via a button or dialog box, but you haven’t looked too deeply yet at what’s really going on behind the curtain. Table 16.1 lists some of the Word features that employ fields and cross-references them to where those skills are covered in the book.

This chapter delves into the technical nitty-gritty details that govern fields and shows you how you can select, insert, modify, and format fields to accomplish a variety of document-creation and formatting tasks. Even if you don’t end up working manually with fields very often, this is not wasted study! The more you understand about how fields really work, the better you will be able to troubleshoot problems that may occur, or to tweak an individual field’s options to fit an unusual formatting need.