How properties and DocProperty fields work

Learn what document properties in Microsoft Word can be used for. How to add document properties in Word, how to edit and insert document properties, etc.

When used wisely, document properties and DocProperty fields can help you produce better Word documents in less time.

In this article, you will learn what a document property is and what a DocProperty field is. You will learn where to find the Advanced Properties in Word. The article explains how you can use the built-in functionality of Word to add or edit document properties and insert DocProperty fields, both via the general user interface and via macros (VBA).

The general information below about Microsoft Word document properties and DocProperty fields apply to both custom document properties and DocProperty fields you create using Word's built-in functionality and using the Word add-in DocTools DocPropertyManager.

It can be slow and tiresome to work with Word's built-in functionality when it comes to document properties. The DocTools DocPropertyManager Word add-in makes the work much easier and faster. Custom document properties and DocProperty fields created using DocTools DocPropertyManager will work as if they had been created using Word's built-in functionality. However, DocTools DocPropertyManager makes it possible to perform several tasks that are not possible via the built-in functionality.

This article is relevant for Word 2007, Word 2010, Word 2013, Word 2016, Word 2019, and Word for Microsoft 365. Note that DocTools DocPropertyManager does not work with Word 2007.

What is a document property in Word?

There are different types of document properties.

  • Standard document properties – can also be called built-in document properties
  • Custom document properties
  • Document library properties

All Word documents contain a set of standard document properties, e.g. Title, Author, Keywords, and Comments. These properties are used to store certain types of metadata about your document. The standard properties have fixed names that you cannot change. You can edit the value of some of the standard properties (e.g. Title, Author, Keywords and Comments) whereas others store statistics data that is updated automatically by Word and that cannot be edited, e.g. file size, when the document was last saved or printed.

In addition to the standard properties, you can add document properties yourself. Such properties are called custom document properties. Word documents do not contain any custom document properties by default. You can add as many custom document properties as you wish. Each custom document property must be assigned a name, a data type and a value. There are four data types: TextDateNumber and Yes or No. For details about the types, see About the different data types of custom document properties below.

Document library properties are related to documents that are stored in a document library on a website or in a public folder, e.g. in relation to SharePoint. This article will not deal further with document library properties.

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What can document properties be used for?

None of the document properties are visible in the document content unless you do something to insert their values into the content. This is true for both the standard and the custom document properties.

In e.g. File Explorer, you can see and search for documents with specific standard document property values. This article will concentrate on what you can use document properties for in the contents of Word documents.

You can insert the value of a document property in the document. You do so by inserting a field of the type DocProperty. A DocProperty field will show the value of the related document property – standard or custom. See How to insert a DocProperty field using the built-in functionality of Word later in this article.

For an illustration of what document properties and DocProperty fields can be used for, see this short video. The video shows the DocTools DocPropertyManager add-in in use. You can use document properties and DocProperty fields for the same purpose by using Word's own features. The difference is that the work is more cumbersome and takes longer.

In many documents you may need the same data repeatedly. For example, a client name or a product name may occur several times. It is very helpful to use custom document properties for such data.

You can insert as many DocProperty fields related to the same document property as you wish. If you change the value of that custom document property, you only need to update fields. Then the new value will appear throughout the document. This applies regardless of whether one or many DocProperty fields exist. Thereby, you can define the value once and you are sure that the same value will be shown in every single DocProperty field related to that custom document property.

There are other ways to repeat data. For example, you can bookmark text and have the contents of the bookmark repeated by inserting cross-references to the bookmark. On the DocTools DocPropertyManager page, I have explained why the use of bookmarks and cross-references is less stable than the use of custom document properties and DocProperty fields.

Custom document properties and DocProperty fields also make it easy to create templates with flexible boilerplate text. This way, you can re-use text across documents. For example, this is useful in templates for proposals and agreements. It makes it fast and safe to update the contents with correct names and other values in the individual documents that are created. In the template, simply insert DocProperty fields as placeholders for the relevant data. Assign neutral, descriptive values to the custom document properties in the template. Then it is easy for the user to see which type of information each DocProperty holds. When a user creates a new document based on the template, he/she only needs to edit the values of the custom document properties and update fields.

For an example of the use of custom document properties and DocProperty fields, see the short video on the DocTools DocPropertyManager page.

Fact list

  • A document property has a name and a value. A custom document property also has a type.
  • The value of a document property can be inserted in Word documents using fields of the type DocProperty.