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Understanding Default DATE Field Formatting

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Understanding Default DATE Field Formatting.

When you use a DATE field in Word, the program follows a very logical series of steps to determine how that date should be displayed. First, if you have specified a date format by using the \@ switch with the field, that format is used.

If there is no format switch used, meaning the field is simply { DATE }, then Word looks for the existence of the optional DateFormat specification. The DateFormat specification is stored in the Registry in the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\[ver]\Word\Options

In this key, [ver] should be replaced with the version number of Word: 8.0 for Word 97, 9.0 for Word 2000, 10.0 for Word 2002, 11.0 for Word 2003, or 12.0 for Word 2007. The name of the Registry value is either DateFormat or DefaultDateFormat, depending on the version of Word you are using, and the Registry value has the same syntax as the format string used with the \@ switch (again, no quote marks).

Note that the DateFormat specification is completely optional; it is not created by Word by default. You can create it using the Registry editor. As with any other Registry changes, you must quit the Registry editor and restart Word for your changes to take effect.

Perhaps the easiest way to set the DateFormat specification, though, is to use the Default button from the Insert Date and Time dialog box. Once the dialog box is displayed (how you display it depends on your version of Word), click on Default. This creates or changes the DateFormat specification in the proper Registry key.

If the DateFormat specification is not set on your system, then Word determines the DATE field display format from the regional date settings. You can determine which format this is by starting the Control Panel, double-clicking on Regional Settings, and then choosing the Date tab. The Short Date Style is the format used.

There have been reports that Word is not completely consistent in how it displays text-related date fields. If you include a \@ switch format string with the DATE field, and that format calls for the display of full or partial month or day names (such as Tuesday or September), then the language used for the names is dependent on the language assigned to the paragraph in which the DATE field is being inserted. If you don't include the \@ switch format string, and you have the DateFormat specification set up on your system, then the month or day names always appear in English, regardless of what language you have specified for your paragraph or for your Control Panel regional settings.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1264) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Understanding Default DATE Field Formatting.

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