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Getting Word to Remember the Default Date and Time Format

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: Getting Word to Remember the Default Date and Time Format.

Do you ever use the Date and Time option from the Insert menu to add the current date or time to your document? If so, have you noticed the Default button on the Date and Time dialog box? When you click on the button, Word asks if you want to change the default date format; this can be misleading. Do you ever wonder what the Default button really does?

When you click on the Default button and choose to change the default date and time format, Word stores that format for later use. It doesn't store the format for use in the Date and Time dialog box, however—only for use when you subsequently insert the date using the DATE field. In other words, the default you are specifying is used by Word as the formatting switch for subsequent insertions of the DATE field. (You can quickly insert the date field by using the Shift+Alt+D shortcut.)

What is misleading to many people is how the Date and Time dialog box does its work. You have to remember that the Default button in the dialog box has nothing to do with the dialog box itself. In other words, you aren't setting the default for the dialog box when you click on Default.

When you first start Word, the dialog box's default is the top option in the list of date formats. If you pick a different option in the list, and then click on OK, Word remembers what you last picked, so that it is again selected when you next open the dialog box. As with all other dialog boxes in Word, the next time you start the program, the dialog box's default value is reset to the top option in the list.

If you really want to reset the default in the dialog box itself, there is only one way to do this. Remember that whenever you start Word, the date format selected by default will be the top item in the list. It just so happens that the top item in the list reflects the short date setting selected in Windows' Regional settings. Thus, to change the date shown at the top of the list, you need to make a change in Windows. Since you are making the change in Windows, this may, of course, change the way that dates appear in other programs besides Word.

To change the short date used by Windows (and thus affect the default in the Date and Time dialog box of Word), follow these general steps:

  1. Display the Control Panel. (In Windows XP you can display it by clicking the Start menu and choosing Control Panel.)
  2. Double-click on the Regional Settings applet. (This option goes by different names, such as Regional Options or Regional and Language Options, depending on your version of Windows.) Shortly the dialog box for these options appears.
  3. Click on the Date tab, if necessary.
  4. Change the short date value shown in the dialog box.
  5. Click on OK to close the dialog box.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1587) 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: Getting Word to Remember the Default Date and Time Format.

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