Repeat text entered in Microsoft Word

Create a text form field that lets you enter text once and have it appear automatically elsewhere in the document, such as the date shown in the file's header.

The company I work for relies on Microsoft Word templates to create all sorts of documents, from one-page letters to reports several hundred pages long. The templates allow us to ensure all the documents we send to clients and partners share a similar look and feel.

One of the most-used templates in our collection is a multipage letter that shows the date on the top of the first page, just under the company logo, as well as in the header of subsequent pages. Unfortunately, the letters are usually composed several days before they're sent, and the send date often shifts. In addition, the letters are sometimes sent on dates other than the official "sent" date. That's why we can't add a field to the letters that displays the current date.

While authors usually remember to change the date on the letter's first page, they almost always forget to make the same change to the date in the header of following pages. The solution was to add a text form field to the first page of the letter that authors use to enter the letter's send date and then to place a cross-reference to the text field in the header of subsequent pages.

Word form fields make it easy to repeat text
It's actually easier to enter text once and have it repeat elsewhere in Word 2003 documents than it is to do the same thing in Word 2007 and 2010. That's because Microsoft made it more difficult to access the text form field button in the more-recent versions of Word. All in the name of ergonomics, I'm sure.

In Word 2003, open the template you want to add the repeating text to. Make sure the Forms toolbar is visible by clicking View > Toolbars > Forms. Next, place the cursor where you want the repeating text to appear and choose the text form field button on the Forms toolbar. (It's the "ab" button on the far left of the toolbar.)

Microsoft Word 2003 Forms toolbar
Add a text form field to a Word 2003 document by clicking the "ab" button on the Forms toolbar. Microsoft

A gray box appears with five small circles side-by-side. Click in the box to add short, descriptive text, such as "Enter send date." Double-click the box to open the Text Form Field Options dialog box. The people using the template will enter the text they want to repeat in the "Default text" box. For now, keep that field blank, but enter a short, descriptive text string in the Bookmarks field at the bottom left of the dialog box (no spaces or punctuation allowed). When you're done, click OK to close the dialog and return to the template.

Microsoft Word Text Form Field Options dialog box
Add a text form field in your Word template to allow authors to add text that repeats elsewhere in the document. Microsoft

To have whatever text the authors enter in the text form field appear elsewhere in the document, add a cross-reference to the field wherever you want the repeated text to show up. As I explained above, the company I work for needs the date that the authors enter on the first page to appear in the header of the second and all following pages of the document.

The first step in adding such a cross-reference is to create a section break to prevent the header information from appearing on the first page of the document. Place the cursor at the end of the first page, click Insert > Break, and choose Next Page under Section Breaks. Double-click in the header of the second page and uncheck Link to Previous. The Same as Previous tag will disappear.

Next, click in the header where you want the repeating text to appear and choose Insert > Reference > Cross-reference. In the Cross-reference dialog box, choose Bookmark in the Reference Type drop-down menu and select the bookmark you just created from the list of bookmarks that appears near the bottom of the window.

Microsoft Word 2003 Cross-reference dialog box
Choose the bookmark you just created in the Cross-reference dialog box to have the text field's data repeat in the location of the reference. Microsoft

When they use the template to create a document, whatever text authors enter in the text form field on the first page will appear in the header of the second and subsequent pages (or wherever you place the cross-reference). Authors simply double-click the text field to open the Text Form Field Options dialog, enter the text they want to repeat in the "Default text" box, and click OK.

After they save and reopen the document, that text will appear in the text box as well as all bookmarked locations in the document. To see what the text looks like right away, use the Print Preview option without actually printing the file.

Repeating text automatically is trickier in Word 2007 and 2010
I fully expected the process of adding such cross-references to be easier in the newer versions of Word, but doing so actually requires several added steps in Word 2007 and 2010. First, you have to make sure the Developer ribbon is visible; it's hidden by default. To unhide it, click File > Options > Customize Ribbon, and check Developer under Main Tabs on the right side of the Word Options window.

The Customize Ribbon dialog in the Word Options window in Word 2010
To add a text form field in Word 2007 and 2010, you have to unhide the Developer ribbon via the Word Options dialog box Microsoft

Once the Developer ribbon is enabled, choose it and select the Legacy Tools button in the Controls section of the ribbon. In the drop-down box that appears, select the Text Form Field icon on the far left of the top row. From this point, the steps for adding the bookmarked text field and cross-references are nearly identical to those described above for Word 2003.

Note that the text field and cross-references look different in the Word 2007 and 2010 template than they do in the Word 2003 template. Also, you create a section break in the two newer versions of Word (to prevent the repeated text from appearing in the header of the document's first page) by clicking the Page Layout ribbon, choosing Breaks, and selecting Next Page under Section Breaks.

About the author

    Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.

     

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