Save Time Working with Templates in Microsoft Word
by Avantix Learning Team | Updated July 15, 2020
Applies to: Microsoft® Word® 2013, 2016, 2019 or 365 (Windows)
You can create, save, use and edit templates in Microsoft Word for frequently-used documents such as letters, reports, proposals and manuals. Templates include basic character, paragraph and page formatting and may include text, custom styles, tables, images, macros, sections, headers and footers. If you save a document as a custom template, you can create a new document based on that template.
A document can be saved as a Word Template (dotx file) or a Word Macro-Enabled Template (dotm file).
In this article, we’ll take a look at 3 types of templates in Microsoft Word:
- Normal template (the default global template)
- Custom user templates
- Microsoft ready-made templates
Understanding the Normal template
Unless you select a different template, Word bases new documents on the Normal template by default. The Normal template is named Normal.dotm and its default style is the Normal style. It also includes built-in heading styles such as Heading 1, Heading 2 and so on.
Specifying a location for custom user templates
In Word 2013 and later versions, if you want to create your own custom user templates, you will need to specify a location for the templates so you can easily access them.
Custom user templates are typically stored in the following location (in 2013 and later versions):
C:\Users\[UserName]\Documents\Custom Office Templates\
You will need to specify a path to the Custom Office Templates folder (which should be created automatically when you install Microsoft Office) in your Documents folder as the default storage location. If you want, you can select a different folder but this folder is easy to find and use.
To specify the default storage location for your custom user templates in Word 2013 and later versions:
- Create a folder in your Documents folder called Custom Office Templates if it does not already exist (assuming you are going to use this folder as the default personal templates location).
- In Word, click the File tab in the Ribbon.
- Click Options.
- In the left panel, click Save.
- Enter a path for the Default Personal Templates location (see the Options dialog box below).
- Click OK.
C:\Users\Nancy\Documents\Custom Office Templates\
Note the path for the Default Personal Templates in the Options dialog box:
Some users may prefer to set the default personal templates location as the Templates or User Templates folder in the Appdata folder.
Creating a custom user template in Word
You can create your own custom user template by creating a document and then saving it as a template. If you have created a document based on an existing template, you can modify it and save it as a new template.
To save an existing document as a custom user template in the Custom Office Templates folder:
- In Word, click the File tab in the Ribbon.
- Select Save As.
- Enter a name for the template.
- Double-click This PC or Computer and then navigate to the Custom Office Templates folder (or the folder you specified as the default personal templates location).
- Select Word Template in the Save as type list. You can select Word Macro-Enabled Template if you have created macros in the file.
- Click Save.
Creating a new document based on a custom user template
If you have saved a template in the Custom Office Templates folder, you can easily create a new document based on that template.
To create a new document based on a custom user template you have created and saved in the Custom Office Templates folder:
- In Word, click the File tab in the Ribbon and then click New.
- In Word 2013 and later versions, click Personal. You must have set the file path in the Options dialog box first.
- If necessary double-click the Custom Office Templates folder.
- Double-click the desired template. Word creates a new document based on the template that you can modify.
Understanding the relationship between a Word document and its template
Every Microsoft Word document is based on a template. If you create a new, blank document, Word uses the Normal template.
When a Word document is created, it includes three elements from its template:
- Styles such as Normal, Heading 1, Heading 2 and so on
- Content such as text, tables and images
- Page settings such as margins, page breaks, section breaks, headers and footers
Once a document is created, it is no longer connected to its template so the styles, content and page settings can be modified or deleted.
A template also makes the following available in the document:
- Building Blocks such as QuickParts
- User interface customizations (including Ribbon customizations)
- Keyboard shortcuts
- Macros (if created) and the template was saved as a Macro-Enabled Template
Editing a custom user template
To edit a custom user template:
- In Word, click the File tab in the Ribbon and then click Open.
- Double-click This PC or Computer and navigate to the Custom Office Templates folder.
- Double-click the template you want to edit.
- Make changes to the template.
- Close and save the template.
Creating a document based on a Microsoft ready-made template
You can create new documents based on hundreds of Microsoft ready-made templates. These templates are normally accessed online so you must be connected to the internet to use them. There are templates for all kinds of documents including letters, brochures, flyers, reports and proposals. Templates may differ depending on your version of Microsoft Word.
To create a new document based on one of Microsoft’s ready-made templates:
- In Word, click the File tab in the Ribbon and click New.
- In the Office area, click the suggested searches or enter search criteria in the Search box and press Enter.
- Scroll through the templates.
- Double-click the template you want to use. Word creates a new document based on the template that you can modify.
In the following example, we selected New and then Business in the suggested searches (using Word 365):
Templates can be a huge timesaver, particularly if you are working on long documents like reports and proposals.
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