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How-To Geek

Lesson 1: Using Templates to Ensure Common Layout and Formatting

Microsoft Word is a great tool for working on documents in a team setting. There are many features that support easy collaboration, including templates, change and revision tracking, comments, restricting and protecting documents, and comparing and merging documents.

Word’s collaboration tools allow you to accomplish things that even as little as 20 years ago would have required printing everything out, passing it off to a reviewer or reviewers, where they then would then mark up everything in ink, and then hand it back to you. You would then make your changes, print it out again, and hand it back for another round of reviews. This is both time consuming and wasteful.

With Word, however, you can simply make comments and corrections to the document all while easily tracking every change so everyone collaborating can see where it is going and how it is shaping up. No need to print or hand it off. You can simply save your work to a shared folder or email it saving you tons of valuable time!

The aim of this series is to introduce and familiarize you with the collaboration features in Microsoft Word 2013, though much of what we discuss should be available in prior versions, as well. This is going to be useful whether you’re simply a college student handing off your paper to someone else to proofread, or editing a large publication, which will pass through several revisions and reviewers.

Templates and Documents

When collaborating in a team setting, having everyone use consistent formatting is a must. You can easily accomplish this using templates.

For example, you can define all styles and formatting in a template, attach the template to the document, and distribute the template to everyone working on the document. A template is essentially Word’s guide for how your document and working environment should appear.

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Every document in Word is based on a template. Anytime you create a new document in Word, a template is attached automatically, even when you create a new “Blank document.”

The new document based on the template contains all the styles and formatting you need. It may even include standard, boilerplate text, styles, headers, footers, special toolbars and any other common information needed for similar documents based on the template. You can also attach a template to an existing document, if you’ve created the template after starting work on the document.

NOTE: When you attach a template to an existing document, the page setup information, such as page orientation and margins, are not applied to the document. This is because page setup information is different for each section of your document, if you split your document into sections. Word doesn’t know which section to apply the page setup information.

For this reason, we recommend you plan ahead when working on a document in a collaborative setting and create a template for the document that you can apply to the new document before starting work on it.

The Normal Template and Custom Personal Templates

Word installs with a normal template and more templates are available on Office.com. You can also create as many of your own custom personal templates as you like. If you don’t choose a built-in or custom template, Word automatically assigns the “normal.dotm” template to you document.

There are two extensions used for template files, DOTX and DOTM. DOTX is used for templates that don’t use macros, and DOTM is used for templates that do.

The Normal template is located in the “C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates” folder, along with templates you can download from Office.com. Refer to our How-To Geek School’s Guide to Word 2013 Formatting for more information.

NOTE: Throughout this series, you may be wondering why the images show the tabs in Word in upper and lower case (or title case) rather than all capitalized as it might be on your own computer. There is a trick to change the capitalization on the tabs that we explain in our article, How to Change the Capitalization of Office 2013’s Ribbon Bar.

Change the Location of the Personal Templates

Custom personal templates are stored in a different location from the Normal template and templates downloaded from Office.com. Word stores personal templates in “C:\Users\<username>\Documents\Custom Office Templates” by default.

However, this location can be changed. To do so, click the “File” tab.

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Click “Options” in the list of items on the left side of the “Info” screen.

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On the “Word Options” dialog box, click “Advanced” in the list of items on the left.

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In the “General” section, click “File Locations.”

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On the “File Locations” dialog box, select “User Templates” in the list of file types and locations and click “Modify.”

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On the “Modify Location” dialog box, navigate to the folder in which you want to store your personal templates, select it, and click “OK.”

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The new path displays on the “File Locations” dialog box. Click “OK.”

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Click “OK” to close the “Word Options” dialog box.

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You also need to specify the default location for personal templates, so you’ll have access to your personal templates on the “New” screen when creating a new document. To do this, click the “File” tab and select “Options.” This time, on the “Options” dialog box, click “Save” in the list on the left.

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In the “Save documents” section, enter the same path you specified on the “File Locations” dialog box earlier in the “Default personal templates location” edit box and click “OK.”

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Lori Kaufman is a freelance technical writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 03/17/14

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