How To Make Templates in Microsoft Word 2003

By Helen Bradley | Posted January 27, 2009

Often during the day you’ll get a feeling of déjà vu that tells you that you’ve done some task before. When it's a document you find yourself creating time and again, perhaps it’s time to turn the original document into a reusable template. In this article I’ll show you how to create templates from standard Word documents.

Word template screen shot
Create a click-here block to make it easier to type text into the template in the future.
(Click for larger image)
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Using a template not only saves time, it ensures a level of consistency. Every document – an office memo, for example ‑‑ that goes out from your office will look the same.

Create the Document

You can create templates from scratch, but if you already have a document you often create, you can also turn that into a template. Open the original document and delete everything except the basic content appropriate to that document type.

Click-Here Blocks

If there are areas in the document where you will insert content in the future, you can create click-here blocks to make typing it easier. These blocks are useful where, for example, you have text that needs to be typed in a particular place in the document. Using a click-here block will make it easier for you to see what content needs to be inserted and to line it up neatly. This is handy if you're creating the template for yourself and invaluable when you're making them for other people to use.

Word template screen shot
Customize the styles for your template so that they're available for all new documents.
(Click for larger image)
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To create a click-here block, click in the document where the content should be inserted. This can be anywhere such as a new paragraph, inside a paragraph or at a tab position. Choose Insert > Field and from the Categories dropdown list select Document Automation. From the Field Names list click MacroButton and click the Field Codes button at the bottom left of the dialog.

If you now look at Advanced Field Properties it should read as follows: MACROBUTTON AcceptAllChangesInDoc

Remove the phrase AcceptAllChangesInDoc and replace it with: NoNameMacro [Click here and type]. Click OK, and you will see a click-eere block appear in your document.

This is how the MacroButton works: in the Field dialog the NoNameMacro entry is the name of a macro that does not exist. By design, the MacroButton field code is supposed to run a macro. In this case we’ve used a macro name that doesn’t actually exist, so that when the button is clicked nothing happens. The side benefit is that the MacroButton field code then acts as a sort of click-and-type option, and it disappears once you've typed the text.

The text that appears inside the square brackets in the Field code, and even the brackets themselves, are optional and simply one way to indicate to the user what is expected of them.

Word template screen shot
Template documents can contain anything that a regular document would, including images, shapes and headers and footers.
(Click for larger image)
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You can place any text after the phrase NoNameMacro with or without the brackets. Additionally, you can replace NoNameMacro with any term you want, provided you do not have a macro with that name on your computer.

You can create multiple click-here blocks throughout the document in exactly the same way you created this one. You can use the same macro name, and you can insert whatever text makes sense at that point in the document ‑‑ [Add Date] or [Type Name], for example.

Pre-Set Styles

If you want your document to look a certain way, you can pre-format it using the Styles tool. You can also use Styles to format the click-here blocks. That way, the text will be properly formatted when someone types text into a click-box.

Select the text or the click-here block and apply a format to it. You can also customize existing styles such as Normal and Heading1 by choosing Format > Styles and Formatting. Click the dropdown arrow to the right of the style name, click Modify and change the style's properties. Saving the template also saves the styles, and they'll be accessible any time you create a new document based on that template.

Other features that you can add to your template include images, headers and footers and page numbers. Adding these to the template saves you from having to add them later on and ensures that they're used when they should be.

Save the Template

Once your document looks the way you want, save it as a template by choosing File > Save As. From the Save As Type dropdown list select Document Template (*.dot). This takes you automatically to Word’s templates folder. You can either sve your work in the main template folder, or you can a click on a subfolder, such as Letters and Faxes, and save it there. Name the file and save it with the extension .dot.

Word template screen shot
The Save as Template option saves your document with a .dot extension.
(Click for larger image)
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When you have saved the file, return to the editing area and close the current document, as you will not need it again.

Using the Template

In the future, to create a new document based on this template, choose File > New, and then select the On My Computer link in the New Document task pane. This displays the tabbed dialog containing your templates. Locate the one you just created, click it and click OK. This creates a new document based on this template – editing and saving this document has no affect on the original template.

Whenever you find yourself creating a document more than once or reaching for a previous version of a document to alter it for a new task, consider spending a little time to convert it into a template. Templates save you a lot of time, and they make it easier to create variety of documents.

Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her Web site, HelenBradley.com

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