Modify Excel's default sheet to fit your needs

Change Excel's defaults at the template level to be more efficient and productive.

When you open a new workbook, Excel creates a copy of a template file named book.xlt (the .xlt extension denotes a template file). If you normally make the same changes to every new workbook, I recommend that you make those changes as defaults in book.xlt. That way, every new workbook will open with the settings you need and you can go right to work! To customize book.xlt, open Excel, choose Open from the File menu, and navigate to one of the following folders to find book.xlt:
  • C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates
  • C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICEx\XLSTART
where x is the version number. For instance, if you're using Office 2003, that folder would be OFFICE11. If you can't find book.xlt, use Windows Search feature. [UPDATE] If you still can't find book.xlt, see the section below for instructions on creating it. Once you have book.xlt open in Excel, make the necessary changes to bring the template into compliance with your organization. You might alter the font, borders, and alignment defaults. Or you might delete or add sheets to control the number of sheets each new workbook offers. You might even add a generic header or footer. For instance, you can enter a header that will display each new workbook's name, as follows:

  1. Choose Header And Footer from the View menu.
  2. From the Header control, choose Book1.
  3. Click OK and Excel will display the workbook's name in the header. This header trick works in any workbook, not just Excel's template file.

When you've finished customizing book.xlt, save it as book.xlt. Don't change the filename. Specify Template (*.xlt) in the Save As Type control and be sure to save the altered template in the same folder where you found it. Customizing book.xlt makes sense. By reducing the amount of work necessary to get each new workbook file ready, you'll be more efficient and productive.

MIssing book.xlt? [UPDATE]

If your Windows search for book.xlt doesn't turn up a file, don't worry. Depending on how you installed Office, the built-in template might not be on your local system. If this is the case, just create the file yourself. Open a new workbook file and apply all the settings and formats you want. Then, save the file using the name book and make sure you specify Template (*.xlt) in the Save As Type control. In addition, you must save the file in one of two folders:

C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates

C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICEx\XLSTART

If you don't have administrator rights on the system, check for the following folder:

C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates


Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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