Microsoft

Share custom Word building blocks with anyone

Creating Word building blocks to efficiently reuse content is easy. Sharing them can be difficult, unless you know where Word stores them.

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If your organization reuses content, you might benefit from Word's building blocks feature. You don't have to reuse large blocks of content to benefit. Users reuse many small items or blocks of content, such as logos, mottos, addresses, and so on, sometimes, several times a day. Building blocks help users reuse content.

 

Building blocks

Building blocks are parts of a document that you reuse. By saving this content as a building block, you gain quick access to it for reuse. Beginning with Word 2007, you'll also find a collection of built-in building blocks that you might find useful, but you might not realize they're building blocks at all. For instance, on the Insert tab, in the Pages group, you can choose from several cover page building blocks.

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Besides cover pages, there are a number of built-in building blocks, such as predefined headers and footers. Almost any time a gallery of predefined options is available, you're utilizing building blocks. For more general information on using building blocks, read Working More Efficiently with Word 2007's New Building Blocks.

Sharing building blocks

Once you add a number of building blocks, you might want to share them with others. Word stores custom building blocks in templates and you decide which template will do the storing when you create the block. It's a simple process complicated somewhat by the number of places you can store them. All custom building blocks are stored in one of three templates:

  • Word's building blocks template, Building Blocks.dotx.
  • Word's basic document template, Normal.dotm.
  • Any custom template you might specify.

Sharing all your custom building blocks isn't as simple as it might first seem, if you've been storing them in different templates. When you save a custom building block, the interface will provide the option to choose the template: Building Blocks.dotx, Normal.dotm, and any custom templates that might be available locally (not shown below).

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For better or worse, Building Blocks.dotx is the default, and many custom building blocks end up in the same template with the built-ins. If you're moving your file from one system to another, it works fine. Sharing with others is problematic. When other users overwrite their Building Blocks.dotx file with yours, they lose any custom building blocks they've stored in that template. (There's a solution though, so keep reading.)

If you've stored custom building blocks in your Normal template, you can distribute Normal to share the building blocks, but I don't recommend that route. Users will lose any customization they've added to their own Normal template when they replace their file with yours.

Sharing custom building blocks efficiently takes a bit of strategic planning:

  • To include custom building blocks for specific types of documents, add them to a special template. When users create new documents based on this template, those custom building blocks will be available. All you have to do is distribute the template and show users how to save it and use it. The custom building blocks in the template will be available only via the specialized template.
  • If you want custom building blocks available for all documents, put a template containing them into the appropriate directory (see below). Word loads all templates in this special directory, combining them all into appropriate galleries. In this case, these template files are just holding files for your custom building blocks. They're not the type of template you would base a new document on. To share these custom building blocks, distribute them with instructions on where the users should save them.

Where to look

Users will find Building Blocks.dotx in a special folder named Document Building Block:

  • Drive:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\DocumentBuilding Block\
  • Drive:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\Application Data\Microsoft\Document Building Blocks\1033\14
  • Drive:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\Document Parts\1033

You might find this folder in a variety of paths. If you don't locate it quickly, use Windows Search. Be mindful of replacing existing templates - that may or may not be what you intend to do. Remember, once you add a custom template to this folder, Word will allow you to save new custom building blocks to it, and those building blocks will be available to all documents.

Also read:


About

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.

9 comments
jkaurloto
jkaurloto

First, I've learned quite a bit following your tips over the years and as a trainer have found your posts invaluable. Thank you most kindly.

I understand the building blocks, even created a building block template for use firm wide... What I fail to grasp is the purpose of the multiplicity of Building Block.dotx templates.  In Windows 7 (Office 2010) the path is C:\Users\%UseName&\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Document Building Blocks\1033\14.  There are two templates: Building Blocks.dotx (for the user) and Built-In Building Blocks.dotx (Word defaults on install).  This is all well and good, but there are three more Building Block.dotx - file locations:

C:\Users\%UseName&\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Document Building Blocks\1033

C:\Users\Default\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Document Building Blocks\1033\14

C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office14\Document Parts\1033\14

On the surface a little confusing.  I can infer the default user location, but I confess a loss to understand why there are four Building Blocks.dotx templates scattered about... More curiosity than necessity but any enlightenment most welcome.

Thank you.


info
info

Brilliant, as usual!  Thank you for the info, Susan.

sefc
sefc

Are the Word and Publisher building blocks interchangeable?

Cal Wilson
Cal Wilson

I understand the creation and storage of building blocks well, including how to share blocks in a template.

What I would like to know is how to COPY a block from one template to another template, i.e., copy CustomBlock from Template 1 to Template 2.

I tried saving an existing block in an open template (the source) to another open template (the target), but that actually moves the block from the source template, does not copy it.

I have found no way to copy blocks. In earlier versions of Word, it was possible to use Orgainzer to copy autotext from one template to another. Don't see this capability for building blocks. Not having this functionality is a major shortcoming.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

Do you have custom Word building blocks that you'd like to share with colleagues?

ssharkins
ssharkins

@info Thank you -- you're super kind and I'm glad you found the tip useful. I posted before, but it's not showing up, so if you see two thanks you, well... thank you twice! :) 

ssharkins
ssharkins

@sefc I don't think so because they're not saved to the same folder. Publisher building blocks are saved in  \Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Publisher Building Blocks -- which can change depending on your version of Windows (unfortunately). 

ssharkins
ssharkins

@Cal Wilson It might be simpler to save both templates to the Documents Building Block folder. If you're using a ribbon version of Word, the organizer dialog is gone, so there's no direct way to copy from one template to another (that I know of). 

Cal Wilson
Cal Wilson

@ssharkins

In hopes that you are monitoring this topic. I thought you might be interested in the following.

I have found a method (in Word 2010) to copy building blocks from Template 1 (the source) to Template 2 (the target). The method is kludgy, but it’s better than going through the steps of adding a block to the target and saving the block, etc.

Creating a custom template as you noted, e.g., CustomBuildingBlocks.dotx, to store all blocks that you might want to share makes the process a little easier.

Open the target template (Target.dotm).

On the Insert tab, click Quick Parts followed by Building Blocks Organizer.

Select the block in CustomBuildingBlocks.dotx that you want to copy, Lorem in my example.

Click Edit Properties.

In Modify Building Block, select the target (Target.dotm).

Click OK to save your changes.

Click Yes when prompted to confirm the change.

Close Target.dotm, saving changes.

Close Word and (very important) when prompted to save changes to CustomBuildingBlocks.dotx, click Don’t Save.

In Building Blocks Organizer, ensure that the block is correctly associated with Target.dotm.

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