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.

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.


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).


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.

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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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