A template is a file that contains the styles and formatting options. In fact, every time you open a new document, you use a  template, probably Word’s default template, Normal.dot. By default, Word bases all new documents on Normal.dot.

To be more productive and efficient, you can create custom templates. For instance, you might customize a template for newsletters or each department might have a template with specialized macros and AutoText. But how do your users tell Word to start with a custom template instead of Normal.dot? Fortunately, that’s easy!

If you have only one custom template, you can name it Normal.dot. Now, that sounds drastic, but it’s not as serious as it sounds. You can open Normal.dot, make changes, and save it, overwriting the default settings. Or, you can open a blank document, make the necessary changes, and save it as Normal.dot. If you decide later to revert to the original Normal.dot, just delete your custom version of Normal.dot and Word will recreate the default template the next time you run Word.

You’ll probably find Normal.dot in the Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates folder. If you can’t find Normal.dot, use Windows Search. Sometimes, Normal.dot is hidden, so check the Search Hidden Files and Folders option. Or, in Windows Explorer, choose Folder Options from the Tools menu, click the View tab, click the Show Hidden Files and Folders option, and click OK.

If you want to retain Normal.dot or you have more than one custom template, the easiest solution is to launch Word by opening the custom template in question. Simply double-click the template you want to use, but that could mean a lot of clicking for your users–templates are buried deep in the system. The solution to that, is to add a shortcut for each custom template to the Start menu as follows:

  1. Use Windows Explorer to locate the template.
  2. Drag the template and drop it on the Start menu.

That’s it! When you want to create a new document based on a custom template, click the Start button and choose the template. Doing so will launch Word using the chosen template instead of Normal.dot. You can add custom templates to each user’s Start menu and train them to create new documents this way. It’s an easy adjustment to make.