Five tips for saving time with Word templates

One of the easiest ways to save yourself a ton of work is to get into the Word template habit. Katherine Murray offers a few pointers to get you started.

Documents, documents, documents. If you're like many of us who put thoughts on paper (for a living or otherwise), chances are that you create folder upon folder of documents. Each time you create something new, you're formatting headlines, adding backgrounds, setting up columns, choosing fonts. Why do the same thing time after time? If you have a look you like, you can create a template and make all the styles and formats available so you can concentrate on the most important part: the content. This article gives you a few ideas about how to get smart about your use of Word templates.

1: Think through your template expectations

Depending on what you need your documents to do, the main purpose of the templates you create may be to make formatting and inserting information into your documents as easy -- and as consistent -- as possible. You might want to keep your template simple by choosing the fonts, sizes, colors, theme, and background styles you want to use. You could set up a simple format by choosing a multi-column layout and styling the headlines the way you want them. Or you might enhance the functionality of the template by adding macros and shortcut keys to help you complete specialized tasks in your document.

Envision what you want your template to accomplish and think through who will be using the template in addition to you. If you're working in a group, it's worth a conversation with others to ask what types of features they'd like to see and what would be most helpful in the type of work you all do. Starting with the end in mind will help you make sure you wind up with a template that really makes your worklife easier.

2: Let Word do some of the work for you

Word 2010 includes a number of easy formatting features -- themes, Quick Styles, and building blocks -- that can help you establish the look and some of the content of your template. When you're beginning to create a template, use as many of these automated features as you can. Let Word themes put together the design of the colors and fonts. Choose the Quick Styles you like to give your document the flavor you think will most appeal to your audience. If you have boilerplate text -- for example, your mission statement or your program list -- enter it before you save the document as a template. Adding these ready-made features cuts down on your design time and gives you a good start on an effective template.

3: Understand template types

Once you get your template formatted the way you want -- with the right number of columns, Quick Styles, and more -- you can save it as a template by clicking the File tab and clicking Save As. In the Save As dialog box, click the File Type arrow and choose either .dotx (for a traditional Word 2010 template) or .dotm (for a Word 2010 template that includes macros). Navigate to the folder where you save your templates (Word typically saves templates to the C:\Users\\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates directory)and click Save. You can now create new documents based on your template by clicking the File tab, clicking New, and clicking My Templates (Figure A). In the New dialog box, scroll to the template you just created and click OK.

Figure A

Find your new template by clicking My Templates in the New tab of Backstage view.

4: Protect your Normal template

Your Word 2010 documents are already using a template called Normal.dotm. The Normal template is a global template that is always open when you're working in Word. As soon as you start the program, the Normal template is opened automatically. The Normal template contains all the common formatting used in typical documents, and because it is so necessary and used so widely, it is often targeted by people who create macro viruses. You can protect your version of Normal.dotm by having Word prompt you before any changes are saved to Normal.dotm. Do this by clicking the File tab and clicking Options. Click Advanced and scroll down to the Save options. Then, select the Prompt Before Saving Normal Template check box and click OK.

5: Use (and rate!) your template resources

Of course, it's not all up to you to come up with the templates you use. Why not begin with one a professional designed? offers hundreds of templates you can download and customize to meet your own needs. And you can find the templates within your version of Word. Simply click the File tab and click New. Click in the search box to the right of Office Templates and type a word reflecting the type of template you're looking for. Scroll through the templates until you find one you like and click Download (Figure B).You can also click the stars above the preview on the right side of the screen to let others know what you think of the template you've chosen. Now you can just replace any placeholder text and images with your own content and you're good to go.

Figure B

Professionally designed templates

Word gives you access to professionally designed templates you can download and customize.

More Word 2010 resources

By Katherine Murray

Katherine Murray is a technology writer and the author of more than 60 books on a variety of topics, ranging from small business technology to green computing to blogging to Microsoft Office 2010. Her most recent books include Microsoft Office 2010 P...