Three tricks to make Word templates easier to find and use

Built in Templates

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In the old days, Word organized templates in folders that corresponded to the tabs in the New dialog box: Reports, Memos, Publications, and so on. You could delete a folder to remove the tab, add templates to a folder to make them available in that tab, add your own folder to create a custom tab--in short, you could manipulate the structure of the New dialog box in a way that made sense. But starting with Word 2000, things got a little complicated behind the scenes, and customizing the dialog box became a lost art.

For one thing, Word began storing its built-in templates (Personal Fax, Contemporary Letter, Professional Report, etc.) in C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Templates\1033\. If you open the 1033 folder, you'll see the entire herd of Office templates, without any folders corresponding to the tab names. Word sorts them via an internal mechanism that populates the correct tabs on installation.

In addition, Word stores the Normal template and any custom templates in a different location altogether. By default, they go in C:\Documents and Settings\Username\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates. If you've used Tools | Options | File Locations to specify a different folder for the User Templates item, that's where Normal and the custom templates will reside. Knowing this location is the key to making changes to the New dialog box (called Templates in Word XP and 2003). Here are three ways to help your users customize the availability of their templates.

Let's say a user has a custom report template called Weekly Metrics that her or she would like to have appear in Word's Reports tab. Right now, the Reports tab displays three prefab templates, put there by Word. To add the Weekly Metrics template, first go to the folder where custom templates are stored. For this example, we'll assume that's the standard location, C:\Documents and Settings\Username\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates.

By Jody Gilbert

Jody Gilbert has been writing and editing technical articles for the past 25 years. She was part of the team that launched TechRepublic.