Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Changing Defaults for Text Boxes and Callouts.

Changing Defaults for Text Boxes and Callouts

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 4, 2018)


Word allows you to easily add text boxes and callouts to your documents. These can be used for a variety of purposes, and you can format the text box or callout to appear just about any way you desire. Word refers to text boxes and callouts, collectively, as shapes. If you find yourself making a lot of similar changes to shapes, you can set the default values of them in the following manner:

  1. Set up your shape to appear as you desire.
  2. Right-click on the shape. Word displays a Context menu.
  3. Select Set As Default Shape from the Context menu.

Now, the next time you insert a shape, it will retain many of the same default settings that you defined in step 1. It won't retain them all, however. Word remembers things like line weight, line type, and color, but it does not remember things like text attributes within the text box or the direction and length of callout tails.

There are several ways around this problem, however. If you are using the exact same shape multiple times in the same document, simply select the one that is formatted as you want, hold down the Ctrl key, and drag the shape to a new location. By holding down the Ctrl key you inform Word that you want to copy the shape rather than move it.

A more versatile solution is to simply define your shape as a Building Block. Follow these steps:

  1. Set up your shape to appear as you desire.
  2. Select the shape. (Just click on it once.)
  3. Press Alt+F3. Word displays the Create New Building Block dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Create New Building Block dialog box.

  5. Provide a name for the shape that is representative of the shape's purpose.
  6. Click on OK. The Building Block is now created.

Later, when you want to use the Building Block entry, simply type its name (the one you provided in step 4) and then press F3. In the case being discussed here, the shape, complete with all formatting settings, is inserted in your document.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (8137) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Changing Defaults for Text Boxes and Callouts.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is one minus 1?

2018-09-15 14:08:53


Using Word XP one could format a Callout by the following
Selecting the edge of the "Text Box" and right clicking
Selecting "Format Autoshape ..."
Selecting the "Text Box" tab
Selecting the button "Format Callout ..."
Then one could adjust the "Gap" between the Callout and the Text Box.
In Word for Office 365, can you help me find an equivalent selection.
The default settings in Word leave a large gap.

2017-02-01 17:31:34


Is there a way to make the arrow be connected to the box by default? I hate that annoying gap. I change them manually all the time but it's such a time waster.

2015-04-28 14:33:03


Sue, I agree wholeheartedly! It drives me nuts when I resize a text box or try to just move the text box and the arrowhead moves. Did you find a solution?

2014-02-18 16:26:57

Sue Eden

what I'd like to know is how you can get call outs to anchor at the point of the "arrow" head (even if you don't have an arrow head"!). When you resize or move the box area of the call out, it also moves the line that I've carefully positioned to point at something. Anyone know how to get it to behave like the older versions of Word did? A real backward step has been taken with call outs in these later versions of Word.

2014-02-18 08:04:24


Gil: Type it in your document, wherever you want the Building Block expanded.

2014-02-18 02:26:30


"Later, when you want to use the Building Block entry, simply type its name"


2013-10-28 09:25:13

Surendera M. Bhanot

Te best way is to "Save As" the already formatted document as "Template" in the save type box and give it a new name, instead doing copying and pasting.

2013-10-26 15:36:08


Yep! You're probably right. Two things come to mind on possible work arounds: save the changes as a template might keep them active for the next docx, open the new doc while the old one is still open - copy a callout from the old doc, paste in the new and then "set as default" clunky, and only slightly faster than redoing from scratch.


2013-10-25 21:39:53

Jonathan Arnett

These instructions only work if one is working in the same document. Once that document is closed, though, a callout inserted into a new Word doc reverts to the factory specs.

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