Best Way to Create a Document Template

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 8, 2020)


Rhonda works for a technical writing company and they use Word templates all the time. However, there are two schools of thought for how to create a template: (1) Open a Word doc and save it as a template file or (2) If you are using an older version of Word then go to File | New | My Templates | Blank Template | Create New. If you are using a newer version of Word, go to File and then New. Word displays a list of templates from the Office template collection (you can also search for online templates). You can also choose templates that have already been created listed under the Personal tab. To create a new template from the Personal list, right-click on a template and choose Create from the resulting context menu. Rhonda thinks the second route is best, but she can't explain why. She wonders if there is any difference between the two routes.

What Rhonda describes is typical for accomplishing many tasks in Word: The ability to arrive at the same destination via different routes. There is, however, the possibility of introducing subtle differences into the end product depending on the destination followed.

When you use the first route described by Rhonda (using Save As to promote a document to template status), then everything in that document is carried along with the promotion. This means that any styles in the original document are saved in the template, any text—including text it is easy to miss, such as in headers and footers—and, possibly, any corruption in the internal pointers maintained by Word.

It is this last possibility that is the most troublesome for the Save As route. The risk may be small, but it is still present and should be considered. That risk is not there if you use Rhonda's second approach. One way to easily see the difference is to take a regular document, strip out all the text and graphics, remove all the macros, and then use Save As to save it as a template. Then, use Rhonda's second approach to create a new, blank template. Get out of Word and compare the file sizes of the two templates. Chances are good that you'll find the template created the first way to have a larger file size than the second template. Why would it be larger? The most likely reason is that the Save As template carries with it behind-the-scenes baggage that the second template does not.

There is a third approach that Ronda doesn't mention, however. This approach minimizes the possibility of the extraneous behind-the-scenes baggage and the risk of corruption but allows you to start with a "known quantity" for your templates. First, open a new document from a clean copy of your Normal template. Use the Organizer to strip everything from the copy that you don't need. (It's a good idea to strip all the styles from the new copy, including trying to delete Microsoft's built-in styles.) Save that "clean" copy as your template. You can then use the Organizer to transfer styles and macros back into the template to get to your end result.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13343) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365.

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 6 + 3?

2020-02-28 12:22:54

C. Reid "Mac" McLellan

I spent hours over many years developing a look for my student texts that I like. We are now about to add materials to the basic text. I want them to use the same template. This does NOT explain how I can create a template from a document without all the text also opening when they open to input their data. I know I am way behind your learning curve but, is there a straight forward way (step by step) to create a document template from a current document that can be opened when "New" is clicked and that New document does not contain the text of the original document?

2016-01-15 21:00:22

Dr T

I need help on making a template of 4 boxes of equal size on a document.

2015-10-03 15:46:55

Skip Nicholson

In Word 2013, I open File and New but then don't see "My Templates." Where should I be looking?

2014-12-29 10:39:58

Deborah Dunlap

Also, Dan, while you cannot remove the built-in styles, you can hide them in a template so that they will not appear in the styles pane. Hiding built-in styles prevents a user from trying to use them.
Styles can be hidden by using the Manage Styles pane accessed through the Styles pane.

2014-12-29 10:00:57

Jennifer Thomas

Only a few of Microsoft's built in style cannot be 'deleted' -- Default Paragraph font, the heading styles, no list, normal, and table normal.

The process of selecting all styles in Organizer and deleting as much as possible is to not have definitions in your starter template that conflict with definitions in other startup templates, especially normal.

The process excludes many styles, although you will still see the styles from nomal and/or any other template you have in startup) when you just look at the style pane listing -- you have to work with your recommend list within the template to control that view.

It's not for the faint of heart, but eliminating conflicting style definitions for MS in your environment goes a long way towards stablizing work product that is created in house.

2014-12-27 14:22:41


Dan: Deleting a built-in style doesn't actually "delete" (i.e., remove) the style. What it does is remove any changes made to the built-in style, returning it to its pristine, default condition.


2014-12-27 11:28:18

Dan Theriault

Allen, in your last paragraph there's a sentence that includes the following statement, ... including trying to delete Microsoft's built-in styles. What exactly do you mean by that? I was under the impression one couldn't do that. Merry Christmas, Dan

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