Best Way to Create a Document Template

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated October 31, 2020)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365


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 Microsoft 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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