How to Create and Use Word Templates

Create your own Word templates to save time, but plan them out first

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If you frequently create documents that contain the same specialized formatting but don't always contain the same text—such as invoices, packing slips, form letters, etc.—you can automate the process and save yourself a considerable amount of time by creating a template in Word.

What Is a Template?

For those unfamiliar with templates, here's a quick explanation: A Microsoft Word template is a type of document that creates a copy of itself when you open it. This copy has all of the design and formatting of the template, such as logos and tables, but you can modify it by entering content without altering the original template. 

You can open the template as many times as you like, and each time it creates a new copy of itself for a new document. The file created is saved as a standard Word file type (e.g., .docx).

A Word template can contain formatting, styles, boilerplate text, macros, headers and footers, as well as custom dictionaries, toolbars and AutoText entries.

Planning a Word Template

Before you create your Word template, it is a good idea to create a list of details you want to be included in it.  The time you spend planning will save you more time in the long run.

Here are some tips on what to include:

  • Any text that should in all documents based on the template.
  • Formatting like columns, margins, tab stops, endnotes, footnotes, etc.
  • Macros you may want to use but are specific to this document.
  • For letters, insert a date field that will update automatically each time the template is opened.
  • Also for letters, include your address and contact information.
  • Use fields or AutoText for information that may change but will always contain the same type of information (e.g., page numbers, document title, file path, etc.). This kind of information is often in headers and footers.
  • If your document contains sections with different formatting, you can use descriptive placeholder text, such as TITLE or HEADING, that you can type over in the copy created from the template. This way it will have the formatting specific to that section.

Once you have an outline of what you want, lay out the prototype document in a blank Word document. Include all the elements you listed and the design you want for your documents.

Saving Your New Template

Save your document as a template by following these steps:

Word 2003

  1. Click the File in the top menu.
  2. Click Save As...
  3. Navigate to the location where you want to save your template. Word begins in the default save location for templates. Keep in mind that templates saved in locations other than the default location will not appear in the Templates dialog box when creating new documents.
  4. In the "File name" field, type in a recognizable template filename.
  5. Click the "Save as type" dropdown list and select Document Templates.
  6. Click Save.

Word 2007

  1. Click the Microsoft Office button in the upper left.
  2. Position your mouse pointer over Save As.... In the secondary menu that opens, click Word Template.
  3. Navigate to the location where you want to save your template. Word begins in the default save location for templates. Keep in mind that templates saved in locations other than the default location will not appear in the Templates dialog box.
  4. In the "File name" field, type in a recognizable template filename.
  5. Click Save.

Word 2010 and Later Versions

  1. Click the File tab.
  2. Click Save As...
  3. Navigate to the location where you want to save your template. Word begins in the default save location for templates. Keep in mind that templates saved in locations other than the default location will not appear in the Templates dialog box when creating new documents.
  4. In the "File name" field, type in a recognizable template filename.
  5. Click the "Save as type" dropdown list and select Document Templates.
  6. Click Save.

Your document is now saved as a template with the file extension .dot or .dotx that can be used to generate new documents based on it.