How to Customize the Normal Template in Microsoft Office

Set text, paragraph, and other formatting for every new document

Man on a desktop personal computer looking at a speadsheet

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In Microsoft Office, documents are based on a base design called the Normal Template.

Many people never change or alter this Normal Template, preferring to change the settings and default for each new document instead. It can also be a bit daunting to change the template all new documents will be based on, but you can learn the basics fairly quickly. It can help you avoid repetitive formatting and desktop publishing in the future because every document will reflect your preferences as saved in the Normal Template. 

This process applies to all versions of Microsoft Word for the Windows desktop.

How to Customize the Normal Template in Microsoft Office

  1. Select File > Open. Use the Browse button to launch a file-explorer window, then open C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates.

    Some computer hide certain folders, including AppData, by default. If you haven't configured Windows Explorer to show all files, type the path name in the bar at the top of the Open window.

  2. Choose the Normal.dot or Normal.dotm option.

    open word template
  3. Make your formatting changes in the interface, the same way you would in any Word document. Only apply those settings intended as defaults for every future Word document. Set text preferences, spacing defaults, page backgrounds, headers and footers, table styles, and related elements.

  4. When you are done, save the document.

  5. Close Word, then re-open it. Select New. As you begin this new document, are your preferences reflected? If not, you may need to try again or reach out to Microsoft Support for additional troubleshooting or advice.

Adjust Normal Style

Alternatively, you can make a lot of simple tweaks standard without bothering with the Normal Template. Right-click the Normal Style on the File menu of the Ribbon to make your Font, Paragraph, and other changes in the Modify Style screen. This modification changes the style for just that document unless you click Apply to All Documents at the bottom of the dialogue box. This approach limits your tool options, but it can be great if all you are concerned about are font and spacing customizations.