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 users 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.

Many users find this level of customization very empowering. 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. 

How to Customize the Normal Template in Microsoft Office

  1. Open Microsoft Word. If you don't have it or want to check out a recent version, you should read this article on How to Install or Update to Microsoft Office 2016 first. Or, check out the cloud option: Office 365 Plans.

  2. Select File > Open > Files of Type > Document Templates. You may need to search your system if the template does not show up here. For Windows, for example, try C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates or a similar path. When following a path, remember you simply begin with your Windows Start button, then click on each file location between the brackets, in sequence. Or, Search for a location later in the path right from the Windows search field, such as "Roaming". This can save you a few steps!

  3. From there, choose the or Normal.dotm option.

  4. Open the file. Double-check the title bar of the document at the top center. If it does not include the ".dot" or ".dotm" extension, you have not found the Normal Template and should start again or contact Microsoft for support.

  5. Make your formatting changes in the interface, the same way you would in any Word document, keeping in mind that you should only apply those settings you would like as defaults for every future Word document. You can set text preferences, spacing defaults, page backgrounds, headers and footers, table styles, and much more. You may want to look here for ideas.

  6. You should be able to set just about anything from the Word menu, but we suggest keeping it simple. Remember that you may need less for future projects, and undoing all that formatting may be more trouble than it is worth!

  7. When you are done, click Save.

  8. Test it out! Close Word, then re-open it. Select New. This time, the file should have a ".doc" or ".docx" extension. 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.


  • Alternatively, you can make a lot of preferences 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 will change the style for just that document unless you click Apply to All Documents at the bottom of the dialogue box. This limits your tool options, but it can be great if all you are concerned about are font and spacing issues.
  • While it will be a cleaner experience if you get it right the first time, It is not the end of the world if the file gets messed up. It just means you have to start over with some if not all previous customizations, which can be a pain. Proceed with caution in the interest of time. If this happens, you need to restart the program and run the command that makes the original available again. Please refer to specific instructions from Microsoft Support.