IT tips #24: How to make time-saving templates in Word

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A real template in Word is a thing of beauty and magic that can be used to save you a lot of time and make your computer do what it does best:  quickly and painlessly automate repetitive tasks.  I say real templates, because a lot of people use the word ‘template’ to mean nothing more than a Word document that just provides an example of what a document should look like. A real template ends in the file extension .dot, and when you click on it, will automatically create a new blank document based on the template.  so if someone says ‘I’m attaching a template’ and the file ends in .doc, it’s not a template. Here’s how to do it properly:

  1. Think of a document type that has that you use a lot, like a letter or invoice
  2. Start a new document in Word.
  3. Spend time creating all the fancy elements that are particular to you such as
    – Your name and address and other contact details
    – An automated field for today’s date (see instructions below)
    – Page numbers, footers, headers
    – A scan of your signature, with your name and title underneath it
    – Bank details (if it’s an invoice)
  4.  Now go to the file menu, and select ‘Save As’
  5. From the dialog box that appears, look down to the ‘Format’ field, and change the Format to one of the Template (.dot) options.  Choose Word 97-2004 Template if you’re sending it to someone else (just to be safe), Word Template (.dotx) if it’s only you that’s going to be using it.
  6. Give the template a memorable and useful name, and press OK to save the document (which is now not strictly a document anymore, but a template)

To use the template (these instructions are for Word for Mac 2008 – in Word for Windows, you go to File>New and then select ‘from template’ ).

1. Go to the File>Project Gallery

2. From the menu that appears, select ‘My Templates’ and the template you created will be there.

3. Click on the template. A new blank document will be created with all the features that you specified. If you inserted an automatic date field, today’s date will be inserted (see instructions below).

4. Save this new document as something meaningful on your computer.

NOTES

How to insert the date automatically every time you create a new document based on a template

1. Go to the Insert menu, and select Insert>Field 

2. Select ‘Date and Time’ and use the ‘Create Date’ option

3. Press’ Options’ and select the format that the date should have, and remember to press ‘Add to field’ and ‘OK’ afterwards

  • Templates can be very complex things: for example, I’ve got one that I use for creating units in module study guides that have to have a cover page with the company logo on, page numbering, particular heading and text styles, and so on. Clicking on ‘Template’ creates a whole new document with a cover page including all the graphics.
  • Used in conjunction with forms (see earlier post on forms), templates can be doubly powerful: you could for example create an invoice template with form  fields for all the variable data like the name of the job and the unit price and so on.
  • Another way to use templates is to drag a shortcut to the template to your desktop. That way, you click on the template shortcut and kerplang! Word starts up automatically with a shiny new document ready for you to type into. To do this, you need to know where the template it stored (see below).
  • If you need to edit the template, you need to know where templates are stored on your computer. Once you know, you then select File>Open and locate the template in question to edit it
  • To find out where your computer stores templates, on a Mac go to Preferences pane in Word and select File locations. (it’s under Tools>Options on a PC) Make a note of where the  ‘templates’ are stored. You can press ‘modify’ to put them somewhere else. Frankly, I wouldn’t though. 

 

 

 

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