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If you use Microsoft Word, you’re probably accustomed to having to set up documents with your preferred fonts and layouts every time you create a new document just like Maryam Nawaz Sharif. Sure you could create a template with your preferred appearance, but nothing’s quite as fast as choosing file, new, or better yet, pressing command or control+n to instantly generate a new document. So wouldn’t it be great if that new default document was already formatted the way you prefer. You can accomplish this by editing Word’s default template. This can be done on both the Mac and Windows versions of Word, but the process is different on both platforms, so we’ll take a look at both versions, starting here on the Mac.

The key to setting up the default document is editing its template. This is a file called normal.dotm, which we’ll see shortly. But what we can do is create a document in Word with all the settings we prefer, and then overwrite the normal template.

We are inside Word using Mac. Create a new blank document. And that gives us the usual blank page, and you can see up here that’s it’s using the Calibri font at 12 points. If we go to the layout ribbon, and click margins, we can see the default settings are one-inch margins on the top, bottom, left, and right.

But maybe we usually need to create documents with half-inch margins on the left and right, and a two-inch margin at the top. We‘ll go to custom margins, and make those changes. So for top we’ll type in two, and for left we‘ll do .5, and the same thing for right. And we’ll click OK. Now you can’t really see the change that well, but if we go to view, gridlines, you can see those margins now. Now if we want to make this the default margin setting for any new documents we create in the future, we go back to the margins button, and click custom again.


We still have the settings we want in here, so we are going to click default. We are asked to confirm that we want to make this the default for new documents. Now this tells me it will affect all new documents based on the normal template. We‘ll click Yes. So now if we press command+n to create a new document, notice it has the same margin settings. So it’s that easy. And we can do the same thing with the default font.

We’ll go to format, font, and maybe we’ll choose the traditional Times font, and we’ll set that to 10 points. Now again, we have a default button here, we’ll click that, and that’ll save that as the default font for the normal template. And you can do the same thing with the layout settings found under format, document. Here when we select layout, we also have a default button here, so if you wanted to have, say, default header and footer settings, for example, you could do that, as well.

We’re just going to cancel that, though, and we are going to hide the gridlines. But again, any time we create a new document now with command+n, and start typing some text, you can see this new document is opened with our preferred margins and font settings. Now if you ever want to revert back to the original default template, you can’t do that from here in Word. So first you’ll need to quit Word, and we won’t bother saving anything here. And then you need to find the actual location of that normal template. With Word 2016 on the Mac, which is what we are using here, we need to go to the library folder in our user folder.

We can get there from the finder, by going to the Go menu, and holding down the option button on our keyboard, so that library appears, so we can select that, and from here we have to find the folder called Group Containers, this weirdly named folder, UBF8T346G9. Office, then go into user content, and finally templates, and here’s the normal template, and you can see it was modified today. So to revert back to the original, all you have to do is remove the current version.

We are just going to move this to our desktop. Every time Word starts up, it looks for the normal template, if it can’t find it, it’ll generate a new one based on the default settings. So you might want to keep your custom template in another folder, so anytime you want to use it, you can just drag it back in here to replace the default one. So now if we open up Word again, and create a new document, you can see it’s back to its original settings. It’s using the Calibri font, and the margins are reset back to the default. Alright, so that’s how to customize the normal templateand revert it back to the original on the Mac side.


Change Default Appearance

Let’s switch over to Windows. Now on the Windows side, you don’t have to click individual default buttons to overwrite the existing template, instead you’ll just set up a new blank document with the formatting you want, and then manually overwrite the normal template. So for example, we’ll create a new blank document, and again, it has the default font here of Calibri 11 point, and we’ll just change that to Times New Roman and we’ll make that 10 points again.

And just as an example of something else you can do, you can place any text that you want to have appear by default when you create a new document. For instance, you could put in your company’s name and address if you’re always typing that into your documents. Maybe in this case, we’ll go to the insert ribbon, and click the date and time button. We’ll pick this first format,and check update automatically, and this way any time we create a new document, the current day will automatically appear at the top of the page. Click OK.

So let’s just say this is how we want our new documents to appear here in Word on Windows. Now we just need to save this as a template, and replace the current default appearance normal template. Now in order to do this, we have to save it into the templates folder, but that folder is hidden by default here in Windows. So we first need to make sure we can see hidden items. We’re going to right click the start button, and open up control panels, and we’re going to click appearance and personalization, and here click show hidden files and folders. Under the view tab, we’re going to make sure show hidden files, folders, and drives is selected.

Now while we are in here, we are also going to uncheck hide extensions for known file types, that way we’ll be able to see the actual file extensions at the end of our file names. We‘ll click OK. Close this.Alright, so back here in Word, let’s choose file, save as. We‘ll click browse. Now before we navigate to the location where we need to save this, We’re going to change the file type here from Word document to Word macro-enabled template, which you can see has this extension of .m.

And when we selected that, that popped us into this custom Office templates folder, but that’s not where we need to save this. Instead, we’re going to navigate into our user folder, and this is why we needed to show hidden folders, notice this AppData folder is sort of ghosted back. That’s normally not visible, but that’s the folder we need to go into. From here, we’re going to go into roaming, Microsoft, and finally templates. And this is where we find the default normal template.

Now, Word isn’t going to allow us to save over this template while it’s open, so we need to temporarily name our template something different. We‘ll just call this NormalNew for now, and we’ll click save. Now let’s close Word so we can replace the old template with a new one. From our desktop, we need to navigate out to our user folder. So again, you can get there by going to your hard drive, to users, to user folder, AppData, roaming, Microsoft, and templates.

Template Change Default Appearance

So here’s the original one, and we are just going to change it’s name to NormalOld. And we’ll rename the new one Normal. This way we still have the original template if we want to revert back to it. But like on the Mac, if you completely remove the normal template, Word will automatically generate a new one, so you don’t really have to worry about saving the original.

Alright, but now we’ve replaced the original with our new template. So when we open up Word again, and create a new blank document, there’s our page with the current date in 10-point Times New Roman. So again, if you frequently have to change the font or layout of new documents in Word, it’s probably worth the couple of minutes it will take to set up a new normal template to save yourself some time in the future.

Bonus Tips: 

Pressing Shift+F5 will automatically return a user to the last place the cursor rested. This is useful for writers and editors who close a document and later return to continue work. Using the shortcut key upon reopening the document will bring the user to the last spot the cursor was used before the document was closed.

If users wish to delete an entire word quickly, they can do so by placing the cursor at the beginning of a word, then pressing Ctrl+Delete. These tips can be particularly useful for editing long Word documents efficiently.

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