Templates Menu in Microsoft Word
I like the Work menu but would like something that lets me draw on my usual list of templates to create new documents - not just open existing ones.
This page last revised: 06 Apr 2022 11:21 PM -0400 .
I want to be able to put my favorite templates on a list or toolbar, just like I can the styles or fonts. I tried putting them on my Work menu, but just ended up with being able to open the templates -- not create new documents from them.
Things we can already do without customizing Word.
Before we start moving furniture (customizing Word), lets take a look at what it is that we can already do. These two techniques for organizing and accessing templates work as well for Excel and PowerPoint as they do for Word.
The File => New dialog lets us start a new document from any template that is stored in the User Templates folder or the Workgroup templates folder. These folders are further subdivided into tabbed sections (one tab per subfolder in either of the main templates folders).
To create a new tab, create a new folder (and put at least one template in that folder). If you end up with more folders than there is room for tabs, you will have a tab appear that simply says "More..." and will give you a list of all of your folders.
What appears when you use File è New is a composite created by Word from the contents of up to three different locations. In Word 97-98, it is a composite of your User Templates folder and your Workgroup Templates folder. In Word 2000, 2001, 2002 it is a composite of those two folders and the built-in templates which are not in a separate folder seem to be built on-the-fly as used. The locations of these folders is set by the User and defaults to different locations under different operating system setups and different versions of Word. For more on Template folder structure and location see Template Basics at http://www.addbalance.com/usersguide/templates.htm.
Here, though, are a few basic concepts on template locations.
1. If when saving a template, you make sure that the dialog box is set to save as “Word template (*.dot)” you will save in your user templates folder by default.
2. You can create a new folder in that templates folder and use that new folder to hold your template. If you do this, that new folder will appear as a tab in your File è New dialog.
3. Creating a third level of folders will not help with organization. The File è New dialog only recognizes the two levels, templates (or documents) stored in the templates folder and folders stored in the templates folder. The templates and documents stored in the templates folder show up under the General tab. Those stored in folders which are themselves in the templates folder show up under tabs which bear the name of the storing folder.
4. The same process applies to saving templates in your Workgroup Templates folder except that you will have to find that templates folder using the browse button.
5. If two folders have the same name, one being in the User Templates folder and the other in the Workgroup Templates folder, only one tab will appear in the File è New dialog box. Items contained in both folders will appear under that tab.
Note: In Word 2002 and later File => New brings up the New Document Task Pane (pain) instead of the dialog. You can still get directly to the File New dialog by customizing your interface. (Tools => Customize). The Word Command you want to move onto a menu or toolbar is FileNewDialog. See How to Customize a Menu or Toolbar for more on this. You may want to change the name that shows up on menus (Other...).
For more on Template folder structure and placement see Template Basics at http://www.addbalance.com/usersguide/templates.htm.
Use Windows Shortcuts or Mac Aliases.
Both of these environments allow the use of links to templates that open a new document based on the template rather than open the template for editing.
This technique - adding menus to the Start Menu - is simple and straightforward. In Windows, right-click on the "Start" button and select "Open." Right-Click in the resulting window and pick New => Folder. Give that folder any name you want; in the sample, it was named "Template Favorites." In the folder inserted in the Start Menu you can add other folders, documents or templates, shortcuts to documents, template, or folders, and more folders.
Note the difference in the icons shown for the folders. Some show a picture with more icons over the top. These represent real folders that are in your "Start Menu" folder. Others, displayed as plain manila folders, are actually shortcuts to real folders stored elsewhere on your disk. The lines for the real folders will open to display the folders' contents. If you select one of the shortcuts to a templates folder, that will open that folder as a window on your desktop.
Also, like "favorites" if your Start menu templates folder is filled with shortcuts, that is exactly what they are - shortcuts. If you delete one, the original file is still there. If you delete or move the original file, the shortcut will remain - and give you an error message when you try to use it.
The Mac equivalent to the Windows Start menu is the Apple menu. Much the same process applies in that you can add a Mac alias to your Apple menu or an entire folder to your Apple menu. (It has been a couple of years since I have stored anything under the Apple menu. I apologize to Mac users if my memory is faulty.)
Using Hyperlinks to Shortcuts
You can also create a Word document that has hyperlinks to your shortcuts for your templates. (Hyperlinks to the templates will not work because they will open the templates directly instead of creating a new document based on the template.) You can create a shortcut to the template (perhaps stored in a special folder created for this purpose) and then have your hyperlink link to that shortcut directly. Note, when creating the hyperlink you must type in the name and location of the shortcut rather than simply browse and point to it. (If you browse and click to create the shortcut, Word will resolve the shortcut address to the actual template; what we want is the equivalent of double-clicking on the shortcut, rather than opening the template.) See Word Template Hyperlink Is Opened Instead of New Document for more.
A combination of these techniques, the File è New dialog box, adding to your Start menu, and using hyperlinks to shortcuts, will probably meet your personal needs. A template reached through the Start menu or through a hyperlink to its shortcut will act the same way it would if you double-clicked on it in Explorer - create a new document based upon the template. If you've been reading straight through, now is a good time for a break.
Customizing Word ...
However, if you are looking for a solution that is easily transported between work and home or that you want to share with others in your office, then you may want to look at customizing Word by adding a few macros and a menu or two. If this is your aim, get out your work clothes, put on your gloves, and we'll start moving some furniture.
Preliminary Step - Organize your Templates
The first thing you will want is to have these templates organized the way you want them. For a shared solution, we are talking about the Workgroup templates folder. We may also be talking about templates that are stored in a shared location and are outside of the Workgroup templates folder. (This is where you would put templates that you wanted to only be accessible through your menus.) You will want your co-workers to have the ability to read these files, and in the case of Workgroup templates, view the folder contents. Further, wherever you put these, if they aren't going to stay there, you are looking for a lot of extra work. (You don't want to move the piano every time someone decides to play a different CD on the stereo! Once you have a customized menu in place, moving a piano may look easy compared to moving a template.)
The shared location for these templates must appear to be the same for all users - the same mapped drive letter, or the same UNC. My preference is for the same drive letter, but that may take more regulation than your workplace can handle. The folder names must be identical (including the case of letters with some networks). For more on Template folder structure and placement see Template Basics at http://www.addbalance.com/usersguide/templates.htm.
Start a new Global Template
You will want to keep your menus and macros in a "global" template. If you don't already have a global template, go to File è New and click "New Template" in the bottom right corner of the dialog box. Select blank document. You can use this new template to keep notes on what you have done if you want. It will not be used as the basis for new documents but as a container for your customizations. Save it using a name like "MyGlobal.dot." Don't close it.
Make a List of Your Templates for Your Menus
Let's just start with three templates, named MyTemplate1.dot, MyTemplate2.dot, and MyTemplate3.dot. They are stored on a network location that is (1) accessible to you and (2) can be made accessible to others who will be using your menus. I will assume that they are in a folder called MyTemplates inside the Workgroup templates folder. You can use these techniques to construct menus for your own templates, as well.
Record some macros . . .
To record each macro make sure that you have your global template open on your screen as the active window. At the bottom of your screen, in about the middle of the "status line," grayed out in a little box are the letters "REC." Double-click on these and the macro recorder dialog will open up.
You will have to change the settings so that Word assigns a meaningful name to your Macro and puts it in your template. Note the use of internal upper-case letters in the Macro name. You want the dialog box to note that you want to store your macro in Documents Based On MyGlobal.dot. You can add an explanation of the macro if you want in the description. Click on OK or press the Enter key to return to your document and record your macro. The little macro recording toolbar will pop up. Ignore it for now but don't close it!
Create a New Document Based on MyTemplate1.dot
Using File è New, create a new document based on MyTemplate1.dot. Once the new document is open, click on the black box in the macro recording toolbar - not the x in the close box. Then close your new document, you don't need it anymore. Save MyGlobal.dot ( but don't close it).
Record two more macros
Record two more macros named MyTemplate2NewDoc and MyTemplate3NewDoc, respectively. Follow the same steps of beginning your recording from within your global template and creating a new document using File è New. Close both new documents and save MyGlobal.dot. You have now recorded the macros that we'll use for our menus.
Rename the Macro Module
Because custom-built menus are very sensitive to changes, we want to keep our macros somewhere other than in the "NewMacros" module that Word uses for storing recorded macros. Otherwise, all of our macros will end up jumbled together. Pick a name (again all one word) that describes this group. Then use the Organizer (Tools è Customize... è Organizer (button)) to rename NewMacros to your new name. For purposes of this tutorial, we'll rename it LetterForms. You want to do this before we start building our templates menu because otherwise you'll have to build your menus again after you rename the module - the menu items won't know where to find your macros.
Time for the Furniture moving - building the custom toolbar
Chas' first rule of customizing toolbars and menus: Everything goes in a custom toolbar - even if you don't want a custom toolbar!
The scene: you have Word open and the only thing open in Word is MyGlobal.dot. All of your other templates and your new documents that you created when recording your macros are closed. The first step is to create a "custom toolbar" that we'll name "Template Favorites Toolbar." Note that this name does have spaces in it.
Toolbars (tab) è
Make sure you are saving your toolbar in MyGlobal.dot.
A little stub of a toolbar will appear. Don't worry, it will grow as needed! Click on the Commands tab and go way to the bottom of the categories (left) window - to New Menu. The commands window on the right will clear of everything except "New Menu." Click on this "New Menu" from the commands window and drag it to your toolbar. (You can try dragging New Menu from the categories window - I do this regularly - but it won't budge.) Right-click on your new menu and rename the menu to something creative like "&Templates Favorites" or "&Letter Forms." (The ampersand - & - tells Word that you want to use the next letter for a keyboard shortcut.) You should now have toolbar that looks like it can really do something (even though it can't). Something like:
Add your macros to your toolbar
(Scene: The Customize dialog box is still on your screen, the open document is MyGlobal.dot.)
Click on the Macros category (left window) and you will probably get to wait a minute or so while Word sorts through all the macros available. Find your macros in the commands window.
While the macros list is organized, you may have some trouble figuring out the order. The default project name is "TemplateProject." Then comes the module name and finally the macro name. Since there is no way to make the window wider, you may end up guessing to find your macros. That is OK, if you guess wrong, just drag the mistake off your menu. Drag your macros, one at a time, to your new menu. Hold the macro over the new menu until the menu opens up, then drag the macro onto the menu. When you have dragged all three to your menu you will have something like the following:
As you can see, the menu widens to display the full (if incomprehensible) name. You can rename these menu commands by right-clicking on them while the Customize dialog box is open.
The names that I assigned were "Letter Form &1," etc. Again, the ampersand is to set a keyboard shortcut for your menu.
Add some button images
In case you want to use these as toolbar buttons, let's add some button images (something other than the default macro Lego(tm) spider). Right-click on each one, select Change Button Image, and pick a button to suit. (See Work Menu article for more on changing button images.) Click on Default Style to show the buttons on your menu (and toolbar). While holding down the Cntrl key, drag each macro command onto your toolbar (in addition to the menu).
The name you used for your macros will show up as the Tool Tip text for your buttons:
The name we gave this macro, if you will recall, was "MyTemplate2NewDoc." Word put a space before each upper-case letter in the name when displaying the name as tool tip text. We had given the command a new name (Letter Form 2) but this does not show up in the tool tip.
Park your menu where you want it!
Remember that I said you needed to create a custom toolbar, even if you didn't want another toolbar? The reason for doing this is that customizations to the built-in menus can't be copied while custom toolbars can be copied easily. So, having built a (copyable) custom toolbar, we can use items on that toolbar to customize the built-in menus and toolbars.
With the Customize dialog box still open...
Hold the Ctrl key down while you drag your menu where you want it. Perhaps under the File menu. If you like, you can Ctrl+drag your buttons to your standard toolbar. This puts copies of your custom items on the built-in menus and toolbars. The originals remain on your custom toolbar - able to be moved.
Close the Customize dialog box. Close your custom toolbar (unless you want it to pop up everytime you start Word). Save and close MyGlobal.dot. Open a different document or create a new one (not based on MyGlobal.dot). Check under the file menu -- and where is your new menu that you spent all that time creating? It isn't there! We have one more step.
Make MyGlobal.dot into a global template.
A global template is one that gives resources like menus to all of your documents. To have MyGlobal.dot act that way, move it into your Word Startup folder. Note that this is a different folder from the Programs Startup folder in your Start menu. It may or may not be named "Startup." This startup folder is specific to Microsoft Word. The location of your startup folder can be set by you. Otherwise its location will vary by operating system and Word version. You can find the location of your Startup folder by checking under Tools è Options è File Locations (tab). Once you know where it is, close Word. If none is set, you can set one (but it should NOT be your templates folder or in your templates folder).
With Word closed, move MyGlobal.dot into your Startup folder.
Open Word again and take a look under the File menu. You should see your custom menu. Give it a try! All of your macros are available to you. And, since you did not store any of these customizations in your Normal.dot, you can share them easily. In the meantime, you have just done some major furniture moving and deserve a break! Tell someone close to you that you have been doing heavy lifting and need a back rub.
This FAQ page first appeared in ABC (All 'Bout Computers) a monthly on-line magazine - take a look - subscriptions are free - and worth far more!
Alternative - Using MacroButtons with a Templates List
Instead, you can create a document that has a list of your templates. If you make your list using macrobuttons, clicking on a name can create a document based on the template named. See MacroButton Fields for more on this. For a sample, download TemplatesMenu.zip.
Alternative - .ini file listing templates
Explored on Malcolm Smith's site at An Alternative Document New Interface.
The up-to-date version of this FAQ may be found at:
Download this FAQ in Word 97 format
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