Friday, 17 June 2016

Microsoft Word for Writers: How to make a document template for your writing

Love your laptop. Turn the lights low,
open some wine, put on some music...
This post series is the techie tricks to make your writing life so much easier, with all the nifty little things you can do on Word. You can read the first post here.

Once you've learnt how to set up the Styles for your writing, you realise you don't want to faddle about with that every time you start a new story. There must be an easier way. The whole history of computing boils down to "How can I make the computer do this for me?" And there is! Templates! You're going to open a new document, set up the styles and some other useful settings, and then save it as a template. Then every time you start typing up a new story, you create a new document from that template, and everything is already set up.

How to create a writing template

  1. Open a new document
  2. Set up your Normal and Normal_new styles - if you can't remember how, or haven't read the previous post, here's how. More practice!
  3. You could head Straight to Go, Collect £200 now, but how about a few other useful settings? Add some page numbers. On the Insert tab, click Page Number and then Bottom of Page, Center. (That's standard, you can put it wherever you want.)
  4. Good margins are always useful. Narrower text is easier to read plus agents and publishers want proper margins, none of this 2cm on each side malarkey. I recommend the original defaults: Top & Bottom margins of 2.54cm, Left and Right margins of 3.17cm. To set your margins, click the Menus tab,then the Page Setup button, and then select Margins from the dropdown list.

  5. If there's anything else you're always doing to your writing documents, now's the moment to do it! Once you're fully skilled up in my smartypants ways, you'll be adding field codes and macros and all sorts. But don't worry about those for now, you can always add them later.
  6. Save the document as a template: click the Office button, move down to Save As, and choose Word Template.
  7. The dialogue box will open for you to name and save your template. It should automatically save the template in the right place, with all the other templates. (We'll check in a moment that it has; if not, I'll tell you how to move it to the right place.) Give it a nice name and click "Save".
You've made your first template! Now you can go crazy and make templates for everything you do a lot - letters, poetry, recipes, whatever.

How to create a new document from your template

  1. Click on File, then choose New.
  2. In the options that appear, click on My templates. (In older versions of Word, the options will appear on the right hand side, and you need to click on On my computer... Also, for some versions, you might need to choose the option Personal templates.)
  3. A dialogue box will open of your templates - click on the one you want. In this case, Novel.
  4. A new document will open based on your template - so it has all the settings and the styles you created in your template. Result!
If it's all worked, you can scroll on down to tweaking your template's styles. If you can't find it, here's how to sort that out:

How do I find my template?


Your template should have automatically been saved in the right place. If it wasn't, then we need to find the right place and put it there. Every version of Windows / Mac, and apparently every version of Word, keeps the template in slightly different places, so the easiest way is just to search for it. These are instructions for PC users - any Mac users, feel free to shout instructions in the comments and I'll add them.

You're going to search for where templates live on your computer and open that folder, then search for your template and open that folder, then drag your template to the the proper template home.

  1. Open Windows Explorer.
  2. On the left, click on the C: drive (to search the whole computer)
  3. In the Search Box (top right, picture of a magnifying glass) type the name of the normal template and its extension: Normal.dotx (or for old versions of Word, Normal.dot) and press Enter. Wait while it peruses all your files. This may take some time, so maybe make a cup of tea while you wait. (Normal is the standard Blank document template, so we know that'll be in the right place.)
  4. Once it's found it, click on it, right-click, and select Open file location. That'll open a new Windows Explorer window in the folder where it's stored. You should be able to see on the left and along the top where it's stored. Mine is in C:/Users/Megan Kerr/AppData/Roaming/Microsoft/Templates.
  5. Open a new Windows Explorer window, and search for your template - eg Novel.dotx. Again, once it's found it, click on it, right-click, and select Open file location.
  6. If your two windows are full-screen, click on the Restore-down button in the top right, next to the close button. Restore-down is the middle button:
  7. You should be able to see both your windows now. Drag your template from wherever it's hiding into the same window as the Normal template.
Your template's in the right place now, so you can scroll back up to create a new document from your template.

How to change styles and add new styles in your template


We already set up the styles in your template, but as time passes, your tastes might change - you want more line spacing, or a different heading font - or you might develop new styles you want in all your writing. Then you find you're modifying your styles every time you use your template... Noooo! That's what we wanted to leave behind! But we CAN leave it behind. There's another little trick, which consists simply of a tick:
  1. Add a new style or modify your style as usual. If you can't remember how, here's how.
  2. In the Modify Style window, once you've made your changes, look at the bottom left. You'll see a tick box for Add to template. Tick it.
  3. Click OK.
  4. When you save your document, it will ask you if you want to save the changes to the template as well:
    Click Yes.
You're done! It's so easy! This is just for styles, though - if you want to make changes to margins or anything else, you need to open your template.

How to change your template


First you need to find your template in Windows Explorer, so if you don't know how, scroll back up to How do I find my template? I've added my template folder to my libraries, so I can find them easily. (Once you've found it, right-click on the Template folder and choose Include in library.) Then...
  1. In Windows Explorer, right-click on your template.
  2. The right-click options will open up:
  3. Choose Open not New. New is in bold: that means it's the default option, so if you double-click on the file, it will create a New document based on that template. By right-clicking, you've brought up the Open option.
  4. The template itself will open. You can then make any changes you want to. When you're done, just click Save and close it.
Done! You're a template guru!


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