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The New Normal! (.dotm)

July 10, 2012

I’ve been getting a real kick out of teaching business and technology courses at a local community college. My motto, “Those that can do, teach!” This summer we’re working our way through the basics of Microsoft Office 2010. In my classes I try to emphasize real-world business and technology examples from my 6 years as an Information Technology Manager for Credit Suisse Bank and my 12 years as a Windows Marketing Communications Manager at Microsoft. Along the way I’m learning as much as I am teaching and my students’ (and my) Aha! moments keep me motivated through our late night sessions. Teaching is a nice way to give back to your community as well as an important reminder of the how theory (the way it’s supposed to work) relates to practice (the way it really works). I hope to continue teaching in the future as a stimulating adjunct to my day job, whether it’s business basics or more specialized classes in Marketing Communications and Social Media.

What follows is something I wrote up for a couple of current students in my class who were unhappy with our book’s explanation of how to change the default settings in Word (sorry Prentice Hall!). I’ve been doing these sorts of crib sheets for my mom since setting her up with her very first PC, about 25 years ago. In my mom’s case she wanted Word to produce documents that looked like they came from a 1960’s era IBM Selectric (think monospaced slab serif, think MadMen) with preset page numbering so she wouldn’t have to remember to add these each time. Maybe you have accepted the advent of proportional type, but are still no fan of 11 point Calibri with 1.15 line spacing? Here are a few options for you:

Editing the Normal.dotm template in Word 2010

Do you find yourself making the same set of changes to every new Word 2010 document you create? For example, do you change the default font from Calibri to Times New Roman, the line spacing from 1.15 to 1.0 and add automatic page numbers to the footer? If so, take a few moments now to save yourself from doing this a thousand times in the future.

One solution is to create your own template. This is pretty easy. Start by opening up a new document and make all the changes you like. Along with font, margin, line spacing, header/footer changes you might even include some starter text such as “Dear Sir or Madam, Will you read my book? It took me years to write, will you take a look?” along with your standard contact information. Then go to the Backstage View by clicking on the File tab in the upper left corner. Choose the “Save As” option and change the “Save as type” selection from Word Document to Word Template. Save your new template to your desktop with an easily identifiable and memorable name.

Save as type: Word Template

The downside with the above solution is that you have to change your behavior a bit and remember to open the template each time you begin working in Word. This may make a lot of sense if you frequently write three types of documents and create a template for each. But, frankly, for most of us this is an inelegant solution. Most of the time we want to just open Word and just start writing with the font, spacing, etc. we prefer. And who needs the added clutter on your Desktop? True, you could save new templates to your Templates folder instead of the Desktop, but you will still have to remember to choose a specific template each time you start because the standard Word defaults (stored in the “mother template” named Normal.dotm) remains the same.

The best practice (and what Microsoft suggests you do if an additional template doesn’t fit the bill) is to make your desired changes in the corresponding Dialog Box and click Check as Default. For example, to set Arial instead of Calibri as your default font click on the Home tab, click the Font dialog box Launcher, and then click the Font tab.

Font Group

Font Group

Actually, if you are going to make a change from Calibri to something more readable I’d choose a serif font like Palatino Linotype, or Times New Roman and bump it up to 12 points. Arial is even harder on the eyes than Calibri!

Font Dialogue Box

Font tab, Font dialog box – Set as Default option

In the resulting Font Dialog Box (see above) you can select the options that you want to apply to the default font, such as Font, Font style and Size. If you selected some text before you opened this dialog box the properties of the selected text will appear as presets. Make all your changes and click Set As Default, followed by OK.

You can change other default settings the same way you changed the default font. Go to the Paragraph group on the Home tab and choose the Paragraph dialog box launcher as you did for the Font. Set spacing and other options, and click Save As Default. Go to the Page Layout tab and the Page Setup group to change your page-layout settings. Be sure to click Save As Default each time. Now whenever you open a new Word document the default settings will reflect all the changes you made.

But wait, there’s more!

That might be the end of the story, but there is another way to change your default Word 2010 settings that will appeal to the geeks and control freaks amongst us (works pretty much the same way for Word 2003 and 2007). All of your default document options are saved in a template called: Normal.dotm. It’s a template like any other template except it is the one that Word always goes to first, by default. You can visit your Normal.dotm anytime by entering the following in the “Search program and files” box at the bottom of the Start Menu and then clicking Enter: %appdata%\Microsoft\Templates. The location of this folder varies depending upon your user name, your Windows version and how your PC has been configured (it is likely in someplace like this: C:\Users\YourUserName\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates),
but %appdata%\Microsoft\Templates will always get you there. You can also enter this string into the address bar of any Windows Explorer folder or while navigating within an application, such as Word. It works in Internet Explorer as well.

So, there it is, Normal.dotm the keeper of all your default settings in Word. But you can’t just open it up and start making changes because you can’t modify Normal.dotm while Word is running. This is to prevent you (or others with malicious intent) from really screwing up your Word.  If you simply delete Normal.dotm, Microsoft’s original version of the file will magically recreate it the next time you launch Word – a kind of failsafe solution against any kind of mischief. However, you can take a backed-up copy of Normal.dotm that you customized earlier and rename it as Normal.dotm, and then Word will use it as your default template. Here’s what you do, open a new Word document and make all the changes you want to appear in all your future Word docs. Save it as a macro-enabled template (Word Macro-Enabled Template) with the name “Normal-New” to your template folder (%appdata%\Microsoft\Templates). Now close Word and go to that folder and rename your Normal.dotm to “Normal-Old” and your “Normal-New” to plain old “Normal”. Now when you restart Word all your changes will be reflected in the new, default document. If you screwed up somewhere along the way, simply delete Normal.dotm (when Word is not running) and Microsoft’s original version of the file will be recreated the next time you launch Word.

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