Smart Techniques for Authoring Content using Office Templates
Using well-engineered custom templates can make authoring of content easier and simpler for the average user.
One does not need to be an expert user of an Office application to create content that is visually engaging and
presents a consistently professional image to your clients. Custom templates enable the user to standardize and
enhance the visual identity of stationery, forms and presentations. The use of properly designed document
templates in the workplace can streamline and enhance your business workflow processes and facilitate the re-
purposing and re-branding of content in the future.
What is an Office Template?
A template, in general, is a pre-formatted master for creating a specific electronic file; for instance, a Fax cover
sheet in Word. Every Microsoft Office file — in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint — is created from a template.
Templates are identified by a unique filename extension — .dot, .xlt, .pot for Word, Excel and PowerPoint
respectively. Templates can be stored in a folder common to all users, often as read-only files. A Word setting on
the File Locations tab identifies the Templates folder location, which can be a shared server location or a specific
hard disk location. When a document is created using New… from the File menu, a list of all the available templates
stored in the Templates folder, and any of its subfolders, appears.
The most common Office template in use is the Blank template, also called the Normal template in Word. A
template determines the basic structure for a document and contains document settings such as fonts, macros,
menus, page layout, special formatting, styles, and AutoText entries (for Word).
Global templates, including the Normal template, contain settings that are available to all documents. Document
templates, such as a memo or fax template, contain settings that are available only to documents based on that
Custom Word Templates
Although the following is specific to Word templates, the same general principles apply to Excel and PowerPoint
A custom Word template for a specific document type consists of a pre-formatted design layout and styles defined
for all content requirements. To ensure the integrity of the document layout, all style and layout requirements are
handled “automatically” by assigning style names to each paragraph of text. The user need not “manually format”
text, add extra blank lines, or insert page breaks. Styles for text, headings, subheadings, numbered and bulleted
text, etc., are included in the custom templates to allow the user to consistently create and maintain a
standardized visual look for the content.
A custom template can also take advantage of Word’s capability to generate a Table of Contents and use cross-
references to information, such as Headings and Page numbers, throughout the body of the document, which are
dynamically updated throughout the entire document as information is added and changed. For instance, a
Proposal template that uses appropriate cross-references can ensure that all content is current and up-to-date and
does not contain references to any previously used, out-of-date content.
When a document is either created or opened that is based on a custom template, a macro can run to ensure that
the Word settings are appropriate for the template usage. In general, these settings are in effect while the
template is being used and revert to the user’s normal settings on exit.
Word Template Development Stages
The first stage in template development deals with the basic structure or page layout of the document. This usually
involves the placement of a logo in headers and/or footers, setting up margins, etc. This is often the only stage
that a visual designer considers.
The second stage deals with the content and provides the capability for the user to consistently create and
maintain a standardized visual look using custom styles. This involves the creation of a style sheet to define the
attributes for text, headings, subheadings, numbered and bulleted text, etc. Proper use of styles can facilitate the
re-purposing and re-branding of content in the future.
The third stage in template development provides additional tools for the user to consistently create and maintain a
standardized visual look for the content. This can include such features as:
• Wizards/dialog boxes to interact with the user to enter required input fields for inclusion in the document at
Smart Techniques for Authoring Content using Office Templates 2
• A Table of Contents that is dynamically updated as information is added and updated,
• Cross-reference fields for repetitive information - i.e. information on second page headers/footers - that are
dynamically updated as information is added and updated,
• Macros/programming to automate calculations or commonly used procedures, such as initial Word settings,
• Custom toolbars to execute commonly used tasks/procedures,
• Tips/guidelines/manuals to educate the user,
• Techniques for document naming strategies and version control, and
• Macros/programming to provide additional information to the user.
Other Office Templates
The same general principles outlined for Word templates apply to Excel and PowerPoint templates.
In addition to standardizing a visual look, an Excel template can provide complex calculations for worksheets and
workbooks using macros/programming.
A PowerPoint Design template contains custom Masters for slides, titles, notes and handouts that allow the user to
consistently create and maintain a standardized visual look for the content. A PowerPoint Design template can be
used to create new presentations or can be applied to existing presentations. To facilitate the re-purposing and re-
branding of content in the future by applying a different Design template, it is recommended that slides be created
using the pre-defined layouts available.
In addition to standardizing a visual look, a PowerPoint Design template can use macros/programming to provide
automation procedures or provide additional information to the user.
By Courses by Wire Inc., March 2005
Courses by Wire Inc.