Word? Normal?

July 18, 2006

I often read Word tips which recommend changing margins, or the “default” font, affecting the Normal template. The tips sound handy … until you wind up with a corrupted Normal template. How do you fix a corrupt Normal template? You blow it away! Delete the thing! Start over! And all your settings and tweaks to the Normal template are down the drain.  I’ve learned the hard way, don’t make changes to the Normal template.
How sad. What to do?

First, let’s define Normal template. As Word is installed “out of the box”, when it opens, it looks for a file named Normal.dot in a certain path. Normal.dot is the Normal template. In end-user speak, Word makes a copy of the Normal template and serves that up as a “fresh blank sheet of paper”.

If you close Word, then hunt down the Normal template and blow it away, then open Word again, Word regenerates a new Normal template. A vanilla outta the box Normal template, not the tweaked fudge ripple template (it’s hot here and I want ice cream!)

So tips to “permanently” change default margins from 1.25″ to 1″ by making a change in the File, Page Setup dialog box, then clicking Default [see screen cap below] are OK – BUT – they don’t really provide a sturdy solution to your need.  Why? Because they make a change to the Normal template.

I’ve thrived on Word since Word 1.1, supported it, used it, cursed it, taught it, always at the end-user level because that’s what I am and that’s who I love. So I want you to have sturdy solutions that stand up to a day in your life with Word.

What to do if you know you always want to start a new blank document with margins 1″ all around, a Normal style of Georgia 12 points, first page headers/footers different ? You create a template with these settings [we’ll do that in my next post].

Before you create the template, think about how you want to use it – for letters, all Word documents, memos, faxes, outlines, etc.? As you think, try to tease out any default or boilerplate text [such as for a fax coversheet] because we can create several templates with different boilerplate text, if need be.

The next post is going to cover creating that simple all purpose template and provide you with a few ideas for making the template very accessible.  We’ll also look at using the template as a “base” for cleaning up a messy, badly formatted, possibly corrupted document.

Meanwhile, pineapple sherbet sounds good.


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