More WORD power… the care and feeding of TEMPLATES



Greetings, NSDCAR members!


When last I spattered these pages with verbiage, I held forth on the topic of Microsoft WORD, and how to free-form compose documents, then use formatting tricks like the “Format Paintbrush” tool to ease the chore of formatting paragraphs.


There’s another very powerful tool at our disposal in WORD, and you’ll find similar functionality in many other software solutions, including the California Association of REALTORS® forms management program, WinFORMS.  It’s called a template, and the amount of work these document models can save you, especially in producing repetitive texts like form letters and contracts and riders, is nothing short of phenomenal.  A few minutes of study to get the hang of creating and using templates can make a whole lot of “make-work” just go away!



A document template is just like the more familiar kind of template… it’s a model of the final product, which provides a set format and holds static information so that re-typing of redundant information becomes unnecessary.  A carpenter or shipwright uses templates to guide their way through an oft-repeated saw cut or measurement, saving lots of time on those repetitive tasks.  The productive wordsmith can use the template function in their software to realize similar savings.



First, a bit about how Microsoft Word, as typically installed, functions.  When you open Word, by default the program presents a blank document, and this document is given the default name of “Document1.doc”.  Notice that the second element of the file name, know as the “extension”, is the three-letter suffix “doc”.  This is short for “document”, of course, and is the default file extension nomenclature in Word.  What is not obvious, at this point, is that in just opening the program, you have already used a template.  Word names templates with a file extension of “dot”, short for “document template”.  There’s a default template, which Word uses for any standard new document, and its name is “”.  If you change the default paragraph formatting, fonts, or other document characteristics from the menus within Word, those changes are saved to this “” template, which then becomes the default formatting of the next “new” document you create.

To observe a template being applied in Word, click on the “File” menu, then select “New”.  A sub-window will pop up, offering you several choices of document types, such as “blank document”, “web page”, or “mail message”. 


Each of these document types is, in fact, a template.  They’ve been built for you by Microsoft, and are formatted the way the ubiquitous Redmondian programmers thought they should be.  Conspicuously absent, however, are things like “disclosure agreement”, “contract rider”, or “hot sheet”.  Bill Gates and his crew, it seems, are not REALTORS®!  Go figger.



So now we understand that templates are “models”, if you will, of finished documents, which models contain default formatting characteristics, page layout, and other settings, alleviating the task of making all these selections with every new copy of a similar document.  What’s really cool about templates is that they can be crafted to be entire documents, with all the “blanks” already filled in, except for those which will change with each new copy of the document.



For the sake of simplicity, let’s look at a standard business letter, for a fictional real estate agency called “Joe REALTOR® Agency”.  On every business letter, you’ll need to include information like your business name, address, phone and fax numbers, the current date, and perhaps a standard salutation.  Why type all this information with every new letter?  With Word, all you need do is type a single business letter, format it the way you want it to look, then blank out the information which will change from letter to letter, and save the final draft as a document template.  Here’s an example:





   [Type today’s date here]



   Joe REALTOR®, Broker|
   Joe REALTOR® Real Estate Agency
   1234 Main Street
   Anytown, CA 99999
   Phone: (555) 555-5555
   Fax:     (555) 555-6666

   [Type recipient’s name and address here]


   Dear Joe REALTOR® valued client:


   [type body text here]


   Best regards,


   Joe REALTOR®, Broker






As you can see, all the information that’s likely to occur in a standard business letter is included in this template, so that by using this as the model for all future business letters, one can avoid re-typing the redundant information.  Also, if a phone number changes, or an email address, or even the name of Joe’s company, Joe only needs to edit the template once, so that every subsequent letter will contain the new information.  What you cannot see is that this template also contains the correct margins for Joe’s standard pre-printed stationery, and even some print options that Joe uses every time he prints on letterhead (like selecting the appropriate paper tray on the laser printer).



By using a Word feature called “fields”, a template can be constructed to represent even a fairly complicated real estate form, then the template can be locked or “protected” so that each person editing a form created with the template is only allowed to edit or replace data that is within the fields, thus protecting the form from unwanted changes or errors in the essential text of the document.



Once you've crafted a template, or altered an actual document in order to make it a template for future use, you simply need to save the document as a template.  Look at your Word dialogue for the "Save As..." function on the "File" menu.  You'll notice that the bottom-most entry box on this screen is for choosing the file type.  If you choose document template, the file will be saved with a filename extension of "dot", and Word, by default, will save it in the hard disk folder which contains all your other templates.  Therefore, the next time you select "File", then "New", your template will be presented as one of the possible new document types.  The default directory for templates is rather a long and complicated file path, but here it is, just for your information:

C:\Documents and Settings\<user's name>\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates



Take a little time to explore Word’s template and forms functions, and with some planning and a minimum of screaming and pulling of hair, you can save yourself many hours of repetitive data entry, and help to ensure a uniform, businesslike appearance to all of your documents and forms.



Till next time…    -Mike