Template Shmemplate

I often get asked to create templates for a clients, when in reality what they want is not a template, but the formatting cleaned up in an existing document.  This happens often enough I thought perhaps I should shine a light on what Microsoft Office templates really are, how awesome they are, and how they can be put to work for your company.

tem·plate, n
1. a shaped piece of metal, wood, card, plastic, or other material used as a pattern for processes such as painting, cutting out, shaping, or drilling.
Computing : a preset format for a document or file, used so the format does not have to be recreated each time it is used.

Microsoft has kindly provided you with a template for every program you have, but you don’t really realize it since when Word or Excel opens up, it just looks like a blank page for you to fill in.  But there are attributes already on that page, making it a template.  The margins are 1 inch all around, the font is Calibri, and the font colour is black.  There are Bullets and Styles for you to use, already set up, as well as a range of colours to choose from.  Of course, you can change all of this, but the point is to make it easy to start a document.  Let’s go over that again…the point is to make it easy to start a document.

Most companies have documents they produce time and time again, and to look professional, these documents should look the same each and every time.  And everyone in the company should be using the same look, each and every time that type of document is created.  This is part of the Branding process.  Branding as in the brand the cattle ranchers put on their cattle so everyone recognizes those cows as theirs.  Branding as in when you see a big red plus sign you know it’s the Red Cross.  Branding as in when you see a swooshy check mark, you know it’s Nike.  Branding as in when you see a certain green in a circle with white writing and even if you can’t read it from far away down the street when you’re looking for your caffeine fix, you know it’s Starbucks.

What do templates have to do with Branding?  Everything.

When your professional design crew (in-house or out-sourced) has come up with a company-wide branding strategy, your company needs to implement that strategy.  The design crew has worked with upper management to determine the direction your company is going, they’ve considered the science of the design and what your company needs from the branding strategy.

“Science of design?” you ask, incredulous.  Yes.  Science.

Colours evoke emotion.  Fonts evoke emotion. White space evokes emotion.  Alignment evokes emotion.  In short, design is all about emotion.  What do we want the consumers to consume?  A well designed brand facilitates their consumption of your message, your brand, your product.

Back to Office templates.

In accordance with what the professional design crew has established as your brand, most likely in Adobe InDesign, I create Word Templates for your company to use.  I will provide a .dotx with which you will create docx.  Do you see that subtle difference?  The extension of a Template has a t and the extension of a Document has a c.  There’s a big difference in how they both work.

A document can be created, saved as a document, and closed.  And then maybe you open it up again and type in more content or update the colour of a title, and save and close it again.  Every time you open it up, you’ll see the name of the document at the top of the Word window.  And then maybe you want to change something else, so you open it, delete part, change a few bullets, rearrange how a table appears, save it, close it, and realize you’ve just overwritten what you created in the first place and no amount of swearing will get it back.

A template can be created, saved as a template, and closed.  It can be stored so when you open Word, you can find it on the New > My Templates section.  Every time you open it up, you’ll see Document and a number at the top of the Word window, like Document 4, but not the name of the Template, because you’ve not opened the template, you’ve opened an iteration of the template and you can do whatever you want to it without damaging the actual branded template.  When you want to save your changes to this document, you will not be able to overwrite the template with Save, but are prompted to Save As.  From this point forward, you will have a document that acts as a document, and if you change fonts or colours or spacings or alignments, it will be to this document only, and not to the template.

When I provide a Word template, most likely what you will see is something like this, with samples of the title, headings, bullets, body text, and a table all visible when you open it up (all of which you can delete without effecting anything, as they’re just samples of existing Styles).  If there is body text or a logo or anything else the professional design crew has put into the template, it will be there as well; this is just to show you a wee bit of what is possible with templates.


This is what a template is…a consistent structure within which you create your companies’ documents.  The proper colours, fonts, spacings, alignments are already in place, so all you have to concern yourself with is new content.  Designers will use jargon like leading and bleed and u/l, none of which you have to concern yourself with (unless, of course, you’re working on the branded design with them).  All you have to do is follow the example of what each piece of content is to look like (referred to as a Style), and you’re golden.

Yeah, but how do I use these Styles?

  1. Open the template.
  2. Type in content.
  3. Highlight the content you’d like to be Heading 1.
  4. Select Heading 1 from the Quick Styles Gallery on the Home tab.

or alternately

  1. Open the template.
  2. Select Heading 1 from the Quick Styles Gallery on the Home tab
  3. Type in content.
  4. Select Body 1 from the Quick Styles Gallery on the Home tab.
  5. Type in content.

or alternately

  1. Open the template.
  2. Leave the samples at the beginning of the document.
  3. Type in content.
  4. Highlight the sample of Heading 1.
  5. Click on your Format Painter.
  6. Highlight the content you’d like to be Heading 1 and your Format Painter paints the formatting onto your selection.

That’s it?
That’s it.

One of the biggest benefits of using the Styles in a template (or just a document) is the ability to create a comprehensive and up-to-date Table of Contents in seconds.  Every heading associated with Heading 1, Heading 2, and Heading 3 all populate a pre-formatted Table of Contents, complete with page numbers.  I can go on and on and on about Styles!

Of course, there’s much more you can do with templates, but in and of itself, what you’ve just read is pretty darn awesome.  Templates offer the ability to have multiple versions of legalese at your fingertips, depending on the situation, all handy-like in the Quick Parts.  Or multiple types of tables in the Quick Tables section.  There are Themes you can utilize, for your company’s colours and font selections, so you never have to search for the proper colour for your bar graphs.  Along with fixing all the really poor formatting, I worked with a client to create a bookmarked document with auto-fill references so when one field was filled in, it auto-filled in the rest of the document; what used to take the client 60 hours to fill in and format now takes about six.  How’s that for awesome?!

In Excel and PowerPoint, templates can be created and saved so you can access them from New > My Templates section and the Themes mentioned above are universal across Microsoft Office.  Styles do not come across like the Themes, because neither are word processing programs.  Styles are the main focus in Word, just like how Formulas are the main focus in Excel, and Slides are the main focus in PowerPoint.

Let’s recap.

A template is…a consistent structure within which you create your companies’ documents with the proper colours, fonts, spacings, alignments are already in place, so all you have to concern yourself with is new content.

A template is not…a document filled with old content you edit and save as over and over again, replete with old formatting issues.

If you’d like to know more about templates and how we can get them working for you, give me a call.

» Michelle

_ _403-862-5414
_ _Nanaimo & Calgary

_ _Michelle @
_ _KennedyInk.ca

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