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Office 2011 for Mac: Change Word’s Default Document

Perhaps you've suspected that Word 2011 must have a special template somewhere that you can use as a default when you create that seemingly plain, blank document. Well, you’re right; this special template is Normal.dotm, and it has all the settings that control what you see when you create a new, blank Word document in Office 2011 for Mac.

The special file Normal.dotm is the template that Word uses to create new documents when you choose File→New Blank Document from the menu bar or open a new, blank document from the Word Document Gallery. As you work, things such as toolbars, AutoText, and certain preferences can be saved into Normal.dotm.

To make a pristine Normal template, locate the file by choosing Word→Preferences→File Locations→User Templates→Location from the menu bar. Then quit Word. Then rename or delete the existing Normal.dotm file. The next time Word opens, it creates a new Normal.dotm file based on default settings.

You can overwrite the Normal.dotm template to use as Word's default for new documents. Before starting the procedure, make a copy of the existing Normal.dotm file. You also need to know where the Normal template is located. You can find (and modify) the Normal template by choosing Word→Preferences→File Locations→User Templates→Location from the menu bar. When you know where Normal is, take these steps:

  1. From the menu bar in Word, choose File→Open.

  2. Switch the Enable pop-up menu to Word Templates.

  3. Navigate to Normal.dotm and open the file.

  4. Make the modifications you desire.

  5. Choose File→Save from the menu bar, click the Save button, or close the window and choose Save when prompted.

    Any new documents you make from then on will be based on the modified Normal.dotm template you saved.

After customizing, make a copy of your new Normal template in case you decide subsequent changes to Normal are not desired. If you want to create an official default template for your organization, create a custom Normal template and distribute it.

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