Change the Microsoft Word Default Template

How to update how MS Word default template opens. To change the settings Word opens with follow this guide. It’s a bit more work than you would expect but we’ll walk you through the steps.

Updating the startup settings for Word

To update Microsoft Word default template and view we need to modify the systems default file.

Step 1:

We need to find the right file to update. We will update the “Normal.dotm” file for Word. It can be found in this file location:


The .dotm file type means “Microsoft Word Macro-Enabled Template”

Microsoft Word - Default Template location
Microsoft Word – Default Template location

Windows Explorer Show Hidden Files

If you can’t find the ‘AppData’ folder then you need to let Explorer show Hidden Items. At the top of the window click on the ‘View’ tab and near the right side of the settings that show up at the top make sure ‘Hidden Items’ has a check mark.

Windows - show hidden files
Windows – show hidden files

Step 2: Open that Normal.dotm file with MS Word.

Step 3: Add a space and then delete it as a fake update, this will let you hit the save button if it was greyed out previously.

Step 4: Make what ever settings updates you want for your default Word template and view to be.

To demonstrate I’ve just changed the Styles to ‘No Spacing’

Microsoft Word - Styles settings
Microsoft Word – Styles settings

And on the View tab I’ve changed Zoom to 100% and the Views section to Print Layout.

Microsoft Word - view settings
Microsoft Word – View settings

Step 5:

Save the file. This probably won’t be as easy as you might expect. If your computer acts like ours, then when you hit ‘save’ the ‘save as’ window will show up. Obviously not what we wanted.

Save As - Browse
Save As – Browse

Click on Browse and the more standard Save As window should show up.

First change the “Save as type:” to “Microsoft Word Macro-Enabled Template (*.dotm)

Then navigate back to the Templates folder:


ave as - Normal.dotm
Save as – Normal.dotm

You can try to save as Normal.dotm

Maybe your system settings will allow you to do this, in which case you’re done! Our system did not let us save over the old file but instead brings up this error message:

Word cannot give a document the same name as an open document. Type a different name for the document you want to save.

Word - Save As error
Word – Save As error

Great, thanks Word, that’s why we originally clicked Save to update the file, but instead you made us come into this save as dialog! :@ Anger.

Hit the OK button.

Change your File name to something like Normal2.dotm and hit save. This time it should work, but we’re not done.

We now have Normal.dotm and Normal2.dotm files in the Templates folder, but word will only look at the original file.

Save As - Normal2.dotm
Save As – Normal2.dotm

Step 6: Close Microsoft Word.

Step 7:

Then in Windows Explorer open up the Templates folder again:


Backup the original Normal.dotm file just in case there’s a problem. Copy and paste a backup of this file to one of your regular file folders like my documents. It probably won’t let you Cut and paste, only Copy and paste.

Step 8:

Delete the original Normal.dotm file. If it deletes successfully you can move onto Step 9. If you get the following error, stay with this step.

Even though I fully closed Word I get the following error when trying to delete the file:

This action can’t be completed because the file is open in Microsoft Word

:@ Anger. That file can’t be open in Word because Word isn’t even open!

Microsoft - Word open in the background error
Microsoft – Word open in the background error

Step 8 B.

Word is actually running in the background because Microsoft is annoying like that.

Open up the Windows Task Manger.

You can do this by typing “Task Manger” into the search bar on your Windows task bar.

Windows Search Bar
Windows Search Bar

Under the “Processes” tab of Task Manger if you scroll down, under Background Processes, eventually you will find Microsoft Word.

Task Manager - Microsoft Word background process
Task Manager – Microsoft Word background process

Click on it and then hit the “End task” button in the bottom right of Task Manager.

Okay now we can go back to the Templates folder and finally delete the file Normal.dotm

Now we’re just left with Normal2.dotm

File Delete – Success!

Step 9:

Rename the Normal2.dotm file to just Normal.dotm

You can do this by right clicking the file and selecting Rename.

Rename Normal2.dotm to Normal.dotm

Step 10:

All Done! You can open Microsoft Word up again and check that it default opens with your new settings.

For me, I can see it opens with the ‘No Spacing’ style by default now.

Microsoft Word - update Default template success
Microsoft Word – update Default template success!

So that’s how to update the default settings template for Microsoft Office Word so that it opens with your preferred layout every time! Fixed!

Happy days!


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