Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Template Changing On Its Own.

Template Changing On Its Own

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated December 24, 2022)
This tip applies to Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


Leszek uses customized templates (not the Normal template) for generating scientific reports. He then sends the reports out for review by others. Occasionally a document is returned and the custom template has been dropped and the Normal template is attached to the document. His assumption, considering his knowledge about the reviewers, is that it's unlikely someone is specifically changing the template. Leszek wants to find an explanation and solution for this occasional behavior.

How templates behave in relation to documents is a bit of a fuzzy area, with conflicting reports depending on the sources you read. According to everything we've been able to determine, when Word is started on a system, the Normal template is opened, by default. This is what allows many of your system customizations to be available, because they are stored in the Normal template. When you open another document that has a different template attached, that doesn't necessarily close the Normal document; it is still open so that (again) those customizations are available.

When you try to open a document that has a specific template attached and that template cannot be located, then what does Word do? This is where things get fuzzy. Some testing indicates that the template is "ignored," but the reference is still maintained in case the template is made available at some future opening of the document. It may be, however, that Word "falls back" to the Normal template when the specified template is not available. If a person then edits and saves the document (or, especially, uses Save As with the document), then the reference for the unavailable template may be tossed away and the Normal template used explicitly.

The only real solution to this matter that we can think of is to make sure that all of your users have the specified template on their systems. If you send the document to them via e-mail, you could also send the template and ask them to put it on their system so that the document that references it displays properly.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (11428) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Template Changing On Its Own.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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