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  1. #1
    5 Star Lounger st3333ve's Avatar
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    Custom templates vs. duping form docs (Word 2002 SP-2)

    Suppose I have a form document that will be used as a "template" to create other documents. I can either (A) save the form as an actual Template file (call it CustomTemplate.dot), or ([img]/forums/images/smilies/cool.gif[/img] save the form as an ordinary document (call it Form.doc) and make a copy of it to create each other document.

    Now assume (for purposes of this entire post) that the only differences between CustomTemplate.dot (if I chose that alternative) and Normal.dot would be (1) that CustomTemplate.dot would contain some styles not in Normal.dot, and (2) that CustomTemplate would contain some text in the body of the document and footers. For that kind of document, I'm inclined to think alternative B (duping Form.doc) makes more sense.

    The only potential advantage to the template approach that I can see for this kind of document is that it might pose less risk that the user would mistakenly make changes to the form rather than to a newly-created document. But I'd be duping Form.doc (and opening the copy) by way of a macro, so I'm not concerned about that issue.

    Meanwhile, the reason I'm (mildly) inclined to prefer the dupe-the-document approach is that the resulting document is simpler, since it's simply attached to Normal.dot, whereas a new document based on CustomTemplate.dot would be attached to CustomTemplate.dot, and there would be no reason (I don't think) for this extra layer of complication, since all the text and custom styles would be copied into the new document at the moment of creation -- and CustomTemplate.dot would not, as I've posited, have any macros, toolbars or other template goodies not in Normal.dot. (I realize I could create the new document based on CustomTemplate.dot and then change the document's attached template to Normal.dot, but why bother with the back-and-forth?)

    I'd appreciate any responses to the following:

    1. Since I'm new to Word (and always duped from form documents in WordPerfect), I'd be interested to know if I'm overlooking any issues or if (and why) anyone else strongly prefers the custom template approach for this kind of document.

    2. On a more specific issue: In terms of maintenance, assuming my Normal.dot is going to be an ever-evolving beast (in terms of toolbars & menus, keyboard assignments, etc.), does having 30 custom templates raise any conforming-change maintenance issues that having 30 form documents (each based on Normal.dot) doesn't? I realize that style changes require the same maintenance in either case. I had a vague notion that changing menus, key bindings and/or other template stuff in Normal.dot might pose conforming-change issues for custom templates (that wouldn't exist for form docs attached to Normal.dot), but I've just experimented with a custom toolbar and now I'm thinking maybe not.

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    Re: Custom templates vs. duping form docs (Word 2002 SP-2)

    Is this for yourself only?
    If so, do as you please <img src=/S/grin.gif border=0 alt=grin width=15 height=15>
    If this is for other users, using a macro to duplicate a .doc seems just as much/little work as setting the attached template to Normal.dot after creating a new document from a custom template. The template approach has the advantage - as you note - that the user is less likely to directly modify a template than a document.
    If you leave the document attached to the custom template, the user can restore styles to the default from the template if he/she accidentally messes them up in the document. Of course, this is also possible if you detach the document from the template, but it's more work.
    So all in all, I tend to favor the custom template approach.

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    Re: Custom templates vs. duping form docs (Word 20

    I'm with Hans and would lean toward the template rather than the doc. I don't think that the pathname of the template attached to the file is an overhead at all.

    One of the key benefits of the template is that the user can find it by choosing File > New so teaching them to use it is less problematic.

    Assuming you have 30 of these forms all with the same theme/look then I would put them all in the one template, store them as autotext entries and then delete the (visible) content of the template. On creating a new file the template can run a macro/user form to display the list of possible forms that can be chosen for insertion. This gives you the benefit of having the styles maintained in one place and the user can still go to the one location to find each and every form.

    If you only wanted these forms for yourself (rather than other users) you could use the autotext approach and put these into your Normal.dot. If you didn't want the styles on the forms in your new (non-form) files you could remove them from the template after you have created the autotext entry and they will miraculously appear when the autotext is inserted.
    Andrew Lockton, Chrysalis Design, Melbourne Australia

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    Re: Custom templates vs. duping form docs (Word 20

    I always use the Document approach with one significant difference. I put the document into the templates directory.
    I get the system admin to make the templates directory ReadOnly to everyone but me (and a backup person).

    When File->New is used, this displays both the templates and documents from the Templates directory. (This is an apparantly undocumented feature that has been around for a long time).

    Thus you have the best of both worlds without any macros. When the user selects the doc, they are actually duplicating to a new document called "Document1" which is attached to "Normal".
    Don't forget to make backup copies of Normal very regularly. Normal is very exposed to corruption, and to being overwitten by upgrades.

    I also customise the Standard toolbar in Normal to remove New and replace it with File->New to encourage the use of templates.
    Regards,
    Judith

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    Re: Custom templates vs. duping form docs (Word 20

    I tend to agree with Hans & Andrew on these issues. (If you do decide to duplicate documents, you should go to Windows Explorer & make them read-only). Here are some additional considerations:
    1. Your users who are filling out the forms may decide that using autotext for certain repetitive entries is a way to go. They can save autotext entries in the custom attached template. While it's true that they can also save them in normal.dot, autotext that is used only in a particular context is better saved in a custom template.
    2. In the future, you may decide that it's useful to have a toolbar or macros that are only used for these forms. Having a custom template available will make this easy.
    3. If your planning on making modifications to users' normal.dot, don't! It can be quite frustrating, especially after they learn to use &/or appreciate Word, to have someone messing with the way your personal template operates. I worked for a company that did that. I had to save a copy of my normal.dot, delete theirs, & replace it with my backup every morning. <img src=/S/bouncenburn.gif border=0 alt=bouncenburn width=31 height=31>
    4. Rather than have an ever changing normal.dot, you can also create a custom template & place it in the users startup folder. This will make it global, but won't change their normal.dot. Also, it is less likely to be corrupted by virus attacks & you can choose to copy & modify toolbars, autotext, macros readily.
    5. Should you decide to update styles in the future, you could change older documents by ticking the option under Tools/Templates & add-ins/Automatically update document styles, without having to change any of your other templates. It's easier than copying the styles through the Organizer, too.
    6. I never cared for the File/New dialog box. I've always liked creating a dropdown toolbar (the kind that looks like a menu) or a menu & placing a list of commonly used templates, each pointing to a macro to create a new document based on the template. e.g. on my "&Documents" menu, one option is "&Letter" which refers to the following macro:

    Sub Letter()
    Documents.Add Template:= _
    "C:WINDOWSApplication DataMicrosoftTemplatesLettersLetter.dot", _
    NewTemplate:=False, DocumentType:=0
    End Sub

    You can use that technique to allow users to quickly create new documents based on templates. The additional value is that they can create such a new document with a few keystrokes. Using my names above, you create a new letter my typing
    Alt,D,L (That's Alt D L without typing the commas or holding the Alt key down). Typing Alt places the focus on the menu bar; typing D activates the <font color=red>Documents</font color=red> menu; & typing L starts the new <font color=red>Letter</font color=red> document. Much faster than searching in the File/New dialog box.

    6. If you do decide to have normal.dot as an "ever changing beast", be sure to back up the beast frequently. <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15> I do that with a batch file.

    7. Finally, although I think that Andrew really covered this, you may not need 30 custom templates, one for each form. If there are many similarities in styles, need for macros, etc., you could insert each form with an Autotext.
    Hope this helps,

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    5 Star Lounger st3333ve's Avatar
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    Re: Custom templates vs. duping form docs (Word 20

    Thanks to everyone for the responses. I'm still pondering...

    As Hans seems to have recalled, I'm not an IT person, so the only user involved here is me (a longtime WordPerfect user gingerly moving over to Word). So I was primarily focused on (1) the anatomy of the resulting documents (the "extra layer" issue) and (2) whether there could be additional ongoing-maintenance-and-updating hassles with a library of templates that wouldn't exist (or would be less) with a library of form documents all based on Normal.

    I was a little surprised to read Andrew's comment that "I don't think that the pathname of the template attached to the file is an overhead at all," but I certainly don't claim to know much about Word's internal workings. I would think that there must be some significant overhead layer involved if an attached custom template contains macros, toolbars, autotext entries, etc. that I would assume Word would "load" into memory in some way when you opened the document, but my post specifically addressed the situation where the custom template wouldn't have any of those things, so in that case perhaps the attached custom template really doesn't "complicate" the document in any significant way.

    I'll probably end up setting up a few forms using each of the two approaches and see if I end up with a preference.

    Thanks to Judith for the nifty tip on putting docs in template folders -- although, as per Phil's post (and being a hopeless macro junkie), I'm likely to end up selecting the form (whether it's a template or a doc) from some kind of menu or UserForm rather than from the File-->New dialog.

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    5 Star Lounger kmurdock's Avatar
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    Re: Custom templates vs. duping form docs (Word 20

    Here's my 2 cents:

    Several years ago I was in the same position you are. It's safe to say there's a lot you don't yet know about Word. <img src=/S/grin.gif border=0 alt=grin width=15 height=15>

    But I also want to throw in with Hans, Andrew and Phil. Forgive me if some of my post repeats Phil's -- the lounge broke just as I was posting and I didn't get back to it until today. That I did is an indication that I really believe you ought to stick with templates... <img src=/S/grin.gif border=0 alt=grin width=15 height=15> <img src=/S/grin.gif border=0 alt=grin width=15 height=15>

    It does matter in which context you're building your forms. In my experience, in a multi-user, high-capacity environment, it's best not to duplicate documents to create a new doc. Oh, it has its advantages, not the least of which is that you can save a numbering scheme to a document and not to a template.

    Because you are just starting out, you are not thinking about all the automation options you have available to you. You will down the road, and at that point templates will start to look really good. For example, toolbars and macros can be saved in documents, but these documents will cause squawking if security is set too high. Even if such documents are in the templates folder, if you send them to a client, they will probably cause the client's system to squawk. Best to leave the toolbars and macros behind (in the template) at that point. On the client's system, if the document doesn't find your template, it will reference their normal.dot and all will be well. When it comes back, it will find your template again as long as your client doesn't do something drastic. But if they do, you can even recover from that. Also, and this can be a big consideration, if you leave automation in the template, the documents you create from that template will be smaller...

    And while toolbars and macros can be saved in documents, AutoText cannot. In WP, users tend to write little macros to insert text like signature blocks and return addresses. As you continue to work with Word, you will want to use AutoText and encourage other users to use it as well. Don't burden normal.dot with company-wide stuff. It's intended for the use of the individual Word user -- for their own macros and autotext. Use another global template for firm-wide toolbars and macros that should always be available -- it will also simplify updates for you -- normal is a difficult thing to update simply because that's where the user's personalized stuff goes. You can't just wipe it out when you want to push a new set of company stuff.

    However, the biggest disadvantage to reusing documents is that they have a tendency to corrupt. When you copy a document, you copy the whole thing. When you create a document from a template, you're creating a whole new "container" and copying elements into it. Yes, you create a reference to it, but as Hans pointed out, you can sever it.

    The worst thing about using documents as templates is that however careful you are maintaining your forms, you are giving your users the idea that copying documents is OK. Can you keep your users from copying the letter they created last week? If so, there's no issue, but I have seen too many documents blow up at the wrong time (when is the right time?).

    IMHO, templates are the only way to go.

    Kim

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    Re: Custom templates vs. duping form docs (Word 20

    If you are only doing this for yourself then it doesn't really matter a great deal which way you go as user education on your solution is not required.

    When I said there is an overhead in the attached template I meant in terms of how large the Word document is. If you did have huge amounts of template customisations in the attached template then it may take an extra XX milliseconds to open the file but my time is not that expensive to worry. You can reset the link to the Normal template at any time but I have not seen the need to do this on a standalone machine to get a file that opens faster. There are particular instances on networks where the attached template can result in extremely slow file openings though. In those situations it is a huge bonus to have Normal.dot as the attached template.
    Andrew Lockton, Chrysalis Design, Melbourne Australia

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    5 Star Lounger st3333ve's Avatar
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    Re: Custom templates vs. duping form docs (Word 20

    Thanks for your response. I'm putting all my macros in a handful of global templates (excluding Normal), and I was thinking I'd definitely be using custom templates for forms that had special toolbars, AutoText entries or other templatey features associated with them. My question was more focused on the simplest situation -- where the only customized aspect of the particular form was (1) styles and (2) text in the body of the document (including footers).

    My concern with avoiding the extra "layer" of the unnecessary (post-creation) attached template was partly a concern that that extra complication might make it more likely something could go wrong at some point (most notably document corruption) -- as well as more mundane extra-complication issues like one more location you might accidentally record a macro, AutoText entry, etc. to when you intended it to end up somewhere else. So I was interested to hear that creating a new document from a template might actually mean less likelihood of corruption down the line because each document is more of a "clean start" than if you're duping an existing (form) document.

    So maybe the best-of-both-worlds is, as Hans suggested, to have my document-creating macro (1) create the document from a custom template and (2) immediately sever the connection to the custom template, leaving a "clean" new document that's only attached to Normal.dot.

    However: Near the beginning of your post, you dropped a bomb (or at least a bomblet): "you can save a numbering scheme to a document and not to a template". I'm definitely not familiar with that issue, although I've set up a few Outline Numbering schemes (linked to styles) in my Normal template. Could you elaborate a bit?

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    5 Star Lounger kmurdock's Avatar
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    Re: Custom templates vs. duping form docs (Word 20

    Oh, where do I start?

    Numbering is a slippery beast made a little slipperier by the way Microsoft has cobbled, er, crafted it into Word.

    A little background: Word, like all the other bits of Office, is object oriented. I mentioned before that a template creates a new document (object) that inherits some stuff (other objects) from the template (like styles). A style is also an object and each object has properties specific to it. For example, a style has a font, borders, ParagraphFormat, and so on. Each of those properties can also be an object and have its own properties.

    Even though it looks as if you can set up numbering in a template, you really can't, because the actual format of the number is only a property of a document. The document loads information about its numbering format (is it I or A or 1? is it indented or flush to the margin?) when it is opened. The template doesn't have the ability to hold onto this information. It sometimes looks as if it has because you can create a new document on the same PC as you created the template and it usually works fine.

    Interestingly enough, the *PC* you are using retains the info from the number formatting in the List Template Gallery for at least a little while. But this is temporary information and can be written over by other numbering schemes. If you create a document using the template on another PC, the numbering should be there, it just won't look the same. Unless it does. This causes a great deal of consternation because it can look as if the template is working on some PCs and not on others.

    So this seems like a big, fat fly in the ointment of using templates, doesn't it? I still feel the benefits of using a template outweighs this and have gotten around it by creating macros to apply numbering to newly created documents in the Document New event of the template. There are other advantages to this, too.

    Editing outline numbering can cause a whole other set of headaches (about which you can read much in this Lounge). And numbering is yet another fertile source of document corruption -- creating it anew only helps the health of your documents. Using macros helps control the various issues that arise when working with numbering. You can find a lot of information about applying numbering schemes through macros here, on the Word MVP site, and elsewhere on the internet.

    I've given you a lot to chew on. I'll be happy to go further or stop or...? And there may be others who want to weigh in on this as well.

    Kim

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    5 Star Lounger st3333ve's Avatar
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    Re: Custom templates vs. duping form docs (Word 20

    Thanks for all the additional input, but I still feel like I don't completely understand your main point about numbering schemes and documents vs. templates. I've previously read more articles on Word numbering (at the MVPs site and elsewhere) than I like to admit, and I've set up some numbering schemes, linked to styles, in the approved digging-to-China fashion. And I thought I had these numbering schemes and styles stored in my Normal template. Your issue that "you can save a numbering scheme to a document and not to a template" is one that I don't recall having heard before. I understand that there's some subset of gallery settings that's stored in the Registry in some way that doesn't travel from PC to PC, but I wouldn't think this issue would be any different for a document than a template. And I also understand that styles with List Templates have a way of going sideways on you from time to time, wherever they may be.

    Your posts seem to suggest that if I set up a numbering scheme in a form document (not a template) and dupe the document, the copy of the document will (as I'd expect) include the numbering scheme, but if I purport to set up a numbering scheme in a template, a document I create from the template won't reliably inherit the numbering scheme. Is there a distinction between numbering schemes that are and aren't linked to styles in this regard? (All my schemes are linked to styles.) I have macros that can create all my styles (including the ones with List Templates), but I had written those macros (1) to automate the process of turning a Word-2002-default Normal.dot into my Normal.dot, and (2) to be able to (hopefully) "cure" styles in documents that go sideways from time to time. It sounds like you're saying that "best practice" would be leave the styles with numbering schemes out of Normal.dot (or any other template I may use from time to time) and instead create those styles (with the macros) in each new document that's going to use them. True?

    I'd be interested to hear if other Loungers have the same view of storing numbering schemes in templates.

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    5 Star Lounger kmurdock's Avatar
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    Re: Custom templates vs. duping form docs (Word 20

    <hr>It sounds like you're saying that "best practice" would be leave the styles with numbering schemes out of Normal.dot (or any other template I may use from time to time) and instead create those styles (with the macros) in each new document that's going to use them. True?<hr>
    Yes, that's what I'm saying. And I say it not because you can't link a style to a ListTemplate in a template -- I'm saying that you cannot save the number format properties (that is, does the first level appear as a 1, an A or an I? does it have a hanging indent?) with a template because they are properties of a document.

    I'm also saying that (in my experience) this has been the only reliable way of handling numbering in high-volume environments like a law firm, where documents move back and forth between multiple typists/authors. If you are only setting this up in your own normal.dot, it may very well work for you. It would be good to hear the experiences of loungers in smaller or less intense document editing venues.

    Kim

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    Re: Custom templates vs. duping form docs (Word 20

    Kim,

    This is a very interesting thread.

    My experience has been different from yours - for several years I was part of a team which provided templates for a very large law firm (5000+ users).

    Paragraph numbering got put to very intensive use, and in all cases, the numbering styles were set up and linked to numbering list templates, in the templates. When new documents were created based on the templates, they definitely inherited both the styles and the numbering list templates.

    When you set up an outline numbering scheme and link it to styles, the list template that is created is stored in that document. If that document is a template, when you then create new documents based on that template, the new documents created from that template inherit both the styles and the list templates that were stored in that template. One way to demonstrate this: create a new template, and create some numbering outlines so that you are adding some odd number of list templates. Then in the Immediate window of the VB Editor, you can type:

    ?ActiveDocument.ListTemplates.Count

    and hit Enter. Note whatever number appears. Close the newly-created template.
    Now create a new document based on this template, and run the same line of code in the Immediate window. You will get the same number of list templates in the document, as were in the template.

    So you only need to set the outline numbering styles up once; in the template. After that, they should work fine in every document created from them, no matter what PC the document is opened on - the list templates travel with the document. As noted elsewhere in this thread, the lists displayed in the List Gallery may differ from user to user, but that's just a display issue; there's only room for seven list templates to be displayed there, but all of the list templates associated with any given template or document are still there.

    Of course, there's no end to the mischief that users can get into, in the course of trying to alter the numbering in an individual document, but that's a different story....

    Gary

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    5 Star Lounger kmurdock's Avatar
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    Re: Custom templates vs. duping form docs (Word 20

    Hi Gary,

    The law firm I worked with was about 2000+ -- but didn't have nearly the good results you have.

    I completely agree with what you're saying in regard to the ListTemplates being linked with styles. You can absolutely do that in the template and the document will inherit it.

    What I have been saying is that the format of the number and it's indention -- the things one sets on the Customize Number dialog -- can't be saved with the style in the template. So, the styles were preserved and a ListTemplate linked to them, but the numbers weren't always the right form ("1" instead of "A") and the indention was not always correct (flush with the left margin rather than hanging). And sometimes they looked just fine.

    This lead to much consternation, much testing on IT's part, many calls to MSoft and ultimately a visit from a Microsoft engineer. Apparently it wasn't user error after all. And while numbering has gotten a little better behaved with each version, my experience still tells me that handling it after you have a document is the most reliable way to ensure its consistency.

    We certainly had our share of paragraphs that mystically changed value because they had not quite been modified correctly. But that, as you say, is a different story. Interestingly enough, we solved it with the same hammer as with the templates -- a utility that helped users apply and adjust their numbering without falling into the usual pits.

    K

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    Re: Custom templates vs. duping form docs (Word 20

    Hi Kim,

    The most important thing is to end up with something that works for you, and sounds like you have.

    The only thing I ever saw that was similar to what you describe, was back in Word 97, where every once in a while, for reasons we never could get to the bottom of, when you would create a new document based on a given template, and applied a numbering style, the numbering would appear wrong. When we looked in the List Gallery, it would turn out that random styles had linked themselves into random positions. But this was rare, and was easily fixed with a macro in any documents where it happened. That problem seemed to go away after Word 97.

    I'd still hold that the statement "that the format of the number and it's indention -- the things one sets on the Customize Number dialog -- can't be saved with the style in the template. " - is not correct. Things like the format of the number and its indentation are precisely what are stored in the list template - and these properties get stored in the template and any documents created from the template.

    If the styles and numbering outlines are set up right from the get-go, they should be reliably stable.

    Gary

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