How to create smart Microsoft Word templates

Learn how to make interactive document templates using Word's Content Controls.

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Use the Check Box Control to Create Checklists

The Check Box Content Control allows a user to place a checkmark to indicate their selection of an item. To add one to your document, click the Check Box Content Control and then click Properties. A Check Box can toggle between two states when clicked on: selected, represented by an X inside a box, and not selected, which shows a blank space inside the box.

To change these symbols, open Properties, click the Change button, and choose a font from the dialog box (I suggest something from the Wingdings family.)

Next Page: How to Add Document Properties

Add Quick Parts to a Document

Some document properties, such as the author's name, are stored in every Word document, but usually they don't display in the document. Here's an easy way to add that information so that it does appear: While you're in Design Mode, select the Insert tab on the Ribbon. Click Quick Parts and then Document Property. Finally, choose the property--Author, for example--to insert that information into the document automatically. Choose the Developer tab and click Properties while this control is selected, and you can set the text style or other properties for the control.

To see where the Author data is sourced from, click File > Options. You'll see User Name in the Popular group of settings; this is the value that populates the document's Author property. If you change this information, you must restart Word for the change to take effect.

Put Controls to Work in a Document

You've probably already come up with a thousand ways to use Word's Content Controls. If you haven't, think of any documents you create on a regular basis that include repetitive data-entry tasks: memos, fax covers, shipping documents, and so on. Include a Date Picker control anywhere in the document template that calls for a date. Add a Drop-Down List control to pick an item from a predefined list. Use a Check Box control to select or deselect various options.

Using Content Controls not only helps you complete documents quickly, but also allows you to preset a document's layout so that you don't need to align everything perfectly every time you create it.

Once you've created your template, save it by choosing File > Save As > Save as Type, and choose Word Template (*.dotx). Be sure to click the Templates link in the top-left corner of the Save As dialog box to store the template in the Templates folder. Type a name for the template, click Save, and close it. In the future, you can create a new document based on this template by choosing File > New > My Templates and then clicking the desired template to open it.

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This story, "How to create smart Microsoft Word templates" was originally published by PCWorld.

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