Templates are patterns for your documents. When you choose a template for your new document, you're telling Word what information?text, formatting, and graphics?you want to appear in that document automatically.
Of course, the more information you can automatically add to your new documents, the less you have to add manually. You can use templates to dramatically reduce the number of documents you create from scratch. Depending on your work, you might virtually eliminate them. Travel often? Create an expense report template. Provide a status report every month? Build a status report template with subheads for every topic you must cover and links to Excel worksheets containing the raw data you're analyzing.
But slashing the time it takes you to create new documents is only half of what templates can do for you. That's because templates don't merely place information in new documents. They enable you to create custom editing environments for specific clients, projects, or companies. They store all the tools you and your colleagues need in order to edit specific documents as efficiently as possible, including styles, automated macro procedures, AutoText boilerplate text, and more.
To make the benefits of templates seem less abstract, consider the possible applications. You might, for example, build a template designed to streamline document creation for a specific client, project, or company. Your template could include the following:
All relevant styles. As discussed in Chapter 10, "Streamlining Your Formatting with Styles," you can create a system of styles that makes it easy to make specific documents look consistent. You can store this system of styles in a template, making it easy to use when you need it.
All relevant boilerplate text (AutoText entries). For example, your template can include contract clauses, marketing language, and product names and descriptions that you often use in connection with a client, project, or company. You learn more about AutoText in Chapter 9, "Automating Your Documents."
New toolbars, menus, or menu items. These items provide shortcuts for tasks associated with specific documents. For example, if your template helps a user run an electronic mail merge, it might include a toolbar that walks the user through each step of the process. In some cases, the toolbar might borrow buttons from Word's built-in Mail Merge toolbar, such as the Mail Merge Helper button. In other cases, the buttons might be attached to custom macros. You'll learn more about customizing Word this way in Chapter 31, "Customizing Word."
Templates such as these are extremely valuable to you, but they can be even more valuable to your colleagues and others who may be working on similar documents.