Set a Default Template or Theme – Best Practices

In a corporate environment, you normally need new documents to appear with company branding instead of reusing Microsoft’s designs. Here’s how to set a default template or theme so that each new document, presentation or workbook looks like your company guidelines (or your personal preferences).

Template or Theme – Choosing a Format

Templates contain a theme, but a theme is much simpler than a template. You may need to create both types of files. If your goal is to create a unified look in Office, you’ll want to create a theme, then apply it to templates in Word and Excel.

A Theme file contains a Color Theme, a Font Theme and an Effects Theme. It also contains the slide layouts that were in the PowerPoint file when you saved it as a theme. For this reason, you can use a theme as a mini template for new PowerPoint presentations.

Themes provide minimal formatting information for the templates to which they are applied. A theme will supply a set of 12 colors, 2 fonts and a set of visual effects for inserted shapes. It’s possible to add up to 50 custom colors to a theme. Effects themes format the defaults for inserted shapes, but are not editable in any version of Office. I recommend our Flat effects theme, which is more in tune with current graphic design trends than what Microsoft supplies.

When your goal is a full-featured starting point for new files, you’ll want to create a template instead of a theme. Templates can include sample content, typestyles, VBA macro programming and AutoText, depending on the file format. Here at Brandwares, we almost always supply templates rather than themes.

Create a Better Default Template Experience

In Office on both Windows and Mac, Microsoft has decided that the first thing you need when you open an Office program is to be offered a creative choice in what kind of off-brand document you’re going to create today. In a corporate environment, or really any circumstances where you just need to get work done, this is an unneccessary distraction. You really just need to have a default document open so you can get down to business.

If the Backstage or Gallery displays, when an Office program starts, the program will not automatically create a new file from the default template. You would have to have a file open, then press Ctrl + N (Command + N on a Mac) to create a new file from your template. This limits the usefulness of a default template.

In Office for Windows, you’ll get a better default document experience if all the programs do not show the Backstage on starting. In all three programs, choose File>Options>General and uncheck Show the Start screen when this application starts. Once you do that, opening the program will also open a file created from the default template.

Office for Mac features similar Gallery screens that open by default when the program starts. Turn these off. In PowerPoint, choose PowerPoint>Preferences>General and uncheck Open Presentation Gallery when opening PowerPoint. In Word, choose Word>Preferences>General and uncheck Show document gallery when opening Word. Excel is similar: Excel>Preferences>General and uncheck Show Workbook Gallery when opening Excel.

Set a Default Template or Theme in PowerPoint

I’m starting with PowerPoint because it’s the only Office program that can save a Theme file. In Office for Mac, PowerPoint is also the only program that can create a Color Theme,. (To create a custom Font Theme in Office for Mac, please see this article: OOXML Hacking: Font Themes.) A theme created in PowerPoint can be applied to Word and Excel to give a basic uniform look to documents and workbooks. Theme files cannot contain sample slides, custom table styles, VBA code or preformatted Notes or Handout masters. If you need any of those items, create a template instead of a theme.

Unlike Word, PowerPoint doesn’t have a source file that serves as the starting point for new presentations, analogous to Normal.dotm in Word. But you can give it one! Start by making a copy of your template or theme. Templates will have a file ending of .potx or .potm, while themes will end with .thmx. Change the file name to Default Template, leaving the file ending unchanged.

Here are the steps in PowerPoint for Mac:

  1. While holding down the Option key, click on Go in the macOS menu bar and choose Library. Your hidden user Library folder opens.
  2. Navigate to ~/Library/Group Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/User Content/Themes
  3. Drag the Default Theme template or theme into the Themes folder.
  4. Open PowerPoint and choose File>New Presentation or press the Command + N key combination to create a new presentation. The new deck is formatted per your template or theme.

Microsoft’s June 2024 update changed the location for Document Themes, which is where you must copy your Default Theme file. Here are the steps for PowerPoint for Windows 2019 and earlier editions:

  1. Open a File Explorer window
  2. Copy and paste this text into the address bar:
    %appdata%\Microsoft\Templates\Document Themes
  3. Drag the Default Theme template or theme into the Document Themes folder.
  4. In PowerPoint, use the Ctrl + N keyboard shortcut to create a new file from your default template or theme. Or choose File>New, then click on the Default Theme icon at the upper left end of the row of recently used templates and themes.
    Default Theme icon in PowerPoint for Windows

For users who are on Microsoft 365 or Office 2021 or later, copy the Default Theme file to the new location. By default, this is C:Users\YourActualUserName\Documents\Custom Office Templates\Document Themes.

Set a Default Template or Theme in Word

Setting a template default in Word can be a bit tricky, because Word already has one: the Normal.dotm file. The wrinkle is that Normal.dotm is also the default storage location for user-created content like macros, custom typestyles and AutoText. A minimalist approach is to apply a new theme to an existing Normal.dotm, sidestepping those issues.

Set a Default Theme in Word

A Word-created Normal.dotm always has the Office theme applied to it. You can set a different theme for new documents by editing Normal.dotm and applying a theme file you’ve created in PowerPoint. This is safe for user-created content, as no content is deleted. Custom styles that were based on the Office theme will change appearance, but otherwise keep their characteristics.

Themes are limited in scope, but if your branding goals are limited, that may be enough. Here are the steps for macOS:

  1. With Word open, press Option + F11. The VBA editor opens.
  2. Press Command + Ctrl + G. The Immediate window opens in the VBA editor.
  3. Copy and paste this text into the Immediate window, then press return:
    The Normal template opens in Word. Close the VBA editor.
  4. Choose Design>Themes>Browse for Themes, find and select the Theme file you saved from PowerPoint, then click on Open.
  5. Save Normal.dotm, then close it.

Here are the steps for Word for Windows:

  1. With Word open, press Alt + F11. The VBA editor opens.
  2. Press Ctrl + G. The Immediate window opens in the VBA editor.
  3. Copy and paste this text into the Immediate window, then press Enter:
    The Normal template opens in Word. Close the VBA editor.
  4. Choose Design>Themes>Browse for Themes, find and select the Theme file you saved from PowerPoint, then click on Open.
  5. Save Normal.dotm, then close it.

Replace Normal.dotm in Word

If your users may have saved macros, styles or AutoText content, make a copy of Normal.dotm before replacing it, then to use Word’s Organizer feature to copy custom content back to the new template. Here is the procedure to replace Normal.dotm in Word for macOS:

  1. Close Word
  2. While holding down the Option key, click on Go in the macOS menu bar and choose Library. Your hidden user Library folder opens.
  3. Navigate to ~/Library/Group Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/User Content/Templates
  4. Drag in the new Normal.dotm file and confirm that you want to replace it.
  5. Restart Word to test that a default document matches the new formatting.

The steps for Word for Windows are complicated by Microsoft’s June 2024 change to the default location of Normal.dotm. These instructions cover Word 2019 and older editions:

  1. Close Word
  2. Open a File Explorer window
  3. Copy and paste this text into the address bar:
  4. Drag the new Normal.dotm file into the Templates folder and confirm that you are replacing the file.
  5. Restart Word to test that a new document matches the new formatting.

As of June 2024, for Microsoft 365 and Word 2021, Normal.dotm has been moved to the Custom Office Templates folder in the user’s Documents folder. The default path is C:Users\YourActualUserName\Documents\Custom Office Templates

Set a Default Template in Outlook

Outlook uses the template called NormalEmail.dotm to set email formatting. It’s stored in the same folder as Normal.dotm. Follow the same steps as for Normal.dotm: close Outlook, edit NormalEmail.dotm in Word (not Outlook), then replace the template. It’s unlikely that NormalEmail.dotm will contain macros, custom styles or AutoText, so you don’t need the precaution of backing up the file before replacing it.

Set a Default Template in Excel

After formatting a workbook with a custom theme, typestyles and any other necessary formatting, save the file in template (.xltx) format with the name Book.xltx.

PowerPoint for Mac Excel steps:

  1. Close Excel.
  2. While holding down the Option key, click on Go in the macOS menu bar and choose Library. Your hidden user Library folder opens.
  3. Navigate to ~/Library/Group Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/User Content/Startup/Excel
  4. Drag the Book.xltx file into the Excel folder.
  5. Open Excel. In Excel for Mac, opening the program creates a new workbook from your template. You can also choose File>New Presentation or press the Command + N key combination to create a new workbook. The new deck is formatted per your template.

Excel for Windows doesn’t work as well as it used to Book.xltx, so there are more steps:

  1. Close Excel
  2. Open a File Explorer window
  3. Copy and paste this text into the address bar:
  4. Drag the Book.xltx into the XLSTART folder.
  5. Open Excel to test.

I also recommend that Windows users add a second copy of Book.xltx to the Custom Office Templates folder at C:Users\YourActualUserName\Documents\Custom Office Templates. Call this one something like Default Workbook. The first time you use it, you’ll need to choose File>New>Custom Office Templates to choose it. After that first use, it will display in the row of Excel templates:

Default Workbook

Here is Microsoft’s page about setting a default Excel template.

Default Template Limitations

In PowerPoint for Windows, you can’t get rid of the Blank Presentation thumbnail. Clicking on that will only get you a Microsoft default presentation. Likewise, in Excel for Windows, you can’t remove Blank Workbook, which also delivers a Microsoft default.

Custom Table of Contents – Best Practices

Most of the time, the Microsoft-supplied Table of Contents samples will work for Word documents. But sometimes a client needs a custom Table of Contents added to their template. This article shows you how to save a custom Table of Contents and ensure that is displayed prominently, so users pick the right one.

The most obvious use case for customization is to create a non-standard TOC that uses the client’s branding. In addition, sometimes a TOC needs to work differently as well as having a distinct appearance.

An example of this might be if a template uses both heading styles (which need to appear in the TOC) and outline numbering styles (which should not be included in the TOC). A default Microsoft TOC will display both sets of styles, so a custom TOC is required.

How Does a Table of Contents Work?

A standard TOC is a collection of hyperlink fields inside a TOC field. If you insert one of the Microsoft-supplied TOC samples, those fields are embedded in a Content Control. This content control is not particularly useful. It gives you a way to change to a different style of Microsoft TOC (not helpful in branded documents) and a slightly more convenient way to update the TOC. You can create a TOC without a content control if you use the Custom Table of Contents command (highlighted in blue) to create it:

Use the Custom Table of Contents command

Tables of Contents usually get their text from text that is formatted with heading styles. The Microsoft TOCs grab all headings that are levels 1, 2 or 3, which is why they are a problem with outline numbering. When you create a custom Table of Contents, it can refer to specific heading styles, like Heading 1. Then, no other styles will be included in the TOC.

Most often, a template that has a custom TOC will have it added to the document already. Since there’s a sample in the file, users don’t need to add one. The sample has the required formatting, the user only needs to add text to the document before updating the TOC.

Create a New Custom Table of Contents

Here at Brandwares, we never use the Microsoft-supplied TOC styles. Instead, we create each TOC from scratch using References>Table of Contents>Custom Table of Contents. Then we click on the Options button and uncheck Outline levels. That prevents other styles that use outline numbering from displaying in the TOC. Finally, we select the specific styles that are supposed to appear.

TOC Options - Outline levels unchecked

If the TOC is to have a heading above with the text “Table of Contents”, you’ll want it to look like one of the document headings styles. But you don’t want it to actually apply that style to the heading: then the first entry to appear in the TOC would be a repeat of the heading directly above it! Fortunately, Word has a built-in styles called TOC Heading that solves this problem. It repeats the appearance of Heading 1, but it’s outline level is set to Body Text, so it will not repeat in the TOC.

Customize Existing TOC Appearance

The look of a table of contents is determined by the styles that are used in it. There are 9 built-in styles called TOC 1, TOC 2, etc. up to TOC 9. Since there are 9 styles, you can create up to 9 levels in a Table of Contents. Or a document can have setup like a Table of Contents, a Table of Figures and a Table of Tables, each of which use three different TOC styles. Each of these styles can have different amounts of indentation, different types of dot leaders between the text and the page number, different line spacing, etc. All the visual formatting will be set in these TOC styles.

Customize how a Table of Contents Works

Besides the visual appearance, you can control how the Table of Contents operates. To do this, you change the field code that tells Word how to display the TOC. To revise the TOC field code, you need to be able to see it:

In Word for Windows, choose File>Options>Advanced. Scroll down to the Show document content section and check the option for Show field codes instead of their values. OK out.

In Word for Mac, select Word>Preferences>View and check the option Field codes instead of values, then close the prefs panel.

The TOC changes to something like this:

{ TOC \o "1-3" \h \z \u }

The brackets are not ordinary curly brackets: they are special characters that begin and end Word fields. So you can’t just type them in on your keyboard. The contents of the field are editable from the keyboard, just not the brackets. At the beginning of the field is the name of the field type, in this case TOC for Table of Contents.

After that are a set of switches (the letters after backslashes). Each switch makes the TOC behave differently. The sample from Microsoft use the \o switch followed by “1-3”. This combinations grabs all text that is set in the built-in styles Heading 1, Heading 2 and Heading 3. After that, the \h switch creates hyperlinks from each TOC entry to the heading that it refers to. The \z switch hides the dot leaders and page numbers if the document is in Web View. And the \u switch gets all text that is set to outline levels 1, 2 or 3. It’s this switch that creates problems when you also have outline numbered lists, since they use the same text levels as heading styles do.

To make a TOC display only Heading 1, 2 or 3, just delete the \u switch. If the heading styles have custom names, then delete the \o switch and the “1-3” text. Instead, use the \t switch. That switch specifies styles name, followed by the TOC level that the style should use. Here’s a TOC field that uses three custom heading styles:

{ TOC \t "Custom Heading 1,1, Custom Subhead 2,2, Custom Subsubhead 3,3" \h \z }

Pro Tip to Display the TOC Field

Select the Table of Contents, plus the paragraph mark immediately below it. Then right-click on the selection and choose Toggle Field Codes. Or just press the combination of Shift + F9. This shows the field codes for the selected area instead of the whole document. If you see a field code for a Hyperlink instead of a TOC, it means you forgot to select the paragraph mark below the Table of Contents.

Word for Windows Insertable Custom Table of Contents

If the TOC is not to appear in the template as a sample, then the user must have a way to insert it when needed. The simplest way to do this is to add the TOC to the template as AutoText. AutoText entries travel with the template, so they are always available in any document created from that template.

The first wrinkle to overcome is that if you simply select the TOC and add it to AutoText, it can be stored with all of the current displayed text. This will be misleading to the user. To prevent this, switch the document or the selected TOC to show the field codes first. Then select the field code and add that to AutoText.

In Word for Windows, follow these steps:

  1. Select the TOC heading, plus the TOC field code and the paragraph mark immediately following.
    TOC Selection
  2. Choose Insert>Quick Parts>AutoText>Save Selection to AutoText Gallery.
  3. In the Create New Building Block dialog, edit the Name field. It’s usually a good idea to include the client name, so their users know this is the TOC they should pick.
  4. Change the Gallery dropdown to Table of Contents.
  5. In the Category dropdown, choose Create New Category.
  6. In the Create New Category dialog, type in a name like _Client Name. The underscore preceding the name makes the entry pop to the top of the list
  7. .

  8. Double check that the Save in dropdown is the name of the template to which you’re adding this TOC. OK out and save the template.
  9. On the References tab, click on the Table of Contents dropdown and you should see something like this:
    Custom Table of Contents in TOC Gallery

Word for Mac Insertable Custom Table of Contents

You can achieve the same result with Word for Mac, but Microsoft makes it more difficult, since they omitted the Create New Building Block dialog. I’ve written previously about hacking AutoText entries to place them in the correct AutoText Gallery. But here’s an easier way, using a VBA macro.

Here’s the macro listing:

Sub AddTOC2Gallery()
    Dim oTemplate As Template
    Dim oBlock As BuildingBlock
    Set oTemplate = ActiveDocument.AttachedTemplate
    Set oBlock = oTemplate.BuildingBlockEntries.Add( _
        Name:="Client Name TOC", _
        Type:=wdTypeTableOfContents, _
        Category:="_Client Name", _
End Sub

This macro will work with the template that will contain the TOC, or a document attached to that template. Yes, we did test this in macOS and Windows, so if you have problems running it, the issues are at your end.

Switch the document or the selected TOC to show the field codes first. Then in Word for Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Edit the macro, changing the text in double quotes to suit your client.
  2. Select the TOC heading, plus the TOC field code and the paragraph mark immediately following.
  3. Run the macro.
  4. Save the template.
  5. On the References tab, click on the Table of Contents dropdown and you should see something like this:
    Custom Table of Contents in Word for Mac

Further Reading

For more detailed pages about Word TOCs, please see Generating Table of Contents in Word. It’s also worth reading Susan Barnhill’s TOC Tips and Tricks and TOC Switches. Though the Barnhill articles are old, they contain obscure information that is still relevant, like how to set up a TOC that doesn’t depend on styles or outline levels.

Automated Word Master Documents – Cool Code

Word Master Documents are a useful feature with a problem. The master document along with its subdocuments can easily get corrupted, sometimes losing the whole collection of Word files. Word professionals will normally advise you to steer clear of them, for this reason. Here’s how to create automated Word master documents that make this feature safe to use.

When you have a collection of Word files, perhaps from disparate sources, and you need to print them or save to PDF with a common table of contents, Master Documents are a good solution.

In my opinion, the real problem is that Master Documents are work to assemble. When you’ve put all the effort in to create one, it’s so tempting to keep it as a permanent collection. But over time, some of the subdocuments need to be revised. That’s when the heartbreak begins, because editing the subdocuments while they are part of a master document can easily corrupt part or all of the collection of files.

Automated Word Master Documents

I’ve created a Word template with a VBA macro that automates the creation of a master document from a folder full of Word files. If the master document is easy to create, then it’s easy to delete when you’re done printing. And that’s exactly what you should do: use the to create temporary master documents, print or save to PDF, then put the master file in the Trash. The folder of Word files that were the source of the subdocuments will be untouched and uncorrupted.

The next time you need to print, simply run the macro again. Create a new master, print it, delete it. This is the safe way to use this powerful Word feature.

The template works with both Windows and macOS versions of Word. You can use the file as a standalone template for occasional use. Double-click on it to create a fresh Word file. Click on the Insert tab, then on the Insert Subdocuments icon at the right end of the ribbon. Choose the folder that contains your Word documents. After the subdocuments are added, add a table of contents, if you like. Print or save to PDF, then delete the automated Word master document.

You can also use the template as an Add-in. This is handy if you often create master documents. See the instructions that accompany the template to learn how to install it. Then, whenever you open Word, the Insert Subdocuments icon will appear at the right end of the Insert tab.

Add Subdocuments command

Installing as an Add-in has the advantage that you can easily use a preformatted Word file that already has a table of contents set up ahead of time. You can create, print and delete an automated Word master document in a matter of seconds.

Here’s the link to the download: Automated Word Master Documents Assembler with Instructions.

Please note: You might ignore the instructions to delete the master document after printing. You might corrupt your files. Because of this potential problem, use this add-in at your own risk. We are not responsible for document corruption or data loss in your documents.

Word for Mac Content Control Add-in

After 15 years, I got tired of waiting for Microsoft to provide Content Controls in Word for Mac. So I wrote a VBA add-in to do it. The Word for Mac Content Control Add-in is free if you subscribe to this blog. There’s no installer (Apple’s sandbox requirements for automatic installation are onerous.), but I provide installation instructions.

Content Controls are a superior way of creating forms, easier to create and use then the Legacy Form Fields that are built into Word for Mac. In a previous post, I’ve written about how you can insert content controls using VBA: Content Controls for macOS – Cool Code. But using VBA requires more technical ability than the average Word user has. So writing an add-in makes these controls available to a much wider group of users.

The new content controls appear on Word’s Developer tab:

Developer tab showing Content Controls

The Properties button opens a dialog that allows you to set the items relevant to that type of control:

The Properties dialog

Current issues with this Content Control add-in:

  • In Word for Windows, you can set a separate character style for the control. The VBA commands for sorting styles don’t do the same thing as the Word interface, so I haven’t been able to make this work the same as in Windows. Using my Content Control add-in, the content controls currently take on the style of the paragraph in which they are inserted, except for the Date Picker which displays Times New Roman (?!) when a date is selected.
  • The color for a control can be set to the same colors as in Windows, but there isn’t a custom color input yet.
  • If and when Microsoft gets around to adding content controls, the checkbox will probably select checked and unchecked characters from the macOS Emoji & Symbols dialog. Unfortunately, that dialog includes many system fonts that can’t be embedded in a file (this is a big problem with choosing bullets in PowerPoint, but that’s material for a different article). So I’ve created a subset of checked and unchecked symbols that can be used in checkboxes. These characters will work as expected and can be embedded in a template or document.
  • The properties dialog in the Content Control add-in can’t preview the checkbox characters, because there is no way for VBA to retrieve the symbols currently used by a checkbox.
  • The date picker should be able to use a world-wide variety of locales and calendar types. I haven’t been able to program the system calls to macOS to get this information yet. The date picker currently uses U.S. defaults for date formatting. Using Microsoft date formatting codes (dd-mm-yyyy, etc.), you should be able to set up dates for other languages based on a Latin (Western) script. This is one of the items that needs testing in other languages.
  • A known error occurs if you try to insert a Content Control into an old Word file in .doc format. You’ll see an error like Run-time error 445: Object doesn’t support this action. Update the file to .docx format to fix the issue.
  • A few users get error messages when trying to modify existing content controls. To date, we have not been able to reproduce, and thus solve, this bug. If you get an error, please post a comment including your processor info (Intel or Apple chip), macOS version and Office edition.

You can get a free copy of the add-in by subscribing to this blog. If you’re already a subscriber, please write to me at the email in the right-hand column, and I’ll send it to you. Please note, we do not send to disposable email addresses.

Most Recent Office You Can Run – Best Practices

As Apple and Microsoft release new operating systems, it’s no longer possible to install the latest version of Office on your old computer. Here’s is a list of the most recent Office you can run for the operating system you have, plus where to find it.

Most Recent Office You Can Run on macOS (Updated for 2024)

Rant alert! Microsoft supports the last three operating systems in both Windows and Mac. Unfortunately, Apple has a policy of releasing a new operating system every year, whether we need it or not. The result of these two business decisions is that there are rafts of perfectly serviceable Macs out there that can no longer install the current version of Office. It looks like Apple intends us to toss them and buy new ones. Another case of lip service to environmental sustainability. Rant over

If you buy or subscribe to Office for Mac today, you’ll only find the current versions of Microsoft 365 (the subscription version) and Office 2021 (the retail edition) to be easily available. But Microsoft maintains a page of older installers at Update history for Office for Mac. All of them can be activated under a current Microsoft 365 subscription or Office 2021 license.

Please note that all of these are final releases: there will be no security updates to follow. Be careful when downloading Office files from the interweb.

At the time of writing, the current crop of obsolete Macs are those that can only run Big Sur (macOS 11). These are machines that are around 10 years old, but are completely useable for applications like Office. The last Office version that Big Sur can run is 16.77. At the History page, look for the Office Suite Installer, with or without Teams, dated September 12, 2023. Do not download the updaters for individual programs! Download the Office Suite installer!

Then run the downloaded installer. After installing, normally Microsoft AutoUpdate fires up and installs the final 16.77 version. Wait until it finishes, then open Applications and run one of the Office apps.

Prompt to sign in.

You’ll see a dialog prompting you to sign into your account. Enter your name and password.

Enter your Microsoft Account email and password.

If you’re a Microsoft 365 subscriber, that should be the end of the process. Your software will be activated and you’re good to go.

If you have purchased multiple permanent license editions, you’ll see a dialog asking to to choose which license to apply. Office 2019 and 2021 no longer have separate licenses for Mac and Windows, so at this point it possible to switch Office 2019 (for example) from Windows to macOS or vice versa.

Choose an Office license to use with your installation.

Older Editions of macOS

Catalina (macOS 10.15) can run Office 16.66. At the History page, look for the Office Suite Installer, with or without Teams, dated October 11, 2022. Reminder: Do not download the updaters for individual programs! Download the Office Suite installer!

Office for Mac Update History

Catalina was the first OS to require 64-bit software. This requirement made Office 2011 obsolete, since it’s 32-bit. But Office 2011 is still a useful edition in macOS. It can still do things that were permanently removed from later versions of Office. So you might want to stick with Mojave and install the newer Office that goes with it. (There’s no problem in having Office 2011 and a later version installed on the same computer.) In this scenario, download and install the 16.54 version dated October 12, 2021.

One of my favorite Macs is my 17″ MacBook Pro. It’s the machine that travels with me, but it’s 12 years old and can run only High Sierra. The most recent Office you can run on this computer is 16.43, dated November 10, 2020.

There’s a pattern here: Apple releases new operating systems in the fall, usually in September or October. The Office version that Microsoft releases the same month is the last one for the fourth-oldest macOS. I don’t have any machines running Sierra, but if I did, I would try the October 15, 2019 edition of Office 16.30.

As I mentioned earlier, you can run an older version of Office on an older computer. Since Office 2008, the file format has remained pretty constant, so the software can still be useful. You can install Office 2011 under Mojave or earlier, while Office 2008 can be installed under El Capitan and earlier. These versions can co-exist on a Mac with a newer version (or with each other), though Microsoft’s History page only goes back to 16.27 from July, 2019.

Most Recent Office You Can Run on Windows

Under Windows, the situation is easier, as Microsoft waits about 3 years between operating systems. Plus Windows isn’t as finicky about the hardware it runs on. I have an old Mac Pro from 2006 that can only run OS X Lion and Office 2011, but under Boot Camp it does either Windows Vista and Office 2010, or Windows 7 and Office 2016. Windows 8 is likewise limited to Office 2016, while Windows 10 (now 9 years old!) can run the current version of Office 2021 and Microsoft 365. You have to have a really old Windows computer to be unable to run a useable copy of Office.

Chart Templates – Best Practices

Chart Templates allow you to capture and reproduce the appearance of sample charts. This avoids having to include sample charts for users to copy and paste. Here’s how to use them:


Chart templates must installed to a particular folder so Office can find them.

Windows Installation

  1. Open a File Explorer window.
  2. In the address field, paste in: %appdata%\Microsoft\Templates.
  3. If there isn’t a Charts folder there, create one.
  4. Copy the chart template(s) into it.

macOS Installation

  1. While holding down the Option key, click on the macOS menu bar. Choose Go, then Library. The hidden user Library folder opens.
  2. Open ~/Library/Group Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/User Content/Chart Templates.
  3. Copy the chart template(s) into it.

Using Chart Templates

Chart templates can be used in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Here’s how to access them:

Windows Usage

  1. In the Office program, choose Insert>Chart.
  2. In the Insert Chart dialog, click on the Templates icon.
  3. Select the chart template in the right-hand pane, then click on OK. A chart is inserted in your document.

macOS Usage

  1. On the Insert tab, choose Charts>Templates and select the template from the pop-up list. A chart is inserted in your document.

For more information about creating chart templates that work better then the Microsoft default, please see OOXML Hacking – Chart Template Colors

OOXML Hacking: Buy the ebook

The ebook version of OOXML Hacking has been released. The last three years have gone into adding the equivalent of 40 pages of new information. This is in addition to the trove of unique techniques that already appeared in the print version. Here are screen shots of the table of contents, to give you an idea of the topics covered in this publication:

Table of Contents 1
Table of Contents 2
Table of Contents 3

Barnes & Noble distributes only in the U.S., so use if you’re from another country.

As always, all techniques are covered in both Windows and Mac, where possible. The book contains a link to a downloadable text file of all listings in the book, so you don’t have to re-key text from the screen. The book is currently available on and Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble distributes only in the U.S., so use if you’re from another country.

Some have asked if they can use a Kobo book in a different reader. The answer is Yes! Here is Kobo’s page on how to download books from your Kobo account to export to another device or app.

Please note, this e-book has digital rights management applied. All code listings are available in a downloadable text file, so you don’t have to re-key anything. If you have any problems, please contact us at this address

Your Office Questions Answered – Best Practices

Brandwares provides top-quality, bulletproof templates to a world-wide clientele. We have the Client List to prove it. But you can get your Office questions answered for free (or cheap)!

I answer questions online about PowerPoint and Word for both Windows and macOS. For general questions about formatting and using both programs, visit the Word or PowerPoint forums. If you’re a VBA programmer working with Word or PowerPoint, you can get my help at the Stack Overflow Word or Stack Overflow PowerPoint pages.

I also answer questions at Experts Exchange, where I’ve been awarded a Distinguished Expert award for 2021.

Office Questions Answered - Experts Exchange Distinguished Expert 2021

This site isn’t free, but it is jam-packed with expertise. There’s a 7-day free trial, if you want to check it out. Tag your post with Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Word, VBA and/or Fonts Typography to ensure your Office questions are answered.

OOXML Hacking – Chart Template Colors

Chart templates solve the old problem of having to send out copy-and-paste samples of graphs. But they only display the first 6 of the chart template colors you designed.

Adding More Colors

The most common application of chart templates is to overcome the design limitation of having only a 6-color palette to work with. I wrote about this problem years ago: Office Charts: 6 Colors Maximum! – Best Practices. After a chart uses Accents 1 to 6, it starts recycling those same 6 colors with automatically generated darker and lighter variations. Banks and wealth management clients often need many more than 6 data series in their charts, but still want to have colors that are on-brand and designed.

To create a wider range of data series colors, create a chart with the maximum number of data series that the client requires. Our record is 25 colors! Then right-click on the chart edge and choose Save as Template. This captures the formatting of the sample that you’ve created.

Your template will work just fine on charts that have already been created. Select the chart, choose Change Chart Type (yes, even if it’s the right type already), click on the Templates icon, select the chart template and click on Apply. Easy peasy, job done!

Insert Chart Templates folder

The New Chart Problem

But this process breaks down if you try to create a new chart from that template. Choose Insert>Chart, click on Templates, and select the chart type. Then start inputting data. As soon as you get past the 6th color, Office starts using those damn Microsoft default darker and lighter variations instead of the colors you set! This is Authoritarian Helpfulness at its worst!

What You Designed
Chart template colors as designed
What Office Gives You
Chart template colors as created by Office

Yes, you can fix this. Reapply the template by choosing Change Chart Type>Templates and reselecting the template. The colors are corrected to the design specs. But you shouldn’t have to do this! And now that you’ve found this article, you don’t have to.

Understanding Chart Template Colors

Let me back up a bit, and explain how chart templates are structured. The top level of the XML consists of [Content_Types].xml, a _rels folder for documenting the relationships of XML parts and a chart folder holding the good bits.

Inside the chart folder, we find chart.xml, which holds most of the formatting that we created when we made the custom chart. Chart.xml contains definitions that contain the intended series color. The colors in chart.xml get set when you save the file as a chart template, and they get used when you apply the template to an existing table. But they are not used when you create a new chart.

Each series is numbered starting with 0, so this is the series for the 7th color. For the first six, the color is set to an accent color. Starting with the 7th, the color fills are in RGB/hexadecimal. Here’s a sample:

  <c:idx val="6"/>
  <c:order val="6"/>
  <c:spPr xmlns:c="">
    <a:solidFill xmlns:a="">
      <a:srgbClr val="9AA4AF"/>
    <a:ln xmlns:a="" w="19050">
    <a:effectLst xmlns:a=""/>
    <c:ext uri="{C3380CC4-5D6E-409C-BE32-E72D297353CC}" xmlns:c16="">
      <c16:uniqueId val="{00000006-910C-4CE6-8943-18D1A951583A}"/>

In addition, there are subfolders for charts, media, theme, and _rels. The media folder only holds a BMP file that is used for thumbnail display in Office 2007 and 2010, but not in later versions. The _rels folder is for relationships of XML parts. The theme folder contains themeOverride1.xml. As the name suggests, this is a theme that overrides the theme of an Office file that hosts it. This allows you to use a chart template in any Office document while retaining the original design appearance. Finally, we have the charts folder, which has the XML part we’re looking for.

This folder contains 2 files: style1.xml, containing the formatting for all the chart parts and colors1.xml, with a list of default fill colors and transforms fo apply to those colors. Colors1.xml is the file that supplies the colors when a new chart is created from the template. Here’s what colors1.xml looks like:

<cs:colorStyle xmlns:cs="" xmlns:a="" meth="cycle" id="10">
  <a:schemeClr val="accent1"/>
  <a:schemeClr val="accent2"/>
  <a:schemeClr val="accent3"/>
  <a:schemeClr val="accent4"/>
  <a:schemeClr val="accent5"/>
  <a:schemeClr val="accent6"/>
    <a:lumMod val="60000"/>
    <a:lumMod val="80000"/>
    <a:lumOff val="20000"/>
    <a:lumMod val="80000"/>
    <a:lumMod val="60000"/>
    <a:lumOff val="40000"/>
    <a:lumMod val="50000"/>
    <a:lumMod val="70000"/>
    <a:lumOff val="30000"/>
    <a:lumMod val="70000"/>
    <a:lumMod val="50000"/>
    <a:lumOff val="50000"/>

On a newly inserted chart, an Office program will use the 6 colors in turn. Then it will cycle through them again, applying the a:lumMod val=”60000″ transform. LumMod modifies the luminance, turning each accent color to a dark version. The chart will follow this pattern instead of using the colors you designed for the extra data series. If you reapply the chart type to the chart, then it will update with your designed colors from chart.xml

Fixing Chart Template Colors

My first step was to read the Microsoft specs for cs:colorStyle. Under section CT_ColorStyle, it reads: “The total set of colors is all contained colors repeated each time with each variation applied. A color style can contain 6 colors and 7 variations. This yields a total of 42 colors with the first 6 having the first variation applied, the second 6 having the second variation applied and so on.” Not promising, we really need more than 6 colors here.

After many fruitless experiments, I decided to see if I could add extra colors anyway:

<cs:colorStyle xmlns:cs="" xmlns:a="" meth="cycle" id="10">
  <a:schemeClr val="accent1"/>
  <a:schemeClr val="accent2"/>
  <a:schemeClr val="accent3"/>
  <a:schemeClr val="accent4"/>
  <a:schemeClr val="accent5"/>
  <a:schemeClr val="accent6"/>
  <a:srgbClr val="9AA4AF"/>
  <a:srgbClr val="C2C6C9"/>
  <a:srgbClr val="B76646"/>
  <a:srgbClr val="E2C2B5"/>

To my astonishment, it worked! I could create a new chart and insert 10 dataseries with each displaying the designed color. No need to reapply the template! Who would ever have dreamt that Microsoft documentation has a mistake in it! ;-D

The takeaway is that to create a many-colored chart template that works as expected under all circumstances, you need to set the extra color values manually in colors1.xml.

Edit OOXML with VBA – Cool Code

For Office users, the closest thing to a “programming language of the people” is VBA. It’s not too hard to get started, there are gobs of help information from a good search, and the results are immediate. But VBA’s abilities haven’t expanded as its environment has changed. This has become abundantly clear with current versions of Office, where task panes and the Windows-version Backstage haven’t been included in the VBA object model. Many want to edit OOXML with VBA, but Microsoft prefers to shuffle you off to the Open XML SDK programmed with C# to do that job.

Fortunately, we’re on the case at Brandwares. We collaborated with programmer Jan Karel Pieterse to develop a PowerPoint version of his macro set that edits Excel OOXML. We’re making this freely available as a download so you can get the benefit of this.

Let me apologize to my macOS readers. I really try to provide solutions that work cross-platform, but this macro set relies on Windows system calls.

I’ll be honest, this isn’t the most elegant OOXML editing solution. The macro set unzips the OOXML to its component files, gives you the opportunity to edit the XML using VBA string manipulation, then rezips the OOXML to a usable PowerPoint file. The unzip/rezip operations are fairly slow, especially with large files. It’s not something you can use in a real-time editing situation.

One of Brandwares’s specialties is converting legacy presentations to new themes/templates. Often, there are OOXML mismatches that make reused slides retain artifacts or formatting from the old decks. We solve these issues with macro convertors that take a folder full of old decks and transform them into new presentations with new branding. This macro set is great for that.

Edit OOXML with VBA: a Peek Under the Hood

THe file contains 3 VBA modules and 1 class module. Module modConvert is the only one you need to modify. In it, Sub MainVBAOperations does the actual work of opening files, saving as a work file, calling the XML process, saving the modified file and deleting the work file. This is also where you would do any additional VBA processing. As one example, after you modify the XML of a slide master or layout, you have to reset the slide based on it to display the changes. MainVBAOperations is where you would do this.

The other Sub is ProcessXML. Here’s where you unzip the file being modified, open different XML parts for find and replace processes, followed by a rezip of all files back to a working file. The sample code in this module shows a typical revision to the idx numbers of placeholders, a common requirement of legacy presentation conversions and one that can’t be done with the PowerPoint interface.

The module modDisplay, by Shyam Pillai, provides the PowerPoint equivalent of the Application.Screenupdating command that exists in Word VBA. Useful to prevent the screen flashing and jumping as files are processed, it also helps speed code execution. modUNC by Randy Birch, assists with file management.

Jan Karel Pieterse wrote the class module clsEditOpenXML that does the heavy lifting of unzipping and rezipping the document to be modified and reading and writing the XML.

As noted in the code, You are free to use this code within your own applications, add-ins, documents etc but you are expressly forbidden from selling or otherwise distributing this source code without prior consent. This includes both posting free demo projects made from this code as well as reproducing the code in text or html format.

Converting Legacy Presentations

We use often use this macro set to update old (legacy) presentations with a new design. Successful updating requires meeting 5 criteria, please read this article for more details: Legacy Slides – Best Practices. As noted on that page, the 5th requirement is that placeholder idx numbers in the OOXML must match on the old and new layouts. There’s nothing in PowerPoint’s interface that allows you to set idx number, but this macro set allows you to do just that. The pre- and post-processing sections of the macros allow you to set the the other 4 parameters for each slide layout. Click here to download it.

The following advice is particular to presentation conversion. It’s routine that slide masters and layouts will be changed in that process. Then, to apply those changes to the actual slides in a presentation, the slides must be reset, as if you pressed the Home>Reset button in a presentation. Resetting slides wipes out character-based formatting. If a user has applied bold or italic or an underline to particular text, that all will disappear. It’s important to notify your client of this. To make an exact update would require a painstaking construction of a multi-dimensional array for each placeholder on each slide that would record all character-based formatting, then restore it after the update, for which you would have to charge many times as much as for the basic conversion work.

Brandwares is a world leader in presentation updating and conversion. We’re available for presentation assessments, to identify potential problems. We have multiple techniques for seamless re-use of legacy presentations. Contact us when you’re redesigning to ensure your new template will reuse your old slides without a hiccup.