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Microsoft Office templates contain sample content, formatting, or objects that can be used to quickly and easily create a new document, giving users a way to save time while helping them produce high-quality documents.

This Microsoft Office Template Development Kit provides guidelines for building templates, from creating and saving templates to formatting them so that they are easy to use and will work correctly when customized, printed, or viewed on other computers or devices. The information should be thoroughly applied to each template created for Microsoft Office.

When building templates, certain decisions must be made by the template builder, such as when to use tables to accomplish the structure or not. It is difficult to make blanket rules for certain decisions other than evaluating the usability of such a layout. The main, general rule that should be followed is the specification from the designer. After setting their styles from the specs, the template builder should refer to the style set and apply the appropriate style to achieve the desired formatting.

Note: If you are creating an Office branded template, such as an infographic for the Office content team, follow the guidelines for Infographics.

Quick checklist for templates

  • Clear all personal identification from templates.

  • Do not save thumbnails.

  • Make tints for all colors in fonts, images, and tables theme-aware (in other words, only choose from the theme color palette).

  • Do not use a separate theme for custom font pairings or theme colors in the Colors or Fonts lists

  • Use correct tip text throughout the template.

  • Make sure your text and images are no closer than 0.25" from the edge of the page.

  • Provide alt text for all images, shapes, tables (including nexted tables) and text boxes in the alt text Title field.

  • Alt text is on the grouped shape for images and shapes.

  • All images are in the proper format and are as small as possible (file size) while retaining a high quality.

    For specific art guidelines, see Art guidance for templates.

  • Do not compress images.

  • All colors pass the Color Contrast Analyzer.

Template basics

Ensure technical accuracy

If you include data or technical content in a template, the content must be reliable, accurate, factually correct, and all technical aspects must be correct (for example, calculations in Excel templates). Make sure that dates in calendars are set in the future, so that they can be relevant as long as possible.

Follow editorial standards

Edit and proofread templates. Use these general style guides:

  • American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.

  • Chicago Manual of Style, 14th ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Use the correct delivery format

Deliver templates in the correct format applicable to the intended device(s) and platform(s).

Do not save thumbnails. Clear the “Save Thumbnail” Option in the Save dialog at the bottom.

File names

Files are eventually named by using their assetIDs, such as TF10002001.dotx. For template builders, the name doesn’t matter in the initial building stages because it will be renamed before publication. If it is helpful to the template builder, make it a friendly name, i.e., “Report” or “Cover letter.”

Set up your computer, pages, and other settings

  • Use default application settings on the computer on which templates are created.

  • Set margins at the default and set Page Setup settings at the defaults to ensure proper printing unless there is an exception based on template type or otherwise detailed in the template spec.

  • Turn off Track Changes. There should be no revision marks or comments anywhere in the template.

  • Use standard EN-US paper sizes. Use existing standard brochures, cards, calendars, and so on as examples to work from.

  • Set margins to no closer than 0.25" from the edge of the page, including the header or footer, to prevent text and objects from getting cut off when printed.

    Any background that should bleed off the page should extend at least 0.2" beyond the edge of the page.

    Avoid manual page breaks unless absolutely necessary.

Remove all personal information

Remove all personal identification from all templates. To do this go to File > Info > Inspect Document and choose Check for Issues > Inspect Document and then choose Inspect. When the results appear, next to Document Properties and Personal Information, choose Remove All.

Note: In Word, the system adds a paragraph marker into the Header/Footer when Document Inspector is run. Clear these before you save the template.

Fonts

Use serif fonts for large blocks of text because they are easier to read. For example, letters are typically designed with Times New Roman.

Use "Automatic" to specify black or white as a font color, rather than specifically choosing black or whilte. This allows the font to change in high contrast mode to a color most likely to show up in that high contrast color scheme.

Use a maximum of two font families per template.

Choose fonts from the list of approved fonts for templates.

Tip: When setting theme fonts for Office Universal templates, if you need to use Cambria or Trebuchet MS, instead of selecting the fonts from the dropdown, select customize fonts and manually enter the names of the fonts.

Use placeholder text

Placeholder text is text or a field that is holding the place where a user will enter their own information. Placeholders will vary depending on the type of template.

  • Do not use fictional content.

  • Use tip text where there is Normal style except for cases in which it doesn’t make sense. For example, resumes and certain types of letters have specific wording outside of the accepted tip text.

  • Never leave extra paragraph marks in templates, spaces at the end of sentences, or extra tab marks. Keep an eye out for headers and footers with extra paragraph marks.

Acceptable tip text

Type of tip

Text to use

Getting started tips

To get started right away, just tap any placeholder text (such as this) and start typing to replace it with your own.

Want to insert a picture from your files or add a shape, text box, or table? You got it! On the Insert tab of the ribbon, just tap the option you need.

Find even more easy-to-use tools on the Insert tab, such as to add a hyperlink, insert a comment, or add automatic page numbering.

Note: If using the above sentence, make sure to edit the text so this isn’t included in templates that already contain page numbering

Style tip options – based on length, be sure not to choose redundant tips

Think a [document] that looks this good has to be difficult to format? Think again! To easily apply any text formatting you see in this document with just a tap, on the Home tab of the ribbon, check out Styles.

Note: If using the above sentence, make sure to replace “[document]” with the specific template type.

Some of the sample text in this document indicates the name of the style applied, so that you can easily apply the same formatting again. For example, this is the [style name] style.

Note:  If using the above sentence, make sure to replace “[style name]” with the specific style name.

Use styles to easily format your Word documents in no time. For example, this text uses the [style name] style. Note: If using the above sentence, make sure to replace “[style name]” with the specific style name. Styles in this document have been customized to match the text formatting you see on this page. On the Home tab of the ribbon, check out Styles to apply the formatting you need with just a tap.

Note: If using the above sentence, make sure to update for multi-page templates.

Office tips

View and edit this document on your computer, tablet, or phone. You can edit text; easily insert content such as pictures, shapes, and tables; and seamlessly save the document to the cloud on your Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS device.

Note: If using the above sentence AND using any prior tip text about inserting pictures, shapes, and tables, remove the section in this sentence about those insertions. In other words, tip text shouldn’t be repeated. This sentence would say the following instead: “You can seamlessly save the document to the cloud on your Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS device.”

Table tip text

Use the following text to fill in an example table:

  • ROW HEADING

  • COLUMN HEADING

  • Row text

  • 123.45

Print and save

  • Ensure that templates look good in Print Preview and on a black and white printer and that there are no extra blank pages.

  • Avoid page breaks generally, but if they have to exist they should be in logical places. Avoid manual page breaks because after the user has edited the template, the page breaks may no longer appear in logical places.

  • Templates should be less than three pages if the content just provides blank space for users to fill out.

  • Placeholder blanks or lines in templates intended for hardcopy use should be long enough for written entries and backgrounds should be light enough so that handwriting can easily be seen.

After printing, check folding, cutting, or assembling to make sure it works as expected.

Before saving, check the following:

  • Set the template to Print Layout view (Word) or Normal view (Excel).

  • Maximize the template window.

  • Set zoom to default (100%) when you save and before you exit.

    • Set PowerPoint template to "Fit"

    • This does not mean the template will open at 100% on every platform and/or device. We are only responsible for setting it. Word on platforms such as Mac make their own decisions as to which zoom is chosen when the document is opened.

  • Check and correct spelling and grammar.

Accessibility

Ensure that your template is accessible to all users. Run the Accessibility Checker tool (Windows or Mac) on your document and refer to these articles for more help in making documents accessible: Word, Excel, PowerPoint.

Alt text

Alt text must show when you mouse over an image on a Web page. It is also used by screen readers for sight-impaired users, many of which read the alt text for images in Office documents that are not Web pages. Therefore, alt text must be added to the alt text Title field all images, tables, and text boxes in all templates. Adding additional descriptive text to the alt text Description field is optional.

  • Alt text should make sense without seeing the picture.

  • Phrase alt text as concisely as possible.

  • Use fragments rather than complete sentences, but the first word should be capped.

  • Do not include articles or “picture of".

  • Do not use end punctuation.

  • Alt text should be less than 100 characters

  • Do not bold any UI elements included in alt text.

Examples: Flowers in vase, Dog, Butterfly drinking, Woman at computer

Color and high contrast settings

The most important thing about viewing templates in high contrast colors is whether you can see the text in the template.

  • Use automatic colors for fonts if possible because this choice changes in high contrast mode to a color most likely to show up in that high contrast color scheme.

  • Test templates on the default high contrast black setting. Graphics are not as important to test unless critical for use or understanding of the template. If so, then the graphic must be visible for the template to be accessible.

Choose accessible color combinations

  • Always use light text on dark backgrounds and dark text on light backgrounds.

  • Check to make sure that color combinations work in the Accessibility Mode.

  • Choose tints for all colors in fonts, images or tables from the theme color palette (for example, not 40%) so they are theme-aware.

To check colors for accessibility, use the Color Contrast Analyzer to simulate four visual conditions to demonstrate how content appears to people with less than 20/20 vision. Use this tool to test color combinations that are questionable. For example, black text on a white background will always pass the test, but orange text on a white background fails all but one category. When in doubt, use the Analyzer to determine if the color passes. Microsoft color contrast guideline is a ratio of 4.5:1 for normal text, and 3:1 for large text (>= 18 pt font size).

Art guidance for templates

Approved fonts for templates

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