A lot of people want to know how to create letterhead in Word. So in this article I'll show you how to do it. But what's more, next month I'll take this article one step further and show you how to add a little automation to allow your users to click a button and switch between letterhead and plain paper. This will allow them to decide whether they want their letter to have the company logo printed or removed so they can print directly on preprinted stationery.
I recently designed a solution like this for a client, albeit more elaborate. (Click here if you'd like to read more about that project.) Ours won't be that involved, but since I haven't written next month's article yet, I'll try to add some fun customization options that you can program in to impress the socks off your peers. It's not really that hard to do. And automation can save you tons of time.
If you missed my articles on Watermarks, you might want to check them out. For those of you who don't want to deal with programming, the first article in Computor Companion magazine shows you how to just create a cool set of manual watermarks that can be added as needed into your documents. But for those who want more, the next article in that series, which appeared here in TechTrax and that you can read here: Automating Watermarks, Part Deux, took the basic Watermark article a step further by showing you how to automate the process with some cool VBA programming. We'll do something similar with these letterhead articles.
Building a Custom Template
Okay, the first thing you must understand is what a template is and how to work with one. I'll give you a brief overview here. However, if you have no idea what I'm talking about and you don't understand Word's master template...the Normal.dot template...then do yourself a favor and be sure to first read this article: Normal.dot Template-Explained. And for those of you who plan to go a step further with automation next month, I'd also suggest you read this article: Sharing Macros, which will not only prepare you for dealing with code, but will explain a lot more about templates.
Whenever you open a blank document in Word, you are creating that new document from the Normal.dot template. This is Word's master template. If you were to mess up and open the Normal.dot and type on it, then save it that way, every time you attempt to open a blank page, that same text would appear on all your new documents. This is actually a problem that some new Word users find themselves confronting!
The problem is that they opened the template. So they were actually typing right into the master template. To use a template properly, it should be saved into your default Office template directory so that it appears when you click File > New. Then you are literally creating a new document based on whatever settings are contained within the template you are using. That means that the proper way to use the Normal.dot template is to click File > New > Document. Then a new document will be created based on the normal.dot template. Sure, there are easier ways to do the same thing. If you just open Word it defaults to toss out a new, blank document. Which is the same as having the File > New > Document commands clicked. You can also click on the blank document icon on your Standard toolbar.
What we will do here now is to create a new template that will contain all the elements we want on all our future letters. Rather than adding a logo and address to each letter, individually, we'll add it to one master template and then you can just create a new document (letter) using this master template whenever you need to use letterhead...and all those elements will already be there for you.
Sketch Out A Prototype
Whenever you need to design a document, you will save yourself a lot of time and grief if you first take a few minutes to sketch out a sample of your plans on paper. Grab your trusty pencil and just scribble out what you envision on paper. This will not only give you time to look it over and make sure you didn't forget anything, but then you can also show your masterpiece to the ol' boss or powers that be to make sure they agree that nothing was overlooked.
It's much easier scribbling out a new design versus the time it would take you to redesign a new template...particularly if you're new to using Word.
Think about your logo. Where do you want it? You'll probably just want to toss it in the upper/left corner of the page. However, were you aware of the fact that the first place the human eye looks at on a piece of paper is the upper/right corner? Yup...we're talking scientific fact here, folks! Designer's know this. So do marketing folks, which is why that spot is one of the prized positions in a newspaper/magazine for advertising! Therefore, you might want to consider breaking away from what everyone does and plaster your logo on the right side so it catches the readers attention better. If you'd like some other design ideas, check out my free Word Document Design lesson, which you can find by clicking here.
Now if you're not planning this letterhead for a company, but rather for your own personal use, consider using your name as a design element. Maybe create a fun logo out of your last name? Instead of just typing your name as part of the header for your letterhead, design your name as an image in a program like PowerPoint or use Word's WordArt to make it more fun. As you can see from the image below, I've added our last name using WordArt, then matched up the rest in a more simple format. Okay, so it's not my best work...but not bad for 30 seconds of work...and you get the idea.
And what about the address, et al? Will you include your email address? What about your phone number? Do you want to add your web site URL? All these items are elements you need to think about. Not only about whether you plan to add them, but where and the font size, too. And will they all fit the way you want? You may have to tweak the text a bit to squeeze it all in. Or maybe a new design with two rows of information is needed. If so, will it be too distracting to have all that at the top? Maybe you should add that info to the bottom of the page. Or how about along the side? You might want to check out my Newsletter article to learn how to add a textbox along the sidebar? You can find that article by clicking here.
Designing Your Template
Alright, you've considered all the needed elements, messed around with the design and now you're ready to create your template.
Open Word. There are two ways to start creating a template and it doesn't much matter which method you use. However, depending on your version of Word, some methods are more evident.
If you are using Word 2000 and previous, click File > New and you can click the Template option button at the bottom of the new document dialog box, as you can see below.
If you start out this way, then the document you're creating is already planned as a template. Therefore, when you save it, it will already know to default to your template directory and will already be defaulted to save as a .DOT file (the extension for all Word templates), as you can see in the image below.
Notice in the above image, along the top, it already signifies that it is a template. And when I save it, it offers up a .dot file type.
If you're using Word XP (2002) or newer, starting a template is not as clearly defined. You can get to this same dialog as shown above by clicking File > New. But then you get the Task Pane and there are many choices from which to choose. If you use the On Your Computer choice, you'll get the same dialog. But the Task Pane can be a bit daunting to many users, so you can just start a new document in your normal manner and then, before you do anything else, click File > Save As and click the drop down and choose Template so the file is setup and saved as a template, as shown below.
Know that you can just use this method with earlier versions, too. Whatever you do, it is a very good idea to start off by saving your template and also saving it often along the way to make sure you don't lose your work. Once you've done the initial Save As, you can save it often by just hitting Ctrl + S
I'll assume you need to add a logo somewhere in the header. To open the header/footer layer, click View > Header and Footer. This will open what looks like a textbox. You might want to think of it as the underneath layer of the document.
You'll also notice that the Header and Footer toolbar pops up when you are working in this layer.
To add your logo or some piece of clipart or photo into your header, click Insert > Picture. From there the next click will depend on where you will draw the image from...the clipart library, your hard drive as a file or somewhere else.
I've added my logo, but as you can see below, the one I had on file is rather large for what I need here. Luckily, Word does a great job of keeping the original resolution of an image when you resize it. So rather than going back into my graphics program to recreate a smaller version and hope I get the size right...I can just click on the logo, grab one of the corner handles and drag in the size to get what I need. Be sure to grab a corner handle or you can easily warp the image.
If you want your logo along the right margin, or even centered, know that you can quickly click on it and hit Ctrl + R for right alignment or Ctrl + E for center alignment. Ctrl + L will give you left alignment again.
Although I personally prefer right alignment, I'll leave it left as it'll be easier to snap screen shots for this demonstration.
There's a good chance that you'll want to add some text to the header as well. But if you start typing, your text will most likely end up at the bottom of the logo and you may want it in a more balanced location. You can adjust the way the additional text wraps around the image by right clicking your image and choosing Format Picture. That move will open the formatting dialog box shown below.
Here you can click the Layout tab to set the type of wrapping you want. If you choose Square or Tight, the text will wrap around your image. This will let you then more easily adjust the position of additional text because the text will start at the top of the logo. By the way, don't be afraid to click the Advanced... button on the above dialog box. There you will find some more precise wrapping and positioning options.
If you need to indent your text, you can hit Ctrl + M to indent to the right. If you move too far, Shift + Ctrl + M will pull you back one tab marker. And if you need to adjust your indent position, hit Ctrl + A to select all and then drag your indent marker...that will be displayed along the ruler, assuming you have it on (View > Ruler)...to change the settings.
The sample below shows you what I'm talking about, even if it is one of the more pathetically unimaginative examples I've ever created.
But here's one done using the same method, which is a little classier. Note that I selected and Expanded the character spacing for the lower tag line to force it to align better with the company name. This can be done by clicking Format > Font > Character Spacing. I also added a double border above the company name and a lower border to the tag line. Use the Format > Borders and Shading dialog if you want to add borders, too.
Now you may need to add information to the footer. You can quickly jump to the footer by clicking on the Switch icon on the Header and Footer toolbar, as shown below. Or just click within the footer area.
If you need to align information in a header/footer, a great trick to do this is to simply add a table with the number of cells you need for each type of alignment. Set the border of the table to None so no one will see it's a table. Then you can enter information into each cell and set separate alignment, i.e., left, center, right. See my example below.
After you have the header/footer setup the way you need, click the Close icon on the Header/Footer toolbar. This will close this layer and you'll return to the upper document layer of your template.
Date and Text Alignment
Since letters need a date, you can add another piece of information to your template that'll automatically add the current date whenever you write a letter. But, you need to make sure to use the correct date field. Since this is a template, you'll want to add the CreateDate field to it. This will add the current date whenever you create a new document (letter) from your template. However, it will also ensure that the date doesn't change every time you open the letter. This is important so you can refer back to an old letter to check the date to see when you wrote the original letter. If you just add the regular date field, the date will update every time you open it!
Before you add the date field, you may want to set some alignment. Generally, the letterhead will be wider than the letter text itself. So you'll probably want to set the text to pull in from the right a bit.
Those of you who want to do this the right way should learn to create a style for your text and have the style indented to the position you need. You can read more about styles here.
However, you can cheat by just dragging in the margin setting...once you're out of the header layer...so the body of your letter will be moved in a bit, as I'm doing in the image below.
And, of course, you can hit return a few times to position the date down from the logo a bit. And before Suzanne Barnhill yells at me that I'm telling you how to do it wrong by adding space with empty returns<smirk>...know that the proper way would be to create a date style and add the proper Before spacing to position your date. But cheating is okay if you're not familiar with styles for now. However, I do strongly suggest that you learn to use styles.
When you're ready, click Insert > Field > CreateDate and choose the format you want for your date.
If you were to select the inserted date and hit the field toggle keystroke of Shift + F9, you'd see that the date is really a field code.
Now whenever you click File > New to create a new letter from your template, this code will enter the current date and that date will stick when the letter is saved and subsequently opened in the future. Hit Shift + F9 to toggle the code back to the resulting date.
You can hit enter a couple times after the date to add some spacing before the location where you'd start typing the recipient's address. And that's about it!
I know...this is a pretty sad sample layout<grin>, but you get the idea. My letter template is done.
And since it's already saved as a template, I can just close out now. The next time I need to write a letter, I can click File > New, select my letterhead (my real version, since my clients would run screaming if they saw the above sample<snicker>) and start typing away. When I save the document, it will be saved as a new document with whatever new file name I give it. My original template will still be in this original, clean format...waiting for me to start a new letter next time.
Now what if you ramble on as much as I do and you end up with long letters that need more than one page, but you don't want all the pages to have this same heading? Well, then you'll have to change the header/footer on subsequent pages. That can also be done in your template so that, should your letter move to a second page, that second page header/footer will already be created for you!
In fact, assuming that is the case, you should have thought about that before you created any of the first page! You need to add a setting for a different first page and if you do it now, it'll trash your original page!
I can hear you now..."Well then why the heck didn't she tell me that before I did all this work!"
What? This should be easy? Actually, I'm making it harder to show you another trick. I've heard people say that they forgot to do this and they end up recreating the document from scratch, which isn't necessary. So allow me to show you how you can recover if you forget to do it at the beginning. (Am I forgiven?<grin>) And trust me, you will forget! I'm supposed to be an expert at this and I can't tell you how many times I've forgotten!
Reopen your template (be sure to OPEN it, not File > New...since you want to be back in the original template) and click File > Page Setup > Layout and click the option for Different First Page. (Your settings may be slightly different, depending on your version. But the option is there...dig around, you'll find it.)
Whoa! What happened!?!?!?!
Yup...all that hard work was just trashed! But HOPEFULLY you have not yet hit save! Don't! Rather, click File > Save As and save this page with a new name. Just add a number 2 to the name, so you don't save this version over your original.
Reopen your original template one more time, so you have it open, as well as this second version. You can now switch between the two, grab all your work from the original template and paste it into this new version. Switching can quickly be done by holding down the Alt key and tapping on the Tab key to cycle through all open documents. When you hit the other document, release the Alt key and the other template will be in front. Note that if you're using an older version of Word or if this is too complicated a move for you, you can just click Windows > [the name of the other doc] and that'll allow you to switch between them.
And yes, if you're using Word 2003, you can choose Compare Side By Side to have them aligned next to each other.
You now can open the header/footer on your new version, switch to open the same in the original one, press Ctrl + A to select all, hit Ctrl + C to copy that information, switch to the new one, position within the header and press Ctrl + V to paste your header from the original template into this new version. Remember to do the same if you added info into the footer.
You're now back to where you were before I made you do all this work, but this new version knows this header will not be repeated on all pages. In fact, if you noticed, now the header says First Page Header, as you can see below.
You need to add a new page to get to that header so you can make the needed modifications to subsequent headers/footers. To do this, you can simply hold down the return to move down this page to get a new page to appear. (Whoa! Suzanne is going to be livid after hearing me tell you that one!<hee, hee>). Yes, there are more sophisticated ways to do this, but I'm showing you this method because it's very simple to comprehend and I want new users to easily understand what's happening.
So we've moved down the page and a second page is automatically created. For now, you'll see it contains the same header. But also notice that the first page shows the First Page Footer, whereas the next page just says Header. This is because this template knows that the first page may have a different header/footer. Therefore, it has created a different heading area for you.
You can now jump into this header/footer, which will be what shows up on all subsequent pages after the first page of your letter, and make whatever changes you need.
For my remaining headers/footers, I'll leave the footer as is, but make the header a smaller logo without text and move it to the right.
Once satisfied with everything, close the header/footer layer. And now you need to remove this second page from the template. But don't worry, it won't really be removed, it'll just go away from view. To do this, you can hit Ctrl + End to move to the very end of the returns you hit and press the backspace to move backward up the page, thereby removing all the returns you hit to get to the second page...and also removing the second page from view.
(Note...to see your return markers as you can in my sample images, you can click Tools > Options > View > Paragraph Markers, or hit Ctrl + Shift + 8 to toggle on/off all your visual aids.)
Save and Close your template. You can now test it to see that the second page will appear as you planned. Click File > New, select your template and hold down that return key as if you were typing away so that you move to a second page. You'll see that the header/footer for that page looks the way you wanted subsequent pages to look. In fact, you can go nuts and keep going to add another page to see that page three also looks like page two and not page one.
However, know that if your page three does look like page one, then you also checked the option for Different Odd/Even Headers. And since we only modified the second page (even), you'll need to go back and make the needed adjustments for the odd page headers! This isn't generally necessary (or needed) unless you are creating a template for a book format. Then you may want the left side to have one header and the right side to have another. The first, Chapter page, will also have it's own, totally different (First Page) header/footer. And yes, managing three different types of headers and footers can get very confusing. We won't talk about that here, but if you're involved in creating a book or manual, you might want to read this article: Creating a User Manual.
By the way, now that you have the revised template done, know that you can go into your template directory and delete the original one, as well as rename this number two version, if you like.
And now that I've teased Microsoft MVP, Suzanne Barnhill in this article, know that you will do yourself a favor if you also read her much more detailed article on the Letterhead subject here: http://home.earthlink.net/~wordfaqs/Letterhead.htm. Suzanne not only explain various ways to setup letterhead, but she also provides several more detailed ideas about how to design your stationery.
Remember, next month I'll show you how to add automation so that you can easily add/remove your header/footer information from your template. In the meantime, you might want to read another article I wrote that shows you how to add an automatic envelope to your template. And I've also added a couple related article links below for some additional ideas.