“Somebody told me to delete my Normal.dot file,” writes a
user in one of the Microsoft’s
public newsgroups. “I’ve searched, but I can’t find that file on my
computer. Where is it?”
Never mind “where is it”—What is it?
Before talking about where it is, it’s useful to first say what Normal.dot is. (But, if you’re impatient, jump down to Okay—So
Where Is It, Already?)
It is a file that Word uses as the default starting
point for new documents you create. It’s that simple. Well, sort of. If See Normal.dot
Template—Explained, by Dian Chapman for a full treatise on Normal.dot.
Dian’s article covers Normal.dot through Word 2003. Once you
get to Word 2007, things change a little. Normal.dot is now passé. It’s been
replaced by Normal.dotm. Normal.dotm uses Word 2007’s new xml-based file format. (I’ll talk
more about that format in a future article if someone doesn’t beat me to it.)
Word 2007 has four new file extensions that signify the use
of the xml format: .docx, .docm., .dotx, and .dotm. The .docx and .dotx files
are ordinary documents and templates, respectively. The .docm and .dotm files
are document and template files that are allowed to contain macros. The “m”
means that the file is macro enabled. Note that you can’t just use
RENAME and change an “x” to an “m” to enable macros. Instead, the file eXplicitly
has to be created from within Word (which usually means setting the type
accordingly from the Save As dialog). After all—doesn’t X usually mean
So, what happens if you just rename a file from .docx to
.docm? Go ahead and try it. The next time you try to open that file, Word will
show you a perfectly absurd dialog that doesn’t even hint at what the real
problem is. Welcome to xml.
What about Normal.dotx?
Word 2007 will never automatically create a Normal.dotx
file. Its theoretical existence might be implied by the existence of other
.dotx files. But, unless someone explicitly creates a Normal.dotx file, you
won’t have one on your computer. And, even if you do create one, Word will not
treat it the same way it treats Normal.dot and Normal.dotm.
In Word 2003 and earlier, it is stored in the location given
in Tools®Options®File Locations®User templates. In Word 2007, you’ll find it in the
location given in Office®Word
Options®Advanced®File Locations®User templates, as shown below.
“What do you mean by Office®Word Options?”
That does tend to confuse some people. If you look in the upper left corner of
any Office 2007 application, you’ll see the Office logo. It’s more than a logo.
It’s the Office button. When you click it, at the bottom of the Recent
Documents list, you’ll see Word Options and Exit Word.
If you’ve done all that and visited the User templates
location and didn’t find Normal.dot or Normal.dotm, then, where the heck is it?
Well, there could be several of possibilities. First,
if you don’t have Microsoft Word and never have had Word on your computer, then
it’s very unlikely that you have any flavor of Normal.dot on your computer.
When you’re as focused on Microsoft Office as some of us are, it’s hard to
realize that there are many computer users who aren’t aware of what they’re
using. They might be using WordPad, WordPerfect, OpenOffice, Works, or
something else, and think that “Word” is a generic term for word processing. If
you’re not using Word, then Normal.dot is not your problem.
Second, if you’re using Word 2007 and never had any
earlier version of Word on your current computer—and didn’t copy settings from
another computer—then you won’t have Normal.dot. You will have Normal.dotm
instead. (Normal.dot could still be the source of your problem, however, if
you’re using Word 2007 and did have Word 2003 or earlier and/or copied
it from a different computer. More on this in a moment.
Third, it’s possible that Windows, in its never-ending
battle to keep you from hurting yourself, has hidden Normal.dotm and/or
Normal.dot from view. You’ll have to go into Windows Explorer and coax it into displaying
If you have Word 2007, and for reasons discussed earlier
(upgrade, copied settings from another computer, etc.), you could have both
Normal.dot and Normal.dotm on your computer. When you start Word 2007, it
checks several locations for Normal.dotm. If it doesn’t find it, it then looks
for Normal.dot. If it finds one, it converts those aspects that it can, and
creates a new Normal.dotm based on Normal.dot.
In some cases, if your Normal.dotm got corrupted after being converted, then just rename or delete Normal.dotm. Word 2007 will use
that Normal.dot file to create a new Normal.dotm file.
If your original Normal.dot file was corrupted to begin
with, however, then your new Normal.dotm file will simply get re-corrupted—by
inheritance (kind of like why I’m a bit short of hair because my great
grandmother wasn’t sufficiently selective in her choice of a mate; except, had
she been selecting based on hair, I’d probably be somebody else and not even
writing this… but I digress). So, if you and Normal.dotm have already been
around the block a few times and your shoes keep ending up dirty each time,
then reach back a little further and rename or delete Normal.dot, as well.
Why Do You Say Rename or Delete
Most people, but not all, never intentionally customize
Normal.dot/m. If you’re in that category, just delete Normal.dotm or
Normal.dot. Word will build a new one that’s not corrupted.
If, however, you have customized Normal.dot or
Normal.dotm—by creating special styles, macros, AutoText entries, or formatted
AutoCorrect entries—and if you want to preserve the possibility of salvaging
some of that customization work, then rename Normal.dotm or Normal.dot. Perhaps
call it AbNormal.dotm/AbNormal.dot. The point is to name it something that Word
won’t notice. And, it won’t notice those. Trust me.
Once you get Word working correctly again, you can open
AbNormal.dot or AbNormal.dotm using the Organizer, and try to copy your
customized items from your AbNormal to your new Normal. To get to the
Organizer, in Word 2003, choose Tools®Templates
and Add-ins, and click the Organizer button. In Word 2007, in the Developer tab, choose Document Template®Organizer.
If you don’t see the Developer tab, then click Office®Word Options®Popular, and click to enable Show Developer tab in the
ribbon. Once there, the Organizer is pretty self-explanatory.