Is there solid guidance out there concerning the management of Microsoft Word in corporate environments where documents must conform to a standard look and layout?

  • How to manage Normal.dotm (eg. centralised single copy versus per-user writable).

  • How to create document templates that dont depend on Normal.dotm so changes to normal.dotm never override changes in custom document templates.

In our environment, Normal.dotm is read-only and lives in the WorkGroup Templates network file share. Some users have, for reasons unclear, a Normal.dotm file in their User Templates folder (or %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Templates folder; not sure if they're one and the same folder) which Word prefers to use.

The consequence of this is

  • They can push style changes into their Normal.dotm which no-one else can see, and word may do this silently so they're not aware it happened.

  • Documents look one way to them and another way to everyone else, thus are not universally the same for all users.

Trying to get Word documents to look the same seems impossible because of the way Word works with the Normal.dotm file, but you may know different.

Advice and links to authoritative docs on how Styles, Templates and Normal.dotm really interact all gratefully received. The MS documentation is mostly hopeless, but you may know different.

Finally, although our environment uses Word 2007 and we are piloting Word 2010, I've no reason to think the issues re Styles, Custom Templates and Normal.dotm would be different in any word version, but you may know different.

  • I'm not sure how you're creating your templates. In the process I use, I don't change the normal.dotm file. I save the doc with all the special styles as a .dotx file. That is the template that is attached to the new doc that opens as Document1, when you double click on the .dotx file. Do you protect the styles in your template with the Protect Document option? – burrowsrjl Jan 30 '13 at 23:07
  • This might be part of your solution: for every user, create a Normal.dotm file (could be an empty file) in their User Templates folder and give the user no permissions to it. (Well, maybe Read Attributes, Read Extended Attributes, and Read Permissions.) Perhaps this will force Word to look in the WorkGroup Templates network file share, and will prevent users from being able to save changes. If you’re worried about users being knowledgeable/devious enough to try to delete the Normal.dotm file, lock down permissions on the User Templates folder. – Scott Jan 31 '13 at 22:05
  • Have you tried having the users just copy over the normal.dotm file to their user office templates folder? – user228546 Jan 22 at 17:07
  • @user228546. There was a login script that did that but it was not reliable, often failing with the destination file "in use". Also, some users never logged out. At the time I originally posted this question, I worked for the military as a civilian contractor, and endeavored to find a robust, predictable solution but found none. – IanT8 Jan 22 at 21:44

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