Word 2004: Problem with the ‘Normal’ template in Microsoft User Data folder

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
October 6th, 2004 • 5:05 am

I won’t go into the reasons why, in Office 2004, Microsoft decided to move the user’s “Normal” template from the Microsoft Office application folder to the “Microsoft User Data” folder inside the user’s home “Documents” folder — while other templates remain in the Microsoft Office application folder. There’s just no point in trying to explain the twisted logic that prevails at the MacBU.

What I want to mention, however, is that it creates a whole new set of problems. See, personally, I find that all the locations used by default by Microsoft are inappropriate. My own templates folder is located on a separate hard drive partition, with all my other documents, so that they are included in my file backup routine, and don’t need to be replaced when I have to reformat my startup volume or reinstall Microsoft Office.

In order to do this, I use Word 2004’s “File Locations” preference pane in the application’s “Preferences” dialog. In there, I tell Word that the default location for my templates is the folder where I keep them on my separate partition. This way, my “Normal” template is neither in the Office 2004 application folder nor in the “Microsoft User Data” folder inside the “Documents” in my home folder.

The trouble is what happens if, for the purposes of troubleshooting a problem with Office 2004 (and God knows it needs troubleshooting on a regular basis), you temporarily remove your “Microsoft” folder from within your “Preferences” folder inside your home library folder. Predictably, Word forgets all its customizations and reverts to using its default configuration. That’s what the troubleshooting procedure is for.

But then, once you’ve established that the contents of the “Microsoft” folder are not the problem, you will want to move the folder back in its proper location, so as to restore your customizations.

So you do that, and relaunch Word. And it does not restore your customizations. You go to the “Preferences” dialog, check under “File Locations“, and your customized templates folder location is listed properly.

So why isn’t Word showing your customizations?

Well, what happened is that, when you temporarily removed your “Microsoft” folder for troubleshooting purposes, Word recreated a new “Normal” template inside your “Microsoft User Data” folder. And even after you’ve moved the “Microsoft” folder back inside the “Preferences” folder, that “Normal” template that Word has recreated is still there in the “Microsoft User Data” folder.

For some reason, when there is a template named “Normal” inside your “Microsoft User Data” folder, the “File Locations” settings simply will not work. Word will ignore them even though they specify that your customizations (including your customized “Normal” template) are not in the “Microsoft User Data” folder.

In order for things to work properly again, you actually have to trash the “Normal” template that Word has recreated inside the “Microsoft User Data” folder. Then, and only then, the “File Locations” settings will take and Word will restore all your customizations.

Needless to say, this is totally brain-dead. The presence of a “Normal” template inside the “Microsoft User Data” folder should not prevent Word from using the “Normal” template inside another folder as its default template if that’s what the user specifies in the “File Locations” preference pane!

Once again, Microsoft has managed to make things worse instead of improving them.

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