Microsoft Word FormatWhen you type anything in Microsoft Word® and save, it generally becomes a “document.” Depending on what version of the software that you have, it will have a specific extension when you save it, such as .doc in versions 1997-2003 or .docx in version 2007-2013. The advantage of any word processing software is that you can set up a form, letter, or agreement and use it repeatedly, saving you and/or your personnel hours of time.

However, a disadvantage to the document you create is that anyone, including you, can “save” it in an altered state unless there are certain protections in place. This can lead to future errors in documentation for your company. Eventually, it may not resemble the form that you created. You could lose important wording or even the original document.

You can use also use “Protect Document” and set up a password to protect changes to any Microsoft Word® document. This is a good tool if you know that you never want someone to alter the document. However, this can restrict everyone from making necessary changes to a document that will not apply to a particular owner, tenant, or other situation. The point is – be cautious when setting up “passwords.” If you do use this function, make sure to remember the password or limit who has access to it.

There is a Microsoft Word® feature that can help counter problems with your original documents – create and store a “template.” By doing this, you can save all your forms, letters, and agreements in their original condition. The advantage to this is that if the documents is altered too much or even “wiped out,” then you can have the original saved in a safe place to retrieve and set up once again. In versions 97-2003, Microsoft Word® save templates as a .dot and in the more recent version, it is a .dotx.

Take these steps to make a Template from your document.

  • When you create your form or letter, first save as a normal document. Put it in the folder on your computer where you or your staff can access it.
  • Then, immediately open the document again, and select “save as” and when the save as screen pops up, at the bottom, click the “save as type” down arrow and select Document Template. Then save it.
  • Note: unless you specify where you want the template saved, Microsoft Word® will automatically store it in their “templates” folder. You can also create your own file folder under the default template location. For example, you can create “PM Template” folder in the default template folder, just as you would in the My Documents folder.
  • To access your template, go to Open Document, when the screen comes up, at the bottom, choose “files of type” down arrow, and choose Document Template – it will go to the default folder and you can select your template if it is stored there.
  • Special note: You can put templates in a folder anywhere on your computer – they do not have to be stored in the default Template area of your computer. Therefore, you can create a folder under “My Documents,” such as PM Template and store them there. However, they will be more accessible to others who can access your computer or main files.

Here are some additional tips to avoid pitfalls using templates.

  • Backup: just as any document or folder in your computer, make sure that when you are doing your backups, you are backing up your templates or template folders as well.
  • Passwords: if you use Protect Document for your templates, you can set up a password. The key is to remember the password for the future and also limit it to people you know will protect the password and not make changes without your knowledge or instruction.
  • Revisions: if you change your form, letters, and/or agreements documents, make sure that you save the revision to the template version as well. Or, change the template and then save as a document for everyone.
  • Networks: Microsoft Word® recommends that your system administrator store templates that you share on a network in the Workgroup templates file location specified on the File Locations tab. To keep custom templates from alteration by others, the administrator should mark them as read-only or store them on a server with limited permissions.
  • There are many ways to use templates and you can find more information in the Help function of Microsoft Word®. The key is to protect your original documentation and the template feature is simply another useful tool.
Jean Storms - Owner and Author of LandlordSource ProductsJean Storms, MPM®, is an active NARPM® member, a NARPM® National Affiliate, and owner of LandlordSource,which specializes in combining real estate / property management and technology to create systems for professionals.

Disclaimer: LandlordSource does not represent the article content in this website as legal advice. It is shared information only and up to the reader to use this information responsibly, seeking legal advice as necessary to their business.