How to Create and Use a Document Template in SharePoint

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What are Document Templates?

Content type templates allow you to designate a Word, PowerPoint, or Excel that uses columns from your document library inside the document. The template can include text, pictures, choices of snippets (called “Auto Text”), and fields. Examples of types of documents that would make a good template are most legal documents (vendor agreements, NDAs, etc), proposals, or any other standardized document.

A Word About Content Types

Content types are packages of fields (called columns in SharePoint). To work with a document template, your columns and content types must first be created at the site level, in your site settings. If you don’t know what you’re doing, ask for help from an admin – this is not a beginner technique, and requires high level permissions.

To create a content type, navigate to your site settings via the top-right gear menu, then click on Site Content Types. Be CAREFUL in here – you can seriously damage things by modifying the default content types. Never modify default content types or columns at the site level, always create your own.

Create a new content type using the button link at the top of the page. For document templates, in the parent content type dropdown, use Document Content Types and Document in the box below that.

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Once your content type is created, add the fields you want to use in your template as columns. You’ll probably want to create most of these yourself, most of the out-of-box columns aren’t super useful in this case. As you create your columns, add them to a new group with a recognizable name to keep things organized, don’t dump them all into “custom columns.” The order in which you see your columns listed is the order they’ll appear in the top bar of your document template, you can re-arrange them using the link at the bottom of the page.

Try to have your content type totally nailed down before you start your template file – columns added or changed later are difficult to update in the template without re-uploading it, and it’s a pain. I like to add a small number of global columns to all content types in my environment for use in search and filtering – for me, these are Target Audience, Owning Department (set to default to whoever is using the content type frequently), Document Type (a.k.a. contract, tutorial, etc – this may be similar to your content type name, but needs to be in the global column to work with the global search filters… you can set it to default to something that makes sense at the content type level).

Now, to the Library

  1. Add your content type to your library. You may need to go to your library advanced settings and turn on “allow management of content types first”). While you’re in advanced settings, toggle the option to always open documents in the client application if you like.
  2. Create a view in your library, checking the boxes next to all of the columns you want displayed in your list view an choosing your sort order. I like to set a filter view to only show items of the content type name I created, to keep files created from the template separate from the rest of the library documents without creating a separate library for them.
  3. Open the Word document you want to use as a template and save it as a .dotx file (Word Template).
  4. Back in your library settings, click on your content type to bring up its settings, then the Document Information Panel settings link and check the box to always show the Document Information Panel (this will allow you to easily fill out the fields).

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  1. Click Advanced Settings. This is where you upload the template you saved a minute ago! Click the toggle and upload your template:

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  1. After uploading, you’ll be brought back to your content type settings. Click Advanced Settings again to bring up the same page you were just at, then click “edit template.”
  2. Now is the fun part – add the fields from your content type to the template wherever they belong in the document (they will inherit the text formatting of wherever they’re inserted). You can find the properties under the Insert tab of the ribbon in the Quick Parts menu under Document Property.

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The fields show up in grey brackets after insertion:

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  1. Save your template.
  2. Back in your SharePoint library, add a new document according to the content type you created earlier:doctemplate7
  3. Fill out the fields in your document info panel (you may need to click “open in Word” to get the full panel). This will auto-fill the fields wherever they were used in your document.doctemplate8
  4. Save the file. At this point, you could opt to create a workflow to auto-name your file according to a standardized method (such as company name and effective date). That’s optional. If you don’t want to do this, make sure to Save As instead of Save, choose your current library, and pick a filename that makes sense (the Title field and filename are not the same thing).
  5. Check back in your library! If you refresh the page, you should see your contract along with all the metadata you filled out for the file. You can sort and filter and create views on these values!
Ignore the fact that some of these fields don't match the earlier template, I went back and changed it and was too lazy to get new screenshots.

Ignore the fact that some of these fields don’t match the earlier template, I went back and changed it and was too lazy to get new screenshots.

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