Sharing AutoText and Quick Parts with Others

In response to my tweet-out to Lawyerist readers asking for input on my next post here, one reader responded with this:

Since AutoText is but one of the Building Blocks in Microsoft Word (the others being Quick Parts and various built-in headers, footers, watermarks, etc.), we’ll talk about one method of sharing your personal AutoText and Quick Parts library with others in your office.

Unless otherwise noted below, all instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows.

Microsoft Word, by default, saves any AutoText or Quick Parts entries you create to a template file called Building Blocks.dotx and, unless you instruct otherwise, these are available in your Normal template (which is the default global template in Microsoft Word that controls every document).

You could, obviously, save all of your custom Building Blocks to your Normal template. If you make very many of these, though, you’ll soon find that your Quick Parts list becomes very long, and your AutoText entries could risk becoming confused, since in order to use the AutoComplete feature in versions 2010 and version 2003 and older, the first four letters of each AutoText entry needs to be distinct. (Weirdly, the AutoComplete feature for AutoText in Word 2007 is somewhat disabled and requires users to hit the F3 key.)

Better in the long run, I think, to decide which of your Building Blocks belong in which context. For example, if you’re writing a letter, do you really need access to all your notary acknowledgments? Probably not. If you’re drafting a contract, you probably don’t need all of your stock discovery questions in the way, either.

To be more methodical (and add serious long-term value to your Building Blocks), you can group your Building Blocks into specific templates. For example, you could create one master discovery template to hold all of the relevant Building Blocks plus any standard text common to all discovery (blank case style, proof of service, etc.), then use that template to create more specific discovery templates (say, interrogatories for personal injury versus a contract dispute) with additional Building Blocks.

Saving any Microsoft Word document as a template couldn’t be easier. It’s just another file type. Just choose File | Save As:

… and in the bottom of the Save As dialog box, choose Word Template from the drop-down by Save As Type:

To move any of your existing Building Blocks to your new template, use the Building Blocks Organizer while you’re still editing your template:

It’s critical that (a) your template is saved in the correct directory and (b) the template file you want to move to is open while you are moving your Building Blocks.

If your templates are going to be fairly static and your workgroup is small and/or not connected by a network, you can simply copy the new template files into the standard Microsoft Word templates directory which may vary according to your operating system and version of Word. If you are on a LAN, Microsoft suggests that the easiest method of pointing all users to common Microsoft Word Building Blocks is to edit the registry on each computer to point the value “SharedDocumentParts” to a common location on the network. Since editing the registry keys can be tricky work, you may save this one for your regular IT person (or the particularly tech-savvy amateur of your choice). Regardless of who does this, be sure to run a full backup, locate your operating system boot disk, and depending on your specific operating system, create an OS restore point before attempting a registry edit.


  1. Avatar Doug Ransom says:

    I managed to get shared parts working! . And I found a way to share boilerplate that can change in the quickpart, so that documents would automatically update if something changed.

  2. Avatar John G says:

    I found the easiest way to share your Building Blocks.dotx file is to attach it to each document that you want to have access to it. In Word select:

    File; then:

    Options; then:

    Add-ins; then:

    Scroll down to “Manage” and select “Templates” and then “Go”

    In the Document template box attach the Building Blocks.dotx file from the location where it is saved.

    Enter “OK”

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