Excel templates are a useful way to reuse structure, content, and formatting among many different projects. You can save your own workbooks as custom templates, or use templates from other sources. You can use a template in two ways. You can create a new file based on the template, and you can insert sheets from a template into an existing workbook.
Creating Excel Templates
Creating a template is straightforward. When you have a workbook (one or more sheets) configured the way you want it, simply use Save As, and under Save As Type, select Template (*.xlt). If you are using Excel 2007, you have two template options: Excel Template (*.xltx) and Excel Macro-Enabled Template (*.xltm). If your template contains any VBA that you want to use when the template is used later in a workbook, be sure to select the macro-enabled option.
By default, Excel saves the template in the Template directory, which in Windows XP and Office 2003 is:
C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates
This directory contains Excel templates, as well as Word and PowerPoint templates.
Creating a New Workbook from an Excel Template
There are at least three ways to create a new file based on a template. In all of these techniques, the result is a new file that opens in Excel. This file is exactly like the template, except instead of having the template’s file name (“MyTemplate.xlt”), it is unsaved but has a default name based on the template’s name (“MyTemplate1”). All sheets and code from the original template are at your disposal in the new workbook.
1. You can double click on an Excel template in Windows Explorer, and the new file will open in Excel.
2. You can create a new file in Excel using File menu > New (or in Excel 2007, Office menu > New), using the option to create a new workbook based on an existing workbook. A File Open dialog opens in the Templates directory (see above) where your templates are saved. You can browse anywhere to find your template. You can use a regular workbook as well as an official template ass the basis for your new file.
3. You can create a new file from a template, and Excel 2003 gives you the option to search for a template, use a template from Office Online or from your computer, or select from a list of recently used templates. If you choose the Office Online option, the Template Categories page from Office Online opens in your default browser. If you choose the Templates on this Computer option, a Templates dialog appears with tabs for different directories, opened at first to the Templates directory. Subdirectories of Templates appear on the other tabs. You are limited to the directories available on the tabs.
Inserting New Sheets from an Excel Template
You can insert sheets from a template into the active workbook by right clicking on a sheet tab and choosing Insert. The same Templates dialog as in option 3 above will appear so you can select a template. All sheets from the selected template are inserted in front of the active sheet. Any code contained in the code modules associated with these sheets is copied with the sheets, but workbook or project level code is not transferred into the parent workbook.
Sample Uses for Excel Templates
There are many ways that templates make your spreadsheet life easier. Rather than reconstructing the data range and charts in a workbook, you can save the original workbook as a template, use the template to create a new workbook, and enter new data into the new workbook.
If you create regular reports or analyses, you can create an array of templates, one for each section your analysis or report may contain. As you populate your report, you can add the sheets you need from the available templates, and ignore the sheets you don’t need.
You could use a template to insert boilerplate (copyright notices, contact information, cover pages, etc.) into workbooks.
Often, people use a template to carry out an analysis quickly and easily. Finding an existing template is easier and more reliable than trying to construct a page full of formulas by hand. There are many templates available on the internet.
Sources of Excel Templates
Microsoft hosts a large number of templates on their Office Online Templates pages. A number of other sites have templates available for download.
The Vertex42.com web site hosts a number of nicely made Excel Templates. For example, the Amortization Chart template has a simple data entry area where you can input amount of a loan, the interest rate, and the number of periods over which the loan will be repaid. A table below the input region is populated with data, and a pair of charts show the status of the loan over time.
This example shows how a relatively simple template can be an elegant way to carry out an analysis with a minimum of difficulty.