Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Creating Default Formatting for Workbooks and Worksheets.

Creating Default Formatting for Workbooks and Worksheets

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 14, 2015)


Mark notes that Excel starts with a workbook that is formatted with a column width of 8.43 and general number formatting. He would like it to start with a workbook that has a column width of 25 for the first column, 12 for the remaining columns, and number format with 2 decimals and a comma between thousands. He would also like any sheets added to the workbook to have the same formatting. He wonders how to get Excel to recognize these default workbooks and worksheets.

The solution is to create two special templates in Excel. One template controls the default appearance for workbooks and the other controls the default appearance for worksheets. Basically all you need to do is open a brand new, blank workbook. Format it as you would like your default workbook to appear. (You can even create a different appearance for each worksheet in the workbook, if desired.) When it appears exactly as you want, save it as a template. This means that in the Save As dialog box you should change the Save As Type setting to a template. Also, you need to save the template in this folder:

C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICE11\XLSTART

The path can vary, depending on which version of Office you are using. The above example is for Office 2003; just change the OFFICE11 text to reflect your actual version of Office. If you are in doubt of where the folder is located on your system, use Windows' searching capabilities to locate the folder.

The actual name you give to your template is important—it needs to be book.xlt. As far as Excel is concerned, a template named book.xlt, stored in the XLSTART folder, is to be used as the default for all new workbooks—just want you want.

Next, delete all the worksheets in the workbook except one. This one will be used as the default "blank worksheet" when adding worksheets into an open workbook. Format it the way you want, and then press F12 to display the Save As dialog box. Again, save it as a template, but this time give it the name sheet.xlt. Store it in the same XLSTART folder you used for the previous template.

Now, restart Excel and you should be all set. In fact, once you restart, you should notice that the blank workbook opened by default should match what you saved in the book.xlt template.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (12056) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Creating Default Formatting for Workbooks and Worksheets.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 4 + 4?

2012-08-27 10:28:15


Note they you can configure another startup folder with Tools, Options, General ... e.g. C:UsersTOTOExcelstart

2012-08-26 13:00:55

Greg Buhrow

This tip did not work.

I do have conversion programs for Excel 2007 and 2010 on my laptop that provide for Office12 and Office14 subdirectories. Potentially a conflict?

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