Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Creating Default Formatting for Workbooks and Worksheets.

Creating Default Formatting for Workbooks and Worksheets

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated December 10, 2022)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


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\OFFICE14\XLSTART

The path can vary, depending on which version of Office you are using. The above example is for Office 2010; just change the OFFICE14 text to OFFICE12 if you are using Office 2007, or in Office 2016 you'll need to go into the root folder and find Office16. 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.xltx or, if your template includes macros, book.xltm. As far as Excel is concerned, a template named book.xltx or book.xltm, 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 (by pressing Ctrl+N) 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.xltx. Store it in the same XLSTART folder you used for the previous template.

I should note that it is possible that when you try to save directly from Excel into the XLSTART folder, Windows could stop you. You may get a message stating that you don't have permission to save in the folder, or you might see one telling you to contact your administrator. If this occurs, simply save the workbooks to your desktop, get out of Excel, and then use File Explorer to move the workbooks to the XLSTART folder. If Windows still insists on admin permission to copy the files, you'll need to provide the password for a system user that has admin permissions.

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.xltx template.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (12057) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel 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 nine less than 9?

2022-12-12 10:51:07

J. Woolley

@Walter Szymanski
I'm using Windows 10 Excel 365 (64-bit). Under Excel's Options > General > "Start up options" I have "Show the start screen when this application starts" checked; therefore, my configuration does not open a new blank workbook each time Excel starts.
I followed the Tip's instructions for book.xltx and sheet.xltx, setting the worksheet's Zoom to 115% in each case. When I start Excel and pick "New blank workbook" from the start screen (or from the File menu) my book.xltx template is ignored, but when I add a new worksheet by clicking the "New sheet" button (or pressing Shift+F11) the sheet.xltx template is applied. Apparently the book.xltx template is applied only when I use Ctrl+N to add a new workbook. (By the way, the Tip incorrectly describes Ctrl+N as the shortcut to add a new worksheet.) If I uncheck "Show the start screen when this application starts," then the book.xltx template is applied to open a new workbook each time I start Excel. When either template is applied, the worksheet's Zoom is 115% as intended.
These results are realized if the template files are added to either of the following folders:
C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\root\Office16\XLSTART
I believe the latter folder is the preferred location for user startup files.
For more on this subject, see

2022-12-10 06:51:10

Walter Szymanski

Thanks, Allen, for these tips, which work perfectly for me except for one thing: these templates do not save the magnification I set for the workbook/sheet.

In other words, I'd like my workbooks/sheets to open at 115% magnification, but the templates I save won't do that for me. I don't expect there's a work around, but I thought I'd ask you anyway.

Thank you.

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