Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. 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

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 30, 2016)


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.

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, and 2016. 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. ...


Forcing a Workbook to Close after Inactivity

Tired of your workbooks being left open on the screen where they can be seen by anyone passing by? Here's a way to have ...

Discover More

Conditional Formatting for Errant Phone Numbers

Conditional formatting can be used to draw attention to all sorts of data based upon the criteria you specify. Here's how ...

Discover More

Transposing Two Paragraphs

Need to swap two adjacent paragraphs? Your editing arsenal can include a command to do this is you use the macro in this tip.

Discover More

Solve Real Business Problems Master business modeling and analysis techniques with Excel and transform data into bottom-line results. This hands-on, scenario-focused guide shows you how to use the latest Excel tools to integrate data from multiple tables. Check out Microsoft Excel 2013 Data Analysis and Business Modeling today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Creating a Workbook Clone

If you are afraid of messing up a workbook, consider doing your work on a clone of the workbook. Excel provides an easy ...

Discover More

Reducing File Size

As you work with a workbook (particularly one that contains macros) you may notice that the workbook size can become ...

Discover More

Viewing Workbook Statistics

Excel keeps track of a range of stats about each workbook you use. If you want to take a look at those stats, it's easy; ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 2 + 8?

2017-09-16 10:17:24

David de Jongh

Create a desktop shortcut that points to the desired template, e.g "C:\Users\myname\Documents\Excel\Templates\Excel columns override.xltx" with Opens With Microsoft Excel specified.

2017-09-15 04:20:43

John Heaton

But, I want to create a worksheet format for a new workbook. This format will apply only to this workbook. i do not want to change the default excel setting which I find to be fine 99.9% of the time.

2016-08-26 10:55:13


Only works when you open Excel, if you insert a new Blank Workbook, it is not the same. I put code in the XLStart Book.xlt and then inserted a new Blank Workbook and it was not the same - all code was missing.

2016-07-30 10:12:38

Henry Noble

Two additions to Allen's tip on customizing the default workbook:

1. Depending on your PC's configuration, you may be unable to SaveAs the Book.xltx or Sheet.xltx files into the XLSTART directory. When you try, a message like this may pop up:

'You don't have permission to save in this location.'

If that happens, simply save the Book or Sheet file to your Desktop. Then open File Explorer, navigate to XLSTART, and drag the file from the Desktop to the folder. Windows will ask for Administrator permission to complete the move. Say yes.

2. The tip gets you the setup you want for workbooks created from the Start menu, but there is more yet to do.

If you like to create new workbooks by right-clicking and selecting New > Microsoft Excel Worksheet, you may find none of your changes has been implemented.

Looking at the Registry entries for Excel files created with Office 2010, we find that ShellNew relies on excel12.xlsx.

That file is stored in C:WindowsShellNew. Open the file, edit as desired, then save to the Desktop. Using File Explorer, drag the edited file into the ShellNew folder, providing Administrator permission if requested.

As Allen often notes, file names and paths vary from version to version, but the procedures outlined here should be substantially similar for the other versions.

This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.