Create and use content Building Blocks in Word 2007 documents

Word 2007 Inside Out book cover

Microsoft Office Word 2007 Inside Out
By Katherine Murray, Mary Millhollon, and Beth Melton

Katherine Murray has authored and coauthored more than 40 computer books with several Microsoft Office titles to her credit, including Faster Smarter Microsoft Office System—2003 Edition, First Look Microsoft Office 2003, Faster Smarter Microsoft Office XP, and Microsoft Word Version 2002 Inside Out. She is also a columnist on the Microsoft Office Community site on www.microsoft.com. Katherine specializes in teaching people and businesses how to communicate effectively by using print and electronic media.

Mary Millhollon is an expert Web designer, developer, and content specialist with years of experience in the publishing industry, including books, magazines, newspapers, and courseware. She is also a writer, editor, and instructor who has authored and coauthored several popular books about Microsoft Office and the Web, including Microsoft Word Version 2002 Inside Out and Faster Smarter Web Page Creation. She is the owner of Bughouse Productions.

Beth Melton has been a computer instructor and developer since January 1995. Along with developing custom Microsoft Office solutions for a wide range of clients and instructing computer classes for local area colleges, she writes regularly on the Microsoft Office applications for Web sites including Microsoft Office Online, TechTrax Online Magazine, The Word MVP Site, and the Microsoft Knowledge Base. Beth has been a Microsoft Office MVP since 2000 and is a Microsoft Office Specialist Master Instructor.

To learn more about other books on the 2007 Microsoft Office system, visit Microsoft Press.


In this article


Microsoft Office Word 2007 includes a number of tools designed to help you speed up typing repetitive text and those monotonous tasks you might face daily or deal with those infrequent tasks that you rarely carry out that usually take a few moments to refresh your memory. One of the tools that will assist you with your productivity is a long-standing, favorite time-saving feature that has been completely redesigned from the ground up and is now more powerful and more visible than ever before—an improvement so far-reaching that its old name could no longer adequately describe its new functionality. What was formerly known as AutoText has been reborn in Office Word 2007 as Building Blocks and is the primary focus of this article.

Building with Building Blocks

After spending a short amount of time using Word 2007, you'll quickly spot the many Building Block galleries available to you while you work. Headers, Footers, Page Numbers, Text Boxes, Cover Pages, Watermarks, Quick Tables, Tables of Contents, Bibliographies, and Equations were created to help you build professional-looking documents quickly and efficiently. The built-in Building Blocks are Theme enabled, which means that if you modify the document Theme, the formats automatically update—even in the Building Block galleries.

You can customize Building Block entries to fit your needs, import new Building Blocks from Microsoft Office Online (www.office.microsoft.com), create custom Building Blocks and add them to their relevant galleries, or use custom galleries that can be added easily to your Quick Access Toolbar. You can view the many Building Blocks by browsing the various galleries, or you can check out the entire collection at once by opening the Building Blocks Organizer, found on the Insert tab under the Quick Parts options, as shown in Figure 1.

Building Blocks Organizer

Figure 1 The Building Blocks Organizer provides quick access to built-in and custom Building Blocks.

Unlike its predecessor, built-in Building Blocks are not stored in the Normal template, but rather in a specific template named Building Blocks.dotx. This template is loaded as a global template the first time you access a Building Block gallery or the Building Blocks Organizer in your current Word session, so it's not uncommon to initially experience a slight delay while the Building Blocks load.

 Tip   While viewing a Building Block gallery, you can quickly locate a Building Blocks entry in the Building Blocks Organizer by right-clicking a Building Block, such as a Cover Page or a Header, and then clicking Organize And Delete. The Building Blocks Organizer opens with the entry selected automatically.

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Insert existing Building Blocks

You can insert a Building Block in a document simply by clicking the Building Block on its corresponding gallery (such as the Text Box gallery available on the Insert tab). A few of the various Building Block galleries that you'll find in Word 2007 are shown in Figure 2. Alternatively, use the Building Blocks Organizer to preview and insert a Building Block in your document. Note that you cannot double-click a Building Block name to insert it from the organizer—you must click the Insert button.

 Tip   Former Word users may be familiar with an AutoComplete tip that displays after typing the first few characters of the AutoText entry. The increased number of built-in Building Blocks also increased the likelihood of inadvertently inserting them into your document, and this capability is now removed. However, AutoComplete is still available for the current system date, months, and days of the week.

If you want to insert Building Blocks by using the keyboard, type the Building Block name and then press F3.

Building Block galleries

Figure 2 Building Block galleries provide a quick visual method for inserting reusable content in your documents.

A Building Block gallery can be added to your Quick Access Toolbar by right-clicking the gallery button on the Ribbon and then clicking Add To Quick Access Toolbar. Some Building Block galleries, such as the Cover Page, Table of Contents, and Quick Table galleries, contain additional commands on the shortcut menu. For example, if you right-click a Building Block in the Cover Pages gallery (a Building Block entry rather than the button on the Ribbon), you'll find Insert At Beginning Of Document, Insert At Current Document Position, Insert At Beginning Of Section, Insert At End Of Section, or Insert At End Of Document. If you right-click a Building Block in the Quick Tables gallery that is found on the Insert tab under Table options, you'll also find Insert At Page Header (beginning of the current page) and Insert At Page Footer (end of the current page), as shown in Figure 3.

Additional options for Building Blocks

Figure 3 Right-click a Building Block entry to obtain additional options.

After you insert a Building Block, you can freely customize the Building Block's formatting and properties without affecting the Building Block stored in the template.

If you prefer to keep your Building Blocks in one location, such as Building Blocks.dotx, you can move your old AutoText entries to Building Blocks.dotx by using the Edit Properties button at the bottom of the organizer and changing the Save In template to Building Blocks.dotx.

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Creating Building Blocks

Frequently used document content, such as a paragraph or several paragraphs of data, logos, graphics, specifically formatted headers or footers, standard tables, or equations—any type of content—can be easily turned into a Building Block. You can create Building Blocks from newly created content or even data from documents that were created in previous versions of Word. Simply select the data that you want to turn into a reusable Building Block. On the Insert tab, click Quick Parts, and then click Save Selection To Quick Part Gallery, or press Alt+F3. The Create New Building Block dialog box displays as shown in Figure 4.

 Tip   If you want to include all paragraph formatting, such as style, line spacing, indentation, alignment, and so forth, select the paragraph mark (¶) along with your content. If you aren't already viewing formatting marks, navigate to the Home tab and, in the Paragraph group, click the Show/Hide ¶ button to toggle the formatting marks so you can verify that you included the paragraph mark in your selection. If you do not include the paragraph mark, the inserted Building Block will match the formatting of the current paragraph.

If you want your Building Blocks to be Theme enabled so that the formats update automatically, then use Theme fonts and colors from the Theme Color section of the color palettes.

Create New Building Block dialog box

Figure 4 The Create New Building Block dialog box enables you to name, classify, describe, and control the placement of Building Blocks that you create.

The Create New Building Block dialog box contains the following options:

  • Name     Enter a unique name for the Building Block. If you have a set of related Building Blocks, consider starting all of the names with the same first word to group the pieces together when necessary, such as Annual Report Cover, Annual Report Header, and Annual Report Table.
  • Gallery     Add your new Building Block to a specific gallery, such as Cover Pages, Page Numbers, Headers, Footers, Quick Tables, Watermarks, and so on. If your Building Block is a general Building Block and isn't related to an existing gallery, use Quick Parts so that they will appear under the Quick Parts gallery.

 Tip   Some Building Block galleries perform additional actions when you insert a Building Block from the gallery. For example, a Cover Page is added as the first page or is swapped with another previously inserted Cover Page. Headers, Footers, and Page Numbers are inserted in the Header and Footer layer in the document. To view other actions, right-click the Building Block entry and use an alternate command, shown previously in Figure 3.

  • Category     Place the Building Block in a category, shown on the Building Block galleries and in the Building Blocks Organizer. Consider creating a new category for your company or department so that all of the associated Building Blocks are placed in the same category throughout the Building Block galleries and to quickly sort them in the Building Blocks Organizer.

 Tip   To display your Building Blocks at the top of the Building Block galleries, create a Category name that starts with a symbol, such as an asterisk, or place the name in parentheses.

  • Description     Provide a brief description to help remind you and inform others about the main purpose of the Building Block. Descriptions appear as enhanced ScreenTips in the Building Block gallery (provided that Show Feature Descriptions In Screen Tip is turned on in Word Options) and also appear below the preview pane when you select a Building Block in the Building Blocks Organizer.
  • Save In     Building Blocks can only be saved in templates. You can save Building Blocks in Building Blocks.dotx (selected by default), Normal.dotm, or a global template so that they are available to all open documents. They can also be saved in a document template that makes the Building Blocks available only to documents using that template. The Save In list contains Building Blocks.dotx, Normal.dotm, loaded global templates, the attached document template for the active document if it's a template other than Normal.dotm, and any saved template provided that it is open and the current file. If you are creating Building Blocks to share with others, you want to save your Building Blocks in a separate template so you can distribute them.

 Note    If you save or modify a Building Block in Building Blocks.dotx, Normal.dotx (provided that the Prompt Before Saving Normal Template option is turned on in the Advanced area of Word Options), or a global template, you are prompted to save changes to the template when you exit Word. For attached document templates, you are prompted to save changes to the template on closing the document.

  • Options     Specify whether the Building Block should be Inserted As Content only at the location of the cursor (such as an equation), Inserted In Its Own Paragraph (such as a heading), or Inserted In Its Own Page (inserts a page break before and after the Building Block).

 Tip   Use the Save Selection To Gallery Name gallery found at the bottom of the Building Block galleries to quickly access the Create New Building Block dialog box and automatically select the corresponding gallery in the dialog box.

The following image displays a few custom Building Blocks assigned to different Building Block galleries by using a custom Category name (Coral Reef Divers) to place them at the tops of the galleries so that they can be easily found for quick insertion.

Custom Building Blocks

 Note   If you add a number of custom Building Blocks to the Building Blocks template, remember to back up the template and store your backup copy in a separate location. Like the Normal.dotm template, the Building Blocks.dotx template could potentially become corrupt and you could lose your custom Building Blocks.

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Modifying Building Block properties

You can modify the properties of a Building Block—including changing the Save In template—by changing the information in the Modify Building Block dialog box, which looks very similar to the Create New Building Block dialog box (shown earlier in Figure 4). To modify Building Block properties, access the Modify Building Block dialog box by taking either of the following actions:

  • Right-click a gallery item and choose Edit Properties.
  • Click Quick Parts on the Insert tab, click Building Blocks Organizer, select the name of the Building Block in the organizer list, and click the Edit Properties button.

After you open the Modify Building Block dialog box, make any desired changes and click OK to close the dialog box. A message box displays asking whether you want to redefine the Building Block entry as shown in Figure 5. If you click Yes, the changes are effective immediately.

Redefine the Building Block entry

Figure 5 When you modify a Building Block entry, you are asked to confirm your modifications.

You can also redefine a Building Block, such as changing the content or formatting. Simply make your modifications and select the content. On the Insert tab, click Quick Parts, and then click Save Selection To Quick Parts Gallery, or press Alt+F3. In the Create New Building Block dialog box, type the same name as the Building Block that you want to redefine and make any other necessary changes, such as changing the gallery or category. When you click OK, you are prompted with a message asking whether you want to redefine your entry shown previously in Figure 5.

 Tip   If you download Building Blocks from Microsoft Office Online, a template containing the Building Blocks is placed in your Document Building Blocks folder. It's recommended that you move the downloaded Building Blocks to Building Blocks.dotx by editing the properties and changing the Save In location. Otherwise, several templates will load the first time you access a Building Block gallery or the Building Blocks Organizer, and you might see an increase in the initial delay. After the Building Blocks are moved, you might want to periodically delete the downloaded templates from the Document Building Blocks folder because they no longer serve a useful purpose.

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Deleting Building Blocks

To delete content created by inserting a Building Block, simply delete the content as you would any other content. To delete a Building Block entry, select the Building Block in the Building Blocks Organizer and then click Delete. A message box displays that asks you to confirm the deletion. If you are sure, click Yes. As with new Building Blocks and modifications, you are prompted to save changes to the template accordingly, so you have one last chance to change your mind before permanently deleting a Building Block from a template.

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Applies to:
Word 2007