Howard’s Technical Writing Blog

A technical writer’s miscellany

Using other people’s Word macros

Posted by Howard Silcock on 1 April 2010

A good feature of Microsoft® Office is that it provides a way for its users to write their own macros.  A macro is like a command that a user creates—a command that isn’t already provided within Word. It could be a very specific command, relevant only to the user’s own environment or even to a specific document. Or it could be a completely general command that Microsoft didn’t think to include—one that could be useful to many people. Some people spend hours developing macros (I’m one of them and recommend it as a hobby!) and you may find one of theirs could be useful for you. I’ll be sharing some of mine through the vehicle of this blog and this post will explain how you can use them if you wish to.

Word macros are created using a programming language called Visual Basic for Applications, or VBA.  If you aren’t familiar with VBA and don’t feel inclined to  learn it, you still might want to consider using macros others have written. But how do you do that? Do you need to understand VBA to put someone else’s macros on your computer? No. Just get them to put the macros into a template and send it to you. This post will show how you can then use the Templates and Add-ins dialog box to make the macros available on your computer. (You can use exactly this technique when you want to use someone else’s styles or Autotext entries.) I’ll include some templates you can download in a later post.

So let’s assume you have a template containing one or more macros you want to use. Make sure it’s going to work with your version of Word. If it’s a Word 2007 template (one way to tell is that it’ll have a .dotm extension if it contains macros or a .dotx extension if it doesn’t), you can’t use it with an earlier version of Word. If it’s a Word 2003 template and you have Word 2007, you can probably run the macros, but menu commands or toolbars created by the author may not be visible. Once you’re sure you want to go ahead, go to the next page.

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