Backing Up Your Preferences and Settings

Updated for Word 2008 (DRAFT in progress)

Article Contributed by Daiya Mitchell

Before removing and reinstalling Office, it’s a good idea to preserve certain files that hold the customizations, preferences, and settings that make Word work the way you are accustomed to using it.

Note that the Remove Office tool will not touch any documents you generated in Office programs, nor the Entourage database (in UserName/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Main Identity, or whatever your identity is named). Remove Office will leave your Microsoft User Data (MUD) folder entirely alone. Nevertheless, for suggestions on backing up personal documents, see here.

You are encouraged to read this entire article before removing Office. For the proper way to Remove and Reinstall, see here.

Files to Back Up

You should copy the files listed in the following chart to external media such as a thumb drive or CD-R, where they will be safe from the Remove Office tool. See below for an explanation of what these files are and why you would want to save them.

The table below notes the default locations of your templates. If you have moved any of them and forgotten where you put them, or if you find multiple copies of Normal, read the Normal Template and/or Custom Templates section below to learn how to sort things out. Caution: if you use MacWord in a corporate environment, it is very likely that the locations have been changed on your computer.

Note: ~ stands for your username folder (Home) in OS X

Office 2008

File

Default Location (note changes from Word 2004!)

Word Preferences: com.microsoft.Word.plist

~/Library/Preferences/com.microsoft.Word.plist

AutoCorrect Entries: Microsoft Office ACL [English]

~/Library/Preferences/Microsoft/Office 2008/Microsoft Office ACL [English]

If you use multiple languages, copy the Microsoft Office ACL file for each language.

Custom Dictionary

~/Library/Preferences/Microsoft/Office 2008/Custom Dictionary

You may have more than one of these; copy them all if so.

Normal template

~/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office/User Templates/Normal.dotm

Custom Document Templates

~/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office/User Templates/My Templates

Custom Global Templates

/Applications/Microsoft Office 2008/Office/Startup/Word/

This folder may also contain add-ins created by third-party programs. See below for more information if those appear.

 

Office 2004

File

Default Location

Word Preferences: com.microsoft.Word.prefs.plist

~/Library/Preferences/Microsoft/com.microsoft.Word.prefs.plist

AutoCorrect Entries: Microsoft Office ACL [English]

~/Library/Preferences/Microsoft/Microsoft Office ACL [English]

If you use multiple languages, copy the Microsoft Office ACL file for each language.

Custom Dictionary

~/Library/Preferences/Microsoft/Custom Dictionary

You may have more than one of these; copy them all if so.

Normal template

~/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Normal

Custom Document Templates

/Applications/Microsoft Office 2004/Templates/My Templates/

Custom Global Templates

/Applications/Microsoft Office 2004/Office/Startup/Word/

This folder may also contain add-ins created by third-party programs. See below for more information if those appear.

Office X

File

Default Location

Word Preferences: Word Settings (10)

~/Library/Preferences/Microsoft/Word Settings (10)

AutoCorrect Entries: MS Office ACL [English]

~/Library/Preferences/Microsoft/MS Office ACL [English]

If you use multiple languages, copy the MS Office ACL file for each language.

Custom Dictionary

~/Library/Preferences/Microsoft/Custom Dictionary

You may have more than one of these; copy them all if so. If you have created an Exclude dictionary, also copy that from this folder.

Normal template

/Applications/Microsoft Office X/Templates/Normal

Custom Document Templates

/Applications/Microsoft Office X/Templates/My Templates/[Word files in folder, if any]

Custom Global Templates

/Applications/Microsoft Office X/Office/Startup/Word/[files in folder, if any]

This folder may also contain global templates created by third-party programs. See below for more information if those appear.


CAUTION: This is a Word FAQ website. Don’t forget that you may have customized the other Office applications, and those settings may require backing up as well. The My Templates folder holds custom Document Templates for all Office applications, differentiated by the icon and the file extension. The Startup folder has separate folders for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, so check those program folders for important Global Templates or add-ins. The Office Scrapbook is stored as part of the Entourage database.

For Office X and Office 2004, ~/Library/Preferences/Microsoft folder holds the preference files for all MS applications, so you might find it easier to copy the entire folder and then reinstall only the necessary files later.

For Office 2008, preferences are split among two locations. Some are inside a ~/Library/Preferences/Microsoft/Office 2008 folder. Others are loose in the ~/Library/Preferences/ folder, but all have names beginning with com.microsoft.*.

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Reinstalling Your Files

After removing and reinstalling Office, you can replicate the setup you used to have. Simply copy the old version of the file into the same location within the new installation to replace the newly created version. The file paths given above will be useful again.

If you get a message such as “Do you want to replace file XYZ?” simply say yes. As part of the Office reinstallation process you should have started up each Office application to cause it to initialize. If you have not done so, some files might not exist yet in the new version. This is not a problem—simply move the old files into their proper locations in the appropriate folders.

However…as a general rule, you want to reinstall as few files as possible. Word’s Normal template and the various settings files are constantly being changed and rewritten as you use the application, and become corrupt occasionally under such heavy usage. Starting afresh with a clean version every so often is a good idea. Assuming you are removing and reinstalling in an effort to fix a problem with Word, never reinstall a file without testing it to make sure you haven’t just reinstalled the source of the original problem.

This article lists the usual places where important customizations are held. Depending on how you use Word, you might not need to reinstall all of the files above, either because you may not have created some of the files mentioned, or you might not have added any customizations to them. Read More about Templates and Preferences below to tell which files truly apply to your case. Keep in mind that many of these files can be moved between computers and if you work in a corporate setting or do special work for others, they may have given you some of these types of files. Remember that backing up unnecessary files will never cause a problem, but reinstalling unneeded files might.

TIP: it’s a good idea to regularly back up all of the files discussed here. If you have a clean backup of an important file, when problems occur you can simply delete the problematic file and copy over the new one. See the Troubleshooting Index for help in isolating a problematic file.

More About Templates and Preferences

Or, why would you want to save all of those files? We’ll do the easy ones first.

The Word Preferences File

The name varies by Office version.

Word 2008: com.microsoft.Word.plist

Word 2004: com.microsoft.Word.prefs.plist

Word X: Word Settings (10)

This file holds the settings you selected in the Word>Preferences dialog. You can go through the dialogs and reset all of these, and occasionally the prefs file will corrupt, and you will have to manually reset it; but it’s easier just to reinstall the old prefs file, if possible.

In Word 2008, this file also holds settings for a customized Formatting Palette, and the preferences for Reference Tools (accessed by clicking the curved arrow in the title bar of the Formatting Palette).

In Word 2004 and earlier, this file also holds the settings for AutoCorrect, AutoText, and AutoFormat (the checkboxes in the four tabs of the Tools>AutoCorrect dialog).

Microsoft Office ACL [English] or MS Office ACL [English]

This file holds the list of plain text AutoCorrect entries. If you haven’t created your own custom AutoCorrect entries, you don’t need to worry about this file, but see here to learn how custom AutoCorrect entries can make your life easier.

AutoCorrect is language-specific, and if you have AutoCorrect entries in multiple languages, you need to save and reinstall an ACL file for each language. The language is denoted in brackets at the end of the filename, e.g. MS Office ACL [Spanish].

AutoCorrect entries can be in plain text, where they take on the appearance of whatever font and size you are using at the time; or in formatted text, where they carry the same formatting into every doc they are used in. Plain text AutoCorrect is more common. Note that formatted AutoCorrect entries are actually saved in the Normal template, not in the ACL file.

Custom Dictionary

When you click Add during a Spelling & Grammar check, that word is added to your Custom Dictionary. You can have multiple Custom Dictionaries, so be sure to copy all of them.

You can also manually create an Exclude Dictionary. An Exclude Dictionary holds a list of words that you want marked as wrong in a Spelling & Grammar check, even if Word usually accepts them. It can have any name, but the file extension is “.dic” and it must be kept in the ~/Library/Preferences/Microsoft/ folder with the Custom Dictionary. If you have created one, be sure to preserve and reinstall it. Word’s Help will tell you how to create and use both Custom Dictionaries and Exclude Dictionaries. However, the Exclude Dictionary does not work in either Word 2004 or Word 2008.

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About Templates

Word depends on templates for everything, even if you aren’t aware of it when using the program. The Normal template is the fundamental element of Word. It is used as a base to create new documents, and it holds customizations that you want available throughout the program. Sometimes, however, it is better to move these two main functions away from Normal, using custom Document Templates to serve as bases for new documents, and Global Templates to hold customizations. If you’ve done so, you need to make sure you backup those other templates, which may be in a few different places. For more information on this, and links to articles that will explain more fully, read on…

Other Notes about Preferences

Word 2008— com.microsoft.mcp.plist — holds the preferences for the Object Palette in the Toolbox.

Installing A New Version of Office?

Note on installing Office 2008: You don't need to remove Office 2004, and it's useful to keep it around. However it may be a good idea to move all of the customization files listed above into a safe location, and then delete them from the existing location. Office 2008 is designed to import your customizations from a previous version, but importing such files has been linked to problems. Otherwise, the general advice below applies.

If you are moving to a new computer, with or without a new version of Office, you can bring many of your preferences and settings with you, even across the OS 9-OS X divide. If you are in this situation, you are especially encouraged to read the More About Templates and Preferences section to understand where various settings for Word are stored.

If you are using the same version of Office on the new computer as on the old, you can simply follow the procedures listed above.

If you are moving to a new computer and a new version of Office, you can follow the procedures listed above, with a few caveats and exceptions. You cannot copy over the Word preferences file. The AutoCorrect list (ACL) file uses the same format across versions—simply move your old file to the location where the new version will look for it, and change the name if necessary, using the locations and names listed at the top of this article. Templates and Dictionaries can simply be copied over.

If you are upgrading to a new version of Office on the same computer, one option is to backup the files listed above, run the Remove Office tool to remove the old version, then install the new version. Then you can follow the procedures listed above, with a few caveats and exceptions. You cannot copy over the Word preferences file. The AutoCorrect list (ACL) file uses the same format across versions—simply move your old file to the location where the new version will look for it, and change the name if necessary, using the locations and names listed at the top of this article. Templates and Dictionaries can simply be copied over.

However, if you install the new version alongside the old version, and run each program at least once before you remove the old version, then Office will automatically import some of the customizations for you. You are advised to backup the important files for the old version before doing anything, so that they are available if you discover you need them later. After installing the new version, the first time you open each application, it will import certain preferences and settings from the old version, assuming it finds them in the default locations. After the new version is working properly, you can run the Remove Office tool, which usually gives you a choice of which version to remove.

On opening Word for the very first time, it should automatically copy your Normal template, ACL file, and Custom Dictionaries into the settings for the new version. See the Normal Template section above for some reasons why you might actually prefer to start with a fresh Normal template, however—rename and move the Normal template so that the First Run utility cannot find it. You will need to reset the settings held in the Word Preferences file. You will need to either move your Document and Global Templates into the default locations for the new version, or reset where the new version looks for templates by using the Word>Preferences>File Locations dialog. Keep in mind that if Word does not do what you expect, you should always be able to use your backed-up files to reinstall some of the settings manually, as described above.

If you are consistently using two versions of Office within the same OS X identity, do not expect one version to reflect all the customizations you make in the other, and do not attempt to force this to happen. It is fine to have both versions using the same Document Templates and the same Global Templates. Everything else, however, should be kept separate. You cannot force different versions of Office to share the same preferences file. Versions before Word 2004 might happily share the ACL file, but Word 2004 and 2008 will not. While it might be technically possible to direct two versions of Word to use the same Normal and Custom Dictionaries, it is not advised. If you have Unicode entries in a shared Custom Dictionary, for instance, versions of Word earlier than 2004 may react badly. If you have macros in a Word 2004 Normal template, Word 2008 may react badly. The difference in the features and the structures of settings files between versions of Word suggests that sharing such files will encourage Word to misbehave and crash.

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