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Protecting Custom Templates

 

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A crash can impact your computing life in ways that are mere inconveniences to major disasters. In this article I am going to discuss ways of limiting inconvenient data loss.

First a definition: an inconvenient data loss (as opposed to a catastrophic loss) is the loss of data which can be rebuilt relatively easily, requiring only a moderate amount of time and inconvenience to accomplish the re-build.

Catastrophic loss, on the other hand, refers to the loss of critical data that would be very difficult, perhaps even impossible, to rebuild. Some examples of critical data are business or personal financial records, family photos where a print doesn’t exist, original artistic creations, any non-trivial original work that you have created on the computer.

 

Data loss is a question of when, not
if it will happen; it will happen.

Catastrophic Data Loss

The only way to prevent catastrophic data loss is to regularly and frequently back the data up to a second location. How often should you back up? The more important the data, the more frequently you should back it up. A web search will turn up links to many backup applications that will assist you in backing up. Once you have decided on an application, you then need to decide what (individual files and folders) to backup, where to place the backup, and when the backup should happen.

  • Choose what to backup carefully
  • Choose a location that is not on the same
    disk or media as the actual data
  • Choose a backup frequency that will
    minimize the amount of critical data
    that will be lost when your computer crashes

Inconvenient Data Loss

The specific inconvenient data loss that prompted this article was a recent computer failure. In short, Windows crashed, making my computer unusable until I re-installed Windows. At the time, Office 2010 applications were my main tools. Roughly 75% of everything I do using my computer involves one or more Office applications (Word, Access, Excel, Publisher, PowerPoint.) I thought I had a reliable backup strategy in places with backup software copying my documents, spreadsheets, etc. to a backup folder that was in turned synced to a cloud location. That way, even if my computer experienced a total failure, I would still have all my files, with little or no loss.

Over the years, custom templates have become an essential part of my electronic tool box. For example I have Word templates that help me quickly create several different documents that are an essential part of my training practice. These include class lists, class evaluations, training quotations, and course outline formats. In short, whenever I recognized that I was creating documents that repeated standard information, I created a template that would include the information common to each of these types of documents.

Of course it takes time to create good templates but the invested time is quickly repaid because having a template eliminated re-inventing the wheel to create routine documents.

imageAnd so it seems, templates were the Achilles’ heel of my  backup strategy. I had overlooked that fact that custom templates and page parts in Office 2010 and earlier, were not stored in a location that is readily accessible to backup software. In other words, backing up document does not back up templates.

When windows went down for the count, the crash took out of circulation the folders where my custom templates were stored. Recovery, while not difficult, has been time consuming. Because I didn’t lose my data, I have been able to open files that I had originally created from each template and delete any of the content that was not part of the generic template. The difficult part has been remembering exactly what templates I had been using.

Avoiding the Problem in Office 2010 and Prior

Obviously this is an experience I would like to avoid in the future so I have modified my backup strategy. Ironically, the solution I came up with resembles the Office 2013 approach to custom template storage, something I became aware of only after I had worked out my new strategy.

First, I created a folder, MyTemplates,  in my Documents folder. Each time I create a new template, I save it to the the default templates folder and then save a new copy to MyTemplates. My backup strategy already included the Documents folder so MyTemplates is automatically backed up with every scheduled backup.

This approach isn’t ideal because it does require manual intervention whenever I create or modify a template but this minor inconvenience is well worth the bit of time it takes because it minimizes the risk of having to recreate templates in the event of a catastrophe.

How Office 2013 Handles Custom Templates

Office 2010 and prior Office versions buried custom templates in subfolders managed by Windows. The exact folder location depended on the particular Office version. In Office 2013, custom templates can become more accessible to the user. The default is a folder, Custom Office Template in the user’s Documents folders.

Given the experience I outlined above, I strongly recommend going with the default and then ensuring that the Custom Office Templates folder is included in the list of locations that you regularly backup.

 

Related articles:

The article Finding Template From Previous Office Versions suggests pointing your custom templates link to the templates folder that Office 2010 used. This approach is not a solution to the lost templates issue discussed above.

This article: Office 2013 Custom Templates Location the Custom Office Templates folder in Office 2013.

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