Setting the default zoom in Word

August 27, 2011 at 2:21 pm

People often ask how to change their default zoom (magnification) in Word.  What they are really asking can be broken down into three separate questions:

(1) How can I set a default zoom level for new (blank) documents?

(2) How can I set a default zoom level for documents I created previously? and

(3) How can I set a default zoom level for documents I receive from (or created by) others?

Let’s start with the bad news:  A document that you receive from someone else will open at the magnification that person applied when he or she last worked on the document.  There is no way around that, unfortunately.  As a temporary workaround, you can adjust the setting manually while you’re editing the document.  However, if the original author/editor sends the doc back to you later on after he or she makes further changes, the revised version will open at the sender’s preferred zoom, not yours.

As for documents you created previously, they will open at the magnification you applied during your last edit session.

However, for new blank documents, the news is better (mostly).  You can change the default zoom setting by modifying the template that is the basis for your new documents. After you do so, new documents will open at the magnification you applied to the template.

There are a few caveats, which I will explain later in this post.  But before I get into the exceptions to the rule, here are the instructions for setting the default zoom in your NORMAL template, which — in most circumstances — is the template on which new blank documents are based.[1]

Modifying the NORMAL Template

1.  First, open your NORMAL template by clicking the File menu, Open (Word 2003), the Office Button, Open (Word 2007) or the File tab, Open (Word 2010) (alternate methods for opening the template:  Press Ctrl O or click the Open icon).[2]

NOTE:  The usual location of the NORMAL template if you are using Windows 7 or Vista is:

C:\Users\[User Name]\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates

The usual location of the NORMAL template if you are using Windows XP is:

C:\Documents and Settings\[User Name]\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates

2.  Check to make certain you have the NORMAL template itself open, rather than a document based on the template.  An easy way to check is to look in the Title Bar at the top of the screen, where Word displays the name of the current document.

3.  Assuming you have, in fact, opened the NORMAL template, change the magnification by doing the following:

(a) If you have Word 2007 or Word 2010, click the View tab, Zoom, make any adjustments you like, and then click OK.

(b) In Word 2003, click the View menu, Zoom…, make adjustments, and click OK.

4.  There’s an additional crucial step.  Because newer versions of Word won’t save documents that appear not to have been changed, you must modify the template in some small way, then save it.  The change can be as slight as typing a character and then deleting it — or, as Word MVP Suzanne Barnhill suggests, pressing the spacebar and then pressing the Backspace key.[3]

5.  Next, do any of the following to save your modified template:  (a) click the Save icon or (b) press Ctrl S or (c) click the File menu, Save (Word 2003), the Office button, Save (Word 2007) or the File tab, Save (Word 2010).

TIP:  After you save the template, the Undo button should be grayed out again.

6.  Once you’ve saved the changes, close the template by clicking the File menu, Close (Word 2003), the Office button, Close (Word 2007) or the File tab, Close (Word 2010) or using any other method you like.

The next time you open a new blank document based on the NORMAL template, it should appear at the magnification you chose in Step 3.

Exceptions to the General Rule

Earlier, I spoke of some caveats.  They are as follows:

If you work for a large or medium-sized organization that provides staff members with a firm-wide blank document template (i.e., other than the NORMAL template stored on each user’s hard drive),  the steps outlined in this post probably won’t help you.  Talk to your IT people to see if there is anything they can do to modify the default magnification.

Also, be aware that even if you can change the default zoom setting on your NORMAL template, doing so won’t affect documents based on other templates.  You must modify each template separately, following the basic steps herein.  It’s important to point out that your other templates might be stored in a different location from the one where your NORMAL template resides; you might have to do some exploring in order to find them.  (Often, they’re simply tucked away in a subfolder of the Microsoft\Templates folder.)


[1]  In Word 2007 and Word 2010, the NORMAL template is called Normal.dotm (or normal.dotm); in earlier versions of Word, it is called (or

CAUTION:  Do not attempt to open the NORMAL template by (a) double-clicking the template in Windows Explorer or My Computer; (b) using the New dialog (regardless of whether you choose the Document option or the Template option); or (c) using the option to create a new blank document.  Those methods will open a new document based on the NORMAL template, not the template itself.

[3]  See this post on the MVPs FAQs site.  According to Barnhill, one way to tell whether you have “changed” the template sufficiently so that Word will permit you to save it is by looking at the Undo button.  If the button is grayed out (dimmed), you won’t be able to save the modified template; if it isn’t grayed out, you should be able to save the template.

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