16.1. Understanding Templates
Before you begin using and creating templates, it's important to understand what they really are. Many template novices assume that templates are a special sort of file that's similar to Excel spreadsheets. However, the crafty individuals who created Excel actually designed template files so that they're exactly the same as spreadsheet files. (Whether this feature is a brilliant masterstroke of simple, elegant design or the product of terminally overworked programmers is up to you to decide.)
If you use a tool like Windows Explorer to look in a folder that contains spreadsheet files and template files, you'll notice that templates have different files extensions. Whereas ordinary Excel files have the extension .xlsx (or .xlsm if they contain macro code), templates have the extension .xltx (or .xltm with macros). For example, Invoice.xltx could be a template file for creating invoices, while Invoice-01.xlsx would be an actual invoice. However, you can put the exact same type of data in both files: elaborately formatted worksheets, formulas, numbers , text, and so on.
Note: Astute readers will notice that there's just a single letter of difference between the file format extensions. In Excel spreadsheets, the s stands for spreadsheet (.xlsx), whereas in template files the t stands for template (.xl tx ).
Based on this similarity, you might wonder why you should bother using templates at all. The difference is in how Excel handles templates. Here are some of the differences:
Finally, it's easy to distinguish template files (the blueprints) from real spreadsheets because of the different file extension they use. The icon also looks slightly different.
Most organizations and businesses maintain a group of templates that define things like standard layout and formulas for common types of spreadsheets such as invoices and expense reports . Some organizations host these templates in a central location on a network file server or Web server (the two best options), or just distribute them to each employee who needs them.
So how do you put templates to work? The trick is to understand your options when creating them.