How to Open dotx and dotm Files

Cute little twin girls opening a polka-dot wrapped presentDotx and dotm files are similar to docx and docm files in that the “X” in the file extension stands for xml, and the “M” stands for macro. (A macro is a program that is embedded in a Word file used to automate repetitive tasks.)

However, there is a difference between the dot twins and their “docx” cousins…you cannot open them unless you have Word 2007, 2010, or 2013 installed.

Let’s take a minute to discuss what these files are and why they are so useful. Unless stated otherwise, information in this article applies to both file types.

What are .dotx and .dotm files?

A “dot” file is a special type of Word file. As in all previous versions, the .dot* in the file extension indicates the file is a Microsoft Word template.


Template file quick facts


  • Template files (dotx/dotm) can only be opened with Word 2007. If you don’t have Word or Office 2007, even if you have the compatibility pack installed, you cannot open the file.
  • Dotx is the default file extension for Word 2007 templates. If you want to use the template with a previous version of Word, you must save it as a .dot file.
  • Dotm is the file extension used for saving a Word 2007 template that contains a macro.

When you open a template file, you are opening a copy of it. Any changes you make to the copy are saved to the new file, not to the template.

Dotx and dotm: the timesaver twins

Template files save time. If you find yourself recreating the same document over and over with just minor changes, create a generic form of the document and save it as a template file. Then, when you create a file based on that template, most of the work is already done!

Why save as a dotx instead of a docx file? Because as mentioned previously, when you open a template file instead of a regular Word file, it opens a copy, not the template itself. This protects your template from unintended changes.

Every time you create a new file from your template, it is a brand new file, ready for you to modify as needed.

Opening template files

There are several ways to open template files. How you open the file depends on what you want to do…start a new file based on the template, or edit the actual dotx file.

Starting a new file based on a template

To start a new file based on a template, follow these steps:

  1. Open Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, or 2013.
  2. Click the Office button, then select New. The New Document dialog box opens. (In Word 2010, click File tab > New.)
  3. Select either Installed Templates or My templates. (In Word 2010, select Sample Templates.) You can also select a template category from Microsoft Office Online to download a template from the online catalog.
    New Document dialog box
  4. Select the desired file.
  5. Under Create new, select Document.
  6. Click Create. A file is created based on the template.

If you know where the template file is located, an easier way to start a new file is to browse to the template file, then double-click it. A copy of the template will open in Word 2007.


Use an existing file as a template

You can use an existing file as a template. Follow the same instructions as Starting a new file based on a template, but under step 3, select New from existing. Then browse to the file and select it. When you click Create, a copy of the file will open. Then you can modify it without changing your original file.

Opening and editing a template file

If you want to create a new template based on another template, follow the same instructions as Starting a new file based on a template, but under step 5, select Template, then click Create. This creates a new dotx or dotm file.

If you want to edit the original template, follow these steps:

  1. Open Word 2007.
  2. Click the Office button, then select Open.
  3. Browse to the template file, then click Open. The original template opens.
  4. Edit as desired, then save the file.

Only new files based on the template will show your changes. (Old files will need to be edited individually.)

Saving a file as dotx or dotm

You can create a template from any Word file. To save a file as a template file, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure the file is open in Word 2007 or 2010.
  2. Click the Office button, select Save As, then select Word Template. The Save As dialog opens.
  3. Choose the location and a file name for your template.
    Save As dialog box
  4. Under Save as type, select one of the following:
    • Word Template (*.dotx)
    • Word Macro-Enabled Template (*.dotm)
    • Word 97-2003 Template (*.dot)
  5. Click Save.

I hope you will experiment using templates to speed up your work flow.