iWork ’09: Setting Default Templates (and Creating Your Own!)

| TMO Quick Tip

I use Pages pretty much daily. I love me some Pages. Couldn’t live without it. But if I always had to look at the godawful Template Chooser that appears by default when you open the program, I might get a teensy bit frustrated. So here’s a hint for how you can make any iWork application automatically open whatever template is most useful to you. Hey, if it saves three seconds every day, I’m a happy camper.

To change this, go to Pages > Preferences. Under the “General” tab, you’ll see “For New Documents.” Toggle the “Use template” radio button (or, in Keynote, the “Use theme” one), and then select “Choose.” This will allow you to pick whichever template you use most often, including one of the blank ones. After making your selection and hitting yet another “Choose” button at the bottom, you can close the preferences window, and you’re done. You can then feel free to make Numbers and Keynote behave correctly, too.

One of the most interesting aspects of this is that you can create your own templates and instruct the iWork applications to always open with those, which is great to use with letterhead, Keynote presentations that always have the same design, and so on. After you’ve edited the document to look the way you’d like it to, choose File > Save as Template (in Keynote, the command is File > Save Theme). You’ll then be asked what you’d like to name your new creation. An important note here is that you’ll want to leave your theme or template where iWork tries to save it (within your home folder’s Library > Application Support > iWork > [application name] > [Themes (or) Templates] folder). If you don’t, you won’t see your document appear within the Template Chooser if you do decide to open it that way.

Pages’ terrible Template Chooser. But hey, at least my custom ones are available now!


After you’re done editing and saving out your masterful letterhead (or what have you), you can repeat the first steps I listed to set it as the default when that application is opened or when you hit Command-N. What could be easier? Well, not having to do it in the first place, I suppose, but we don’t live in that perfect world, you dreamer. 

My attractive and VERY useful new Keynote theme.



OK, I tried everything you said and it doesn’t work.  I selected a blank page, erased the text blocks that were there, set the text at Arial 28.

Then I saved the theme as you suggested.  It shows up in the template list.

Then I went to preferences and set that to the new name I created.

A new file shows exactly to original bland page with two text blocks.  When I click on text, the wrong font, size, and justification show up, like the original page I started with.



You can also save a little time by launching your template from the Dock. You will skip the whole choose template routine this way.

Melissa Holt

OK, I tried everything you said and it doesn?t work.?

Hey Ben! I’m sorry this isn’t working for you. I just tried doing that exact thing with my version of Pages, and it worked fine, so something wonky is definitely going on.

I wonder?are you running the most recent version of Pages, and have you applied all of the Software Updates available?


I should have said I was working in Keynote.  I am preparing a whole day seminar and have to change the font, size, etc for every new page.  Pain in the neck.

I have Keynote 08.

Melissa Holt

I should have said I was working in Keynote.

OK, I think I found what you need to do. Looks as if something’s different about Keynote in this regard.

So if you’re in Navigator view, you should see small versions of your slides in the left-hand panel, yes? You’ll also see the word “Slides” above it with a divider just to the right of that. If you click and drag down on that divider, you’ll be able to see the Master slides for your theme. Make the changes you want within those Masters, save out your theme as a template as listed in the tip above, and then add new slides to your presentation from those Masters (by adding a new slide and then applying any Master theme from the button on the toolbar).

Just a note: I did have Keynote crash on me three times while I was doing this, so it may be buggy for you, too. But this way certainly should work, so I hope that’s helpful. smile


Thanks, Melissa

That works.  I called up a blank slide, formatted it and saved it under Save Theme. I named it over the top of my previous [default] name.

Then I made a new presentation and it came up with the old unmodified theme/master, just like before.

This time, I pulled down master and selected the blank slide I formatted earlier.  No where was the template theme I saved before.  The Themes button had the name in it, but as before, the content was wrong.

However, the master/blank slide had all my formatting in it.

I guess the moral of this story is to ignore the “Themes” and work only with the Masters.

I went back to my talk, clickedon [+] for a new slide, pulled down the [slides] menu, clicked on blank, formatted it, then went back to my presentation.  There after, when I hit the [+] button, the correct Theme comes up.  I didn’t save anyting.

None of this makes any sense, but it works, so thanks for your suggestions.


Melissa Holt

None of this makes any sense, but it works, so thanks for your suggestions.

Whew! Yep, I guess that is the moral of this weird story. I’m glad it finally worked for you.


For those who want to change the actual templates within iWork do this.

Open the template you want to change and make your changes.
Save it to Desktop - File: Save as Template: Same name as original

Open the template folder with the application by selecting the
  application and right click on at and select show package contents.

Drill down: Contents: Resources: Templates

Drag the new template you crated on the Desktop into the Templates
  Folder. When you get the dialog box that says an older version
  exists select replace.

Doing it this way, you can use the same template if you have multiple
  users on the computer.


Bruce, You are a genius! I have been looking for this for weeks. Thank you.

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