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Two Ways to Change Word’s Opening Paper Size

Two ways to change the default or opening paper size for Microsoft Word documents.  Change to Letter , Legal, A4 or any other paper size.

These two options haven’t changed for many years. The fundamentals haven’t changed since the very first Word for Windows. 

This will change the paper size when you choose New | Blank document and many other Word templates. 

The default paper size in Word depends on the Windows regional settings when Office was originally installed.

In the US it’s Letter Size (8.5” x 11” / 21.59 x 27.94cm), but in most of the world it’s the metric A4 paper (8.27” x 11.69” / 21 x 29.7cm). So I want to change my default paper size to A4. 

There’s nothing stopping you changing that default between Letter and A4 or some other paper size (Legal?). 

Only new documents

Existing documents will not be affected, so if you want to change any documents you have already created, you will need to go back and change those documents individually. 

Layout | Size

The simple direct way is on the ribbon. 

We start out just as we did to change the paper size for one document, Layout | Size except this time we select More Paper Sizes at the bottom of the dropdown.  

This will open the Page Setup dialog, which should open on the Paper tab. Now we select A4 under the Paper Size dropdown at the top. (You may have to scroll down to find the size you want.) 

 Then click the Set as Default button at the bottom, and click OK. 

You will then see a message asking you to confirm. Click Yes, and next time you start a new Word document, it will have A4 set as its paper size.  

Open the Normal template

The second way to change default paper size, or any document default, is to open the Normal.docm template. 

Normal.docm is where Word stores all it’s default document settings. Starting Paper Size, Fonts, Margins, Tabs, Styles and a lot more. 

Whenever you see a ‘Set as Default’ button in Word, it’s really saying ‘Change Normal.dotm . 

Normal.dotm is tucked away from regular documents at 

C:\Users\<user name>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates 

In Word go to File | Open, not the modern pane Open but the ‘real’ File | Open dialog from years past under ‘Other locations’ Browse. 

Change the File Type (bottom right) to ‘All Word Templates’ 

Then navigate to the Templates folder mentioned above. 

Choose Normal.dotm then Open. 

Then go to the Layout tab and change the Paper Size. 

Then save and close Normal.dotm 

More options by editing Normal template

That might seem a lot more complicated than just clicking ‘Set As Default’ but it gives you many more options. 

  • Change more than just Paper Size.  With Normal.dotm open you can change any of the default settings you like especially the default styles (Normal, Headings etc). 
  • Make a different template by opening Normal then Save As to make an alternative new document with different starting settings. 

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