How to Use General Microsoft Office Downloads with Office:Mac

Article contributed by John McGhie

Most templates offered on the Microsoft Office for PC download site can be used with Microsoft Office for Macintosh.  However, on the Mac, we have to install them manually.  This article tells you how.  (The website installs them automatically on a PC running PC Office).  This article has been updated to work around a bug in Stuffit running on Intel Macs.

Obviously the best place to start is Mactopia [Lene Fredborg, 11-Feb-2018: Removed outdated link to]. The templates offered there are the most popular Microsoft Office templates, re-engineered to work with no issues on your Mac.

However, if the template you want is not among them, look on the general Office templates page. Almost every imaginable template that you can obtain without payment is there.

Right:  Let’s cover a few ground rules before we get started:

First, Catch Your Rabbit

No, Mrs. Beeton [Lene Fredborg, 2-Sep-2022: Removed outdated link] didn’t say it in her celebrated recipe for rabbit stew, but I will.  Spend some time looking around before choosing.  The Office site is huge.  Stick to templates produced for the programs you own, and you will have a much higher chance of success: anything written for Word, Excel or PowerPoint is very likely to work.  Anything written for Access, OneNote, InfoPath, Project, Publisher or Visio just won’t.

In Word, be careful of anything that promises a “booklet”.  Word 2003 has a booklet function we do not have on the Mac.

Also, for non-US users, remember that most templates are in US Letter. When you change page size to A4, some template features will be thrown off (such as the perforation lines for business card templates), so be prepared to make adjustments.

Download it

When you find one you think might be suitable, click the Download Now button.

If all goes well, you will see the Your operating system does not meet system requirements error page.

That’s a good result!  That page was placed there specifically at the request of us Mac Addicts, to explain what to do next.  The rest of this article gives you the same explanation with a little more detail.

Click the Download Now button on that page.

Opening the CAB

You will download a file whose name consists entirely of a number and which has the extension .cab.  A .cab is a Microsoft “cabinet” file: essentially it’s a Zipped folder structure with the ability to store longer file names.

Depending on your version of Mac OS, the built-in Zip utility may not be able to open it, but  there are programs that can.  If you are on a Power PC-version Mac (A G3 or a G4 or a G5...) then Stuffit Expander will do the trick.  If you have an Intel-processor Mac, Stuffit has a bug that may prevent it.  Only one way to find out...

  1. If your browser is correctly set up, it will leave the file in your Downloads folder with a subfolder above it containing the unpacked content.
  2. If you can’t find it, start Stuffit and drag the .cab onto it.
  3. Stuffit will either issue an error message, or it will leave a folder containing the template in the same folder as the .cab file.  If you get an "Error 17540" from Stuffit, that means "Can't understand the format" and the extracted template file will not be useable.

If this happens to you:

  1. Download File Juicer, install it, and run it. 
  2. It  will open a window onto which you drag the .cab file.
  3. File Juicer will then show you the folder structure inside the .cab. 
  4. In one of the folders inside (the name varies a little) you will find a name like ""
  5. Change the extension simply to .dot, or Word is going to get a little confused.
  6. Manually drag the .dot file to one of your Templates folders.
  7. Send an angry email to Stuffit telling them they stuffed it...
  8. Send 10 Euros to the nice man at File Juicer.
  9. Your template is now available for use in Mac Office.

What’s Inside?

Usually, the .cab will contain a single file, and often it will be a template for the application you chose.  So if you chose Word, it will contain a .dot, if you chose Excel it will contain an .xlt and if you chose PowerPoint there will be a .pot.

Sometimes, the CAB will contain more than one file. Here’s where you may need a little determination to try things out.

Save As to Finish

If all went well, the file will open.  It may appear to be entirely blank (its only content may be hidden macro code).  Don’t worry about that: simply Save As.

  1. Go to the File Menu and choose Save As.
  2. Replace the numeric file name with something you recognise.
  3. Leave the extension the way your application has set it, and do not change the Format setting.
  4. Check the Append File Extension checkbox if it wasn’t checked already, and ignore any “Compatibility Warnings” that you may get.
  5. Word will allow you to save the file in only one place: which is just as well, because if you save it anywhere else, you won’t be able to use it.
  6. Click OK, Allow the save to complete, and close the window (on the computer, silly!).

Did it Work?

  1. Now:  Try File>Project Gallery>…
  2. All going well, the file you just installed will appear in your My Templates folder.
  3. Create a new document from it, and you should get all of the advertised text and functionality.
  4. You may see a “This File Contains Macros” warning.  If you do, that’s good. That’s one of the main reasons for using templates: they are the place Office stores macros.  Say OK and the macros should work to give you the functionality you wanted.
  5. The majority of the templates offered for download don’t have any macros in them, and you won’t get any problems at all.
  6. You’re done. Go do your work. The rest of this article is for the unfortunate few!

What if it Didn’t Work?

Here’s where you may get problems: When you say OK to the Macros dialog, Word or the other Office application you are using will try to compile the macro the template contains.  That’s when you may find out that the macro is not compatible with the Mac.

The other time you may find out is when you try to use the macro.  Some errors will occur only when the macro tries to run (e.g. the macro works perfectly, but it’s trying to find a file using a Windows file location…)

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