Setting the Office Theme using Group Policy

Updated Office 2013 Administrative Template files allow you to set the theme using Group Policy. This post comes courtesy of our resident Office compatibility and deployment expert, Curtis Sawin.


Just last week, the Office 2013 Administrative Templates were updated. The new templates include a new policy setting that allows you to set the default Office theme for your users. With this new policy setting, you can provide a default experience for your users while still allowing each user to customize their theme. For example, if an end-user has already changed their theme, their setting will take precedence over a theme that is applied via Group Policy.

In the Group Policy Editor, you can find this setting under:

User Configuration | Administrative Templates | Office 2013 | Global Options | Customize



To enable this setting, you must download the new ADMX files and import them in your environment, and ensure that the update found at is installed on client machines. For Office 365 ProPlus, this update is included in the August 2013 update, build 15.0.4517.1509 and later. Without the hotfix or the required build, this Group Policy setting will not have any effect.





Comments (11)
  1. Setting the Office Theme using Group Policy

  2. Jen Jewell says:

    Here is only 3 default themes… How we can use more different themes if it possible….

  3. Steve says:

    Is there a more comprehensive article on the changes that have been made to the ADMX and OPAX files than just this setting?

  4. Hi Steve, we do have a list of many new settings for Office 2013 here:…/cc178992.aspx

  5. Robert says:

    The main problem here is that when we install Office 2013, people will run it before they get all the updates, including the one that enables a default them. I assume once they've run Office, the default setting will be moot. Is this not the case?

  6. sunny says:

    Dark gray theme not enough! Office 2013 is still too bright.Microsoft, fix your office!!!!!

  7. L.Hernandez says:

    Curtis, please tell us why you think this particular group policy is useful? As the adage goes, SELL BENEFITS, not features. I have trouble coming up with a use case for this unless additional themes are being implemented by Microsoft in the near future (in which case, yes a dark grey theme that actually has a level of contrast that works for anyone over the age of 40 is desperately needed)

  8. hassan […] what if one of your computers only runs windows 8 normal and they have disabled secpol unless u pay 149 for the pro-pack? this alone is bs. but i want to be able to run my office in black (inverted everything but the page)

  9. amjad moghul says:

    The FORCED nature of Microsoft is very unappreciated, where they want you to conform to their new ideas, even though most of us worked very well with the menu systems in Office Pre 2010. They then forced you to use their ribbons, with no option to go back
    to the menu system where at least you cound find everything.

    Now its this stupid flat look, which is more annoying than anything. WHY DONT YOU GIVE THE USER THE OPTIONS Microsoft? I refused to upgrade to the 2013 office suite, and I see that the 2016 suite is in the similar look – just like the Windows8 flat colour tiles.

    There is a reason why your products are not selling – and its to do with forcing the user to change their ways, after umpteen years of doing it perfectly well the original way

  10. Donna Purcell says:

    I am so annoyed and disappointed with 2013 office suite – the interface is absolutely positively boring, dull, annoying, can't work with all this white space. Ok, so I can change the interface to some shade of boring gray, but then close the program and
    it goes away so have to apply the interface change every time I open any of the programs…this is the most annoying thing ever…along with the fact I paid for this suite for a whole year…but…find myself using previous version…that's how bad 2013 version
    is. Microsoft, you remind me of Coke when they changed their original recipe and the public let them know it was a bad idea and guess what, they listened and came back with the original recipe in Coke Classic. Come on Microsoft, put the interface back the
    way it was! Or give us the option to change it and it stays until changed again. Come on Microsoft, you can do it. Please 🙂

  11. I find that setting the theme with GPO is not working as expected. I’ve tried to both delete everything in HKCUsoftwareoffice and even deleting the whole userprofile – but when Word is launched for the first time, the theme starts out right, but within
    5 sounds it is changed to white 🙁

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