Word Fantastic Feature: Creating Forms using Interactive Controls
The ability to create customized, interactive forms to collect data is a powerful, but often underutilized feature of Word. In this blog, we will discuss how to create electronic forms using form controls such as text content, drop-down list, and check box. In addition, you will learn how to protect the form and collect data.
In order to work with Forms you must first enable the Developer tab. To do this:
- Click File, then Options.
- Next, choose the Customize Ribbon category.
- Then, check Developer in the right pane.
- Click OK to apply the change.
Creating a Basic Form
First, create a table and layout the basic structure of your form—merge and split cells as necessary and apply desired styles. Be sure to save the file as a template. An example is below:
Inserting Form Controls
Next, you will add some form field controls that will allow the users to interact with the form in an electronic format. Controls are objects that make it easier for users to enter data or make a selection.
You can locate basic form controls in the Controls group of the Developer tab. You will notice that there are different categories of controls: Content controls, Legacy controls, and Active X controls (the latter two accessed by clicking the briefcase icon).
Each category type has its advantages and disadvantages and you should choose the category type depending on your purpose for using the form. Microsoft added Content Controls in 2007 but there remains much to praise about the old Legacy Form fields.
- Content controls are best if you only intend to print or save the entire form. There are several types of controls available in this category allowing your form to be the most dynamic and robust.
- Legacy controls are best if you intend to collect data from the form in a text-delimited file. They work only when you protect the document. Other advantages include easy tabbing between fields and shading of editable fields.
- ActiveX controls are best for webpages and they require macros in order to operate.
Let us take a quick look a few common and popular controls:
Inserts a text box control, where users can enter data.
Inserts a checkbox, where users can specify one or more conditions.
Inserts a drop-down list, where users can pick from a drop-down menu.
NOTE: We will be using Legacy form controls for the remainder of this blog article.
To insert a control:
- First, place your cursor where you want the control to appear.
- Then, click the desired icon in the Controls group of the Developer tab. The control will appear in the form.
The Legacy Tools menu contains a command to toggle shading on or off for all fields.
To remove a control, select it and then press the Delete key on your keyboard.
Form Field Options
In the case of many controls, the control is ready to go. However, if you insert a customizable item such as a drop-down list for example, you will need to tell Word what sort of content it will contain.
To set field options:
- Click the control to select it and click Developer, then Properties.
- The appropriate Properties dialog box will open and you can modify various aspects of the control as needed.
- For example, adding desired values for a drop-down list (as shown below).
- Dialog options may differ depending on what category and type of control you selected.
- Click OK to save your changes.
Protecting a Form
It is recommend that you protect the form from editing by users and limit them only to the portions that need to be completed. This is also required for Legacy forms in order for them to work.To protect a form:
- Click Developer, and then Restrict Editing.
- From the Restrict Editing task pane, check the second box and choose “Filling in forms” from the drop-down menu.
- Then click Yes, Start Enforcing Protection.
- From the dialog box that appears, you can choose to protect the form using a password, which is highly recommended. However, passwords are not required; simply leave the password fields blank.
- Click OK.
To stop protecting the form, click Stop Protection. Then, enter the password (if applicable).
An alternative option (especially for Content controls) is to select a text range and then click the Group button. This locks the text range, except in regions that contain editable content controls.
Saving Form Data
After a user completes the form, it is important to determine how the form data will be stored. There are several options to consider:
- Resave the Template File as a Word Document
- Save Form Data as a Text File
- Open/Import in Excel
- Link to a Database
Of course, people can use Word to fill out the form on their computer and then just print it too!
To resave the template file as a word document:
- Click File-Save As-Browse.
- Change the file type to .docx.
- Add the user’s initials in the file name.
To save form data as plain text:
- Click File-Save As-Browse.
- Then, in the Save As dialog, click Tools and then Save Options.
- Click the Advanced category and check “Save form data as delimited text file.”
- Click OK.
- At the Save As dialog, choose the file name, location, and file type (if not done in
Step #2). Ensure that the file type is set to plain text and click Save.
- At the File Conversion dialog box, confirm that the data preview looks correct and set any advanced options.
- Click OK.
When you open the plain text file that contains your form data, the information is in fields separated by a delimiter such as a comma. Most of the data should be quite readable. You will see checkboxes indicated as “1” for Yes and “0” for no.
To Open/Import in Excel:
Word extracts the form data typed into the form and saves the data as a .txt file as described in the above steps. Word inserts commas between the fields and Excel uses the commas to separate the data into cells.
- Open Excel and browse for the .txt file. You may have to change the file type to All Files.
- In Step 1 of the Text Import Wizard, select Delimited. Click Next.
- In Step 2, choose comma as the delimiter type. Click Next.
- In Step 3, click Finish.
To import several .txt files into a master Excel file, go to Data—Get External Data—From Text. Complete Steps 1-3 above. Finally, choose what cell should be the destination cell for the imported data.
To link to a database:
To automatically transfer data, after the form is completed, you can link the form to a database. The process for doing this requires advanced Access and Visual Basic knowledge and is beyond the scope of this blog article. Please work with your Database Administrator to setup.
For more information about these and similar features, take a Word Class from Centriq. For course descriptions and dates, see our website at http://www.centriq.com/corporate/class-schedule/?q=Word.
This is the first blog article in a four-part Word series. Be sure to watch for future blog articles in this Word series. The next topic will feature Terrific Tips and then Awesome Add-ins and finally Outstanding Options. Also plan to attend a free Word Lunch and Learn on Wednesday, January 10. We will feature live demonstrations of all of the items covered during this Word blog series. If you would like to attend, CLICK HERE to register.
In addition, if you would like more information about Word or other training classes available, contact a Centriq Training Advisor online or at 913.322.7062 for assistance.