Access Basics:

Title: Jan's Illustrated Computer Literacy 101
Did you want: Working with Databases: Access 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016

A form offers a friendlier way to view and edit records than a datasheet. The source of a form is where the records come from. The source can be a table, a query, a set of related tables, or a combination of tables and queries.

Examples below are from starwars.mdb.

Advantages of a Form

A well-designed form has several advantages over a datasheet.

  • Can show more fields at once. Much less scrolling!

  • Can show all of the text in a memo field, or at least several lines of text, and can break text into paragraphs.

  • Can have titles and comments on the form.

  • Can format different fields and their labels differently.

  • Images that are part of the records will display while they do not in a datasheet.

Form created with AutoForm

AutoForm creates a simple form with a vertical layout


Datasheet of records
Many fields are out of view to the right.

A datasheet has two advantages:

  • You can see many records at once.
  • You can select many records at once.

Both Form View and Datasheet View use the same navigation buttons at the bottom.

Where you are:
JegsWorks > Lessons > Databases

Before you start...

Project 1: Intro

Project 2: Access Basics Arrow: subtopic open
    InterfaceTo subtopics
    Getting StartedTo subtopics  
    Access Objects Arrow: subtopic open
    Icon: StepTable: Design View
    Icon: StepTable: Datasheet View
    Icon: StepManage a Table
    Icon: StepSort & Filter a Table
    Icon: StepQuery Wizard
    Icon: StepAutoForm
    Icon: StepAutoReport
    Icon: StepData Access Page
        About Printing
    Icon: StepPrint Objects
    RelationshipsTo subtopics
    ExercisesTo subtopics

Project 3: Tables & Queries

Project 4: Forms & Reports



Button: Views - Form (2003) Form View

In Form View you work with records.
You can:

  • View records
  • Navigate records
  • Sort, filter, or find records
  • Edit records
  • Add records
  • Select records
  • Copy or delete records

Form - labeledData is displayed on a form in various controls, each of which normally has a label.

The form header  and footer can hold a title or other information that you want to see with each record.

At the left of the controls is a bar that is the record selector. In the datasheet this bar is a small square. In a form it extends from the top to the bottom of the record. If you click on this bar, the whole record is selected.

What would you do with one or more selected records?
Copy or delete.
Why would you copy records?

  • To create a new record: If most of the data is the same, it could save some effort to copy and paste a record and then make a few changes to update the info.
  • Records in ExcelTo paste to a different program: If you copy the record and paste into another program like Word or Excel, the data will be displayed in set of rows and columns. The field names label the columns.

A form normally shows one record at a time. A well-designed form will arrange the fields so that as many as possible can be seen without having to scroll.

Form - continuous formsSome forms show records one after the other, called continuous forms.

This is only useful when a record does not have many fields to show. An arrow Arrow indicating current record in the record selector shows which record is the current one.

Button: Views - Datasheet (2003) Form Datasheet View

Datasheet viewUse Datasheet View when you need to see several records at once. Just open the list of views on the Views button and choose Datasheet View.

The datasheet shows the fields in the form, which may not be all of the fields in the source tables/queries.

Button: Views - Design View (2003) Form Design View

Form Design View - labeledIn the Form Design View you work with the source, layout, and behavior of the form, not the records themselves.

You can:

  • Choose which fields to use from which tables or queries
  • Choose the type of control for each field
  • Format all parts of the form
    • Choose a look for controls, labels, and other objects on the form
    • Arrange and size all parts
    • Choose fonts, font colors, font sizes
    • Choose background color or image
    • Add titles or other text
    • Add decorative lines and images
  • Assign responses to actions like clicking on a control or closing the form.

Toolbar: ToolboxThe Toolbox toolbar shows by default at the left of the window. It can also float. This toolbar has buttons for each of the types of controls that you can create while in Design View. The buttons are the same for Form and Report Design View. They are a little different for Page Design View.

Properties of formThe form and each of its parts has its own properties, which you can see in the Properties dialog. There are usually several tabs in this dialog, but the All tab lists all available properties. You will work with this dialog later.

Form Design View: controls and labelsBy default, the text in the label for a control is the name of the field. You can edit or even delete the labels without affecting the values that show up in the control.

What are the dots?
The background of the form in Design View has a lot of annoying dots and lines. They are there to help you get the controls and labels lined up neatly. The labels may be hard to read in this view!

When you click or TAB to a control to select it, handles (black squares) appear at the corners and the middle of each side. The illustration shows the UnitsInStock control after it has been selected. The upper left handle of the control UnitsInStock is bigger than the other handles. The label also got a single large handle at the upper left. These large handles are for moving the object. The smaller handles are for changing the width and height.

Quick Forms

Access provides two quick methods for creating a form: AutoForm and the Form Wizard. After creating a form, you can edit the form as you wish. Using one of these quick methods to get your form started can be a real time-saver.


button: New Object - AutoFormOn the toolbar is a button for New Objects. This button is not available unless you have a table or query open or selected in the Database Window. If you open the drop list of objects and choose AutoForm, then Access immediately creates a simple form based on the selected table or query.

Form By Wizard

Link: Create Form by using WizardThe link to the Form Wizard is in the Database Window, in the Forms list.

The wizard walks you through a number of choices for your form. You can choose:

  • Source for the data
  • Which fields to show
  • One of 6 layouts
  • One of 10 pre-installed styles plus any custom styles you created for colors and formatting
  • Form's title

In this lesson we will use the AutoForm. You will work with the Form Wizard later as well as learn how to create a form from scratch.

Icon Step-by-Step 

Step-by-Step: Create a Form with AutoForm

 Icon Step-by-Step

What you will learn:

to create a form with AutoForm
to navigate records & fields in a form
to use a form to add records
to create a hyperlink with display text
to use a form to edit records
to select a record in Form View
to copy a record and paste in Excel
to select/move a control in Design View
to resize a control in Design View

Start with: mytrips.mdb from previous lesson

Create a Form with AutoForm

A simple form is very easy to create with AutoForm. There are a number of things you could do to improve the layout, but for this lesson we mostly will settle for what Access provides. Later you will learn how to change all the characteristics of a form.

  1. Database Window: Trips selectedIf necessary, switch to the Database Window and select Tables.
    The only table is Trips, so it will be selected automatically. This table will be the source of records for the new form.
  2. Button: New Object - AutoFormOn the menu, click the arrow on the New Objects button and select  AutoForm . (Your button may show a different icon depending on what was used last.)
    The screen may blink and you may briefly see a minimized window at the bottom of your Access window while Access creates the form. Then the new form will open automatically to the first record.

Completed AutoForm

Trips form created with AutoForm
All fields in the Trips table are here and
use the default size for the control

Icon: TroubleRecords out of order or missing:
The form shows the records in the same way that the table does, including any sorting or filtering that you left in place.
Simple Solution:
(for AutoForms)
Close and delete the AutoForm. Open the table in Table Datasheet View, remove any filters, sort in the order that you want, save the table. Recreate your AutoForm.
Advanced Solution:
(for complex or formatted forms that you don't want to recreate)
Open the form in Form Design View. Open the Properties dialog for the form. Remove the entry in the OrderBy property.

Form View: Navigate Between Records

The form has the same Navigation Bar that datasheets have. You can also move through the records using the Page Up and Page Down keys on your keyboard. (The Home, End, and arrow keys move you between the controls on a form.)

  1. Click on each of the navigation buttons in the Navigation Bar at the bottom of the form window. Type in a record number.
     Navigation Bar - labeled
  2. If your mouse has a scroll wheel, turn the scroll wheel forward and back. You can flip through the records very quickly this way!
  3. Icon: Keyboard Press the Page Up and Page Down keys to navigate through the records.
  4. Use the method of your choice to return to the first record.

Form View: Navigate the Fields in a Record

It is awkward to switch back and forth between the mouse and the keyboard. So how do you change from field to field with the keys?

  1. Icon: KeyboardPress the TAB key to move through each field in the record until you change to the next record.
  2. Icon: Keyboard Use the key combo SHIFT + TAB to move backwards through the fields to the first field in the first record.

Alternate Method: The arrow keys also work, unless you are in Edit mode in a control. Then they move the insertion point around in the control. The Home key takes you to the first control in the Tab Order. The End key takes you to the last control in the Tab Order.

TipTab Order: In an AutoForm the tab order for the fields is easy to understand - straight down the one column of fields. That order can be changed. When you create a form  yourself, you must be careful that the tab order you wind up with is logical.

Form View: Add Record

Now that you can get around in the records, it's time to add some more records.

  1. Click on the Button: Navigate to new record New Record button on the Navigation bar.
    A blank record appears in the form.
  2. Type the following data into the appropriate fields. The memo fields will scroll when you reach the end of the space.
    TripName Ireland
    DateStarted 6/4/1992
    DateEnded 6/17/1992
    Description Took the girls with us to convention in Ireland. Toured western Ireland.
    Cost $2,000.00
    Travel Agent Jorge Martinez, World Travel Inc,
    Diary Arrived at Limerick airport. Rented a car. Hit the outside mirror on a dump truck before we got out of the airport! They drive on the left in Ireland. Terrifying!!

    As we drove, we kept seeing old ruined castles and abbeys. Beautiful scenery.

    Took the girls to see the Blarney stone. They kissed it. You have to bend over backwards!

    Had dinner at a restored medieval castle. Low doors, small rooms. Stone everywhere. Little furniture. They must not have had many clothes at all.


Form View: Create Hyperlink with Display Text

  1. In the PhotoLink control, type Ireland. It is formatted to look like a link, Ireland,  but clicking it won't take you anywhere. You need to edit the link.
  2. Right click on the PhotoLink control and choose  Hyperlink  and then  Edit Hyperlink . The Insert Hyperlink dialog appears. It does not matter what items show in the list of folders and files.
  3. Type or copy and paste the following URL into the Address box:

    Dialog: Insert Hyperlink

  4. Click on OK to close the dialog. The link Ireland looks the same.
  5. Hover the mouse pointer over the link Ireland. A popup tip shows the address that the link will take you to.

     Popup tip shows the address that a link will take you to

  6. Click in the Diary control and press the TAB key. The form changes to the next record, which is a new blank record.
  7. Enter the data below for yet another trip record.
    TripName Italy
    PhotoLink Use Italy as the Display Text
    Edit the hyperlink to use the URL below:
    DateStarted 5/11/2001
    DateEnded 5/21/2001
    Description Toured Rome and Pompeii and Venice.
    Cost $6000.00
    Travel Agent Hector Chavez, World Travel Inc,
    Diary Saw the Trivi Fountain, ate gelato (ice cream). Toured St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistene Chapel. Huge! Gorgeous now that most parts are restored.

    Pompeii was covered in volcanic ash for centuries. Many buildings have been excavated. Painted murals and mosaics abound.

    Venice has waterways for streets. Many tiny ones. Water taxis and gondolas. Did not ride a gondola. The water taxis are faster!

    Most people find that it is easier to enter data on a form than directly in a datasheet. What do you think?

Form View: Edit Record

Everyone makes mistakes when entering new records. Fingers do their own thing sometimes. Even after you have carefully entered the information, it can be wrong one day. People get new phone numbers or move. Postal codes and telephone area codes change. At least it is easy enough to edit an existing record.

  1. If necessary, switch to the record of the Italy trip.
     If you typed the information for the records accurately, you have a spelling error.
  2. In the Diary memo field, click in the word "Trivi" between the r and the i.
  3. Press the Delete key to remove the i.
  4. Now type an e,  so that the word reads Trevi.
    There are likely more errors in more records. Spell Check is a big help!
  5. Click on Button: Spell Check the Spell Check button.
    A dialog opens which will look for errors in all of the records.
  6. Dialog: Spell CheckCorrect all errors, including changing "Sistene" to Sistine .
    There are a number of corrections to make, if you typed what you were told to type before. Yes, there were deliberate errors included!!
    Some "errors" are not really errors, including "Saxman" and "cel".

Form View: Select Record

The record selector is much taller than in a datasheet since the fields are now arranged vertically instead of in a row.

  1. Switch to record #4, the Family reunion.
  2. AutoForm: selected recordClick on the Record Selector, the tall gray bar at the left of the form. The bar turns black, indicating that the whole record is selected.
    WarningBe careful what you do while a record is selected! Deleting a record cannot be undone.

Form View: Copy/Paste Record

The only reason to select a record is to do something with it! Deleting is easy. Just press the DELETE key. Copying and pasting are easy, but you must paste to the right kind of place - another table with the correct fields in the same order or to a blank document in another program, like a spreadsheet. Copy and paste is often the easiest way to move a small number of records between programs.

  1. Use the key combo CTRL + C to copy the record.
  2. Excel- pasted recordOpen Excel or another spreadsheet program, click in the first cell at the top and paste with the key combo CTRL + V.
    Quite a mess but easy to fix. The columns are all the same width so the memo fields make the row very tall.
  3. Close Excel without saving.
  4. Click somewhere in the background of the Trips form to deselect the record.

Form Design View: Select/Move Control

AutoForm has the controls and their labels neatly lined up in a single column. What if you want two columns or you don't want so much space between the label and the control? What if you delete a control and have a lot of blank space? You can move the controls and labels around to suit yourself!

A control and its label normally move together, but you can move them separately...  if you grab the correct handle.

  1. Click on Button: Views - Desoign (2003) the Views button, which currently shows the Design View icon.
    The Forms Design View opens. The window is the same size as the Form View window.

    Form Design View

    Each control in this form is a text box containing a field. In other forms a control might be calculated.

    There are many kinds of controls. Each type has a default size that you may want to change.

    Each control has a label to its left. By default the label is the name of the field.

    The Form Design View does not show actual data. You will have to guess about the new widths that you want!

  2. Photo link control selectedClick on the control for PhotoLink (the text box where you would enter data).
    Handles appear at the corners and middles of each side.
    The upper left corner of the text box and of its label each have a larger square box handle. The text box is the item that is selected. The label is along for the ride this time.
  3. Photo link control - move handleMove the control and NOT the label:
    Move the mouse pointer until it is over the large handle on the PhotoLink text box. The pointer changes to Pointer: Move (Pointing Hand) a pointing hand.
  4. Drag to the right but do not release the mouse button.
    An outline of the text box shifts as you drag to show you where it will be if you let go of the mouse to drop the box. The label did NOT move!
  5. Press the ESC key. The text box returns to its original location.

    Icon: TroubleProblem: You accidentally moved the control.
    If you released the mouse button while dragging, then the box actually moved to the new location. Solution: Click the Undo button to return it to the original location.
  6. Pointer as open hand means you can moveMove both the control AND its label with mouse:
    the mouse pointer until it is over the bottom edge of the PhotoLink text box. The pointer shape changes to Pointer: Move object and label (Open Hand) the open hand shape.
  7. Drag to the right again. The text box AND its label move as you drag.
  8. Press the ESC key to return the control to its original location.
  9. Icon: Keyboard Move both the control AND its label with keyboard:
    While the control is selected, press an arrow key on the keyboard. The control and its label move!
    Practice with these keys but for less than 20 moves.
    WarningUndo only remembers 20 actions. Each time you press an arrow key counts as a separate action in the Undo list. They add up to 20 quickly!
    TipHow far the control moves with the arrow keys:
    If Snap to Grid is on, then the control moves to the next grid position. If it is off, the control moves one pixel. (A pixel is the smallest dot on a screen.)
  10. Click on Button: Undo the Undo button to return the label to its original location.
    Icon: TroubleProblem: Undo does not get the control back to the original position
    You have done more than 20 actions.
    Solution: You will have to position the control yourself by dragging or with the arrow keys.
  11. Pointer is over handle for the label for the text boxMove the label and not the text box:
    the mouse pointer until it is over the large handle on the label. The pointer changes to Pointer: Move (Pointing Hand) a pointing hand.
  12. Label has been movedDrag to the right until the label is next to the PhotoLink text box and drop.
  13. Click on Button: Undo the Undo button to return the label to its original location.

Form Design View: Change Size of Control

You probably noticed that the TripID text box is much wider than necessary. Changing the width is an easy adjustment in Form Design View. We will wait on anything fancier for a later lesson.

  1. Resize the text box:
    Form Design View: Trips autoform: TripID box - pointer in resize shapeMove
    the mouse pointer over the handle in the middle of the right side of the text box. The pointer changes to Pointer: Resize Horizontal the Horizontal Resize shape.
  2. Form Design View: Trips autoform: TripID in new sizeDrag to the left until the right edge of the text box is at the 1.75 mark on the ruler.
  3. Release the mouse button. The text box resizes. TaDa!
  4. Dialog: Save AsClass disk Click on Button: Save the Save button. Since the form has not been saved yet, a Save As dialog appears.
  5. Type Trips AutoForm as the form's name and click on OK.
    Tip This Save As dialog is not like the one you use in programs like Word and Excel. That is because you are saving your form inside the database file, not as a separate file.
  6. Form View: Trips AutoFormClick on the Views button, which currently shows the Forms icon, to return to Form View.
    The form shows the new size for the TripID control. It should be wide enough for a lifetime of trips!
  7. Return to Design View and experiment with moving and resizing the controls. Can you come up with a better arrangement of the fields?
  8. Class disk Save the form with a new name and close it.

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Last updated: 30 Apr 2012