Project 4: Forms & Reports
Designing Forms

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

Designing a good form requires that you know how your users will be using the form. Are they entering data? Are they selecting among choices? Seeing read-only data?

Form Design Goals

  • Easy for user to enter data
    • Order of fields matches order of raw data
    • Fields are clearly labeled
    • Choices are clear
    • Tab order matches order of data entry
      (using the TAB key to move through controls)
  • Prevent data entry errors 
    • Use validation rules for fields and for the form
    • Use Input masks
    • Use Option groups or Lookup lists
  • Form is readable on screen
    • Form fits inside screen width
    • Fonts, colors, backgrounds create readable data and labels
    • Data to enter is clearly different from calculated values
    • Preferred: No vertical scrolling needed
  •  Form is readable when printed
    • Form fits in page width
    • Text is large enough
    • Backgrounds and colors contrast well in print, both in color and in grey scale

For some of the above, you may have to guess. For example, your choice of colors depends on whether your users have color printers or just black/white. Your choice of form width/height depends on the screen resolution you expect your users to use and on the size of the paper they will print on. Many monitors still use 800 x 600 though new monitors can display crisp text at much larger resolutions. Letter size paper is most common in the USA but many countries use A4 instead, which is narrower and taller. Opportunities for problems abound!

Where you are:
JegsWorks > Lessons > Databases

Before you start...

Project 1: Intro

Project 2: Access Basics

Project 3: Tables & Queries

Project 4: Forms & Reports
    Import/Export/LinkTo subtopics
    Designing Forms Arrow: subtopic open
    Icon: StepForm Wizard
    Icon: StepControls
    Icon: StepCreate Form Manually
    Icon: StepFormat Form
    Icon: StepTab Control
    Icon: StepForm View
        Images in Forms & Reports
    Icon: StepForm Images
    Icon: StepRecord Images
    Icon: StepPrintable Form
    Designing ReportsTo subtopics
    Special Forms & ReportsTo subtopics
    ExercisesTo subtopics


Uses for Forms

There are several different types of forms that are useful in a database.

  • Data entry/editing
  • Data display (read-only)
  • Switchboard
  • Custom dialog

Example: FormData entry/editing:  A form for entering or editing data is what we usually think of as a "form". A good form arranges the fields neatly so that you can see them without having to scroll sideways as you usually must do in Datasheet View. You control the order of the fields on the form and can include directions for how to fill it out.

Data display only: A form can be used to just show the data and not let the viewer make changes. It's not a lot of trouble to create such a form. You can just copy a data-entry form and make a few changes to disallow data changes.


Example: Switchboard formSwitchboard: Switchboards are forms that let you choose one of several forms, reports, or actions. When you know what the users need to do regularly, a switchboard form can present those choices handily.
(This type will be discussed under Special Forms and Reports.)

Example: Dialog FormCustom Dialog: When your form or report has several parameters, it is useful to create a form where the user can enter them all in a single place, instead of one at a time. Such a form can also remind users of important information or choices, without cluttering up the original form.
(This type will be discussed under Special Forms and Reports.)

TipMost dialogs and message boxes are modal popup forms, meaning that the user cannot switch to another window until taking an action (make a selection, click a button, enter text, close the form). It is frustrating when you do not realize what is happening!


In Access 2002 and 2003 the list of actions that you can undo/redo is limited to 20. That is not very many actions once you start formatting a form or report!

Properties Dialog

Dialog: PropertiesThe Properties dialog lets you take full control of how your form and all its parts look and how they behave. Some properties can be controlled only from this dialog. You normally work with this dialog in Design View.

Each control on the form, each section of the form, and the form as a whole have their own properties. The dialog automatically changes to show the properties of the selected object. You can also open the list at the top of the dialog and select the object you want to work with.

What's on the tabs:

Different objects will have different properties and show different tabs.

All tab: Every object has an All tab in the Properties dialog, which lists all of the available properties. There are usually other tabs that show only properties related to that topic.

Format tab: The properties for how the object looks and displays are here. You will see properties like Width, Scrollbars, Font, Font Size, Can Grow, Can Shrink, Back Color, Special Effect.

Data tab: These properties are about the data, what you can do with it, and where it comes from. You will see properties like Control Source, Input Mask, Validation Rule, Enabled, Allow Filters, Allow Edits.

Event tab: These properties are about what happens in response to an event, like a mouse click or entering new data or exiting a control. There are MANY possible events. You tell Access what you want to happen by writing programming code.

Other tab: Properties that don't fit the other tabs show up on the Other tab. You will see properties like Name, Status Bar Text, Tab Stop, Cycle, and Pop Up.

Dialog: Properties for form in Form ViewProperties from Form View:
You can also view the Properties dialog while you are in Form View, but not all properties will show. You can change some properties while in Form View but for others you must switch to Form Design View. There is no drop list at the top of the dialog when you are in Form View and you cannot make multiple selections.

Help on Properties

Help: Record Source PropertyThe F1 key brings up a Help topic for the property that the insertion point is in.

Such articles explain more than you probably want to know!

An article includes what the property is good for, what kinds of objects it applies to, and what values are acceptable. This information is actually helpful! The examples are not as helpful since they are examples of programming code to use to manage the property.