File to download: User Application Form.docx
Microsoft Word offers some basic features to build electronic forms. However, those features are not robust enough and a few of them are not very efficient to use (e.g. the drop-down menu). The look of the forms is not very professional unless you combine the form features with the table borders.
To start using the form features, you need to make sure you have the “Developer” tab on your ribbon. If you don’t have it, please follow the below steps to add it.
Step 1: Click “File” tab on the ribbon.
Step 2: Click “Option” icon.
Step 3: Choose the “Customize Ribbon” and mark the “Developer” box in the “Main Tab” box.
Step 4: Click “OK” button to confirm your choice.
Now you should be able to see the “Developer” tab on the ribbon.
Most of the form fields can be created by the “Content Controls” in the Developer tab. The Content Controls are new additions to Microsoft Office Suite 2007 or newer versions. For older version of Microsoft Office Suite, you have what now Microsoft calls “Legacy Forms” control (which includes the “ActiveX Controls”). I found that it is sufficient to use the just the “Content Controls” to create electronic forms without resorting to use the Legacy Forms and ActiveX Controls.
There are two items (Combo Box and Drop-Down List) that look pretty similar for most people. The difference is subtle. A Combo Box is a combination of a drop-down list and a single-line textbox, allowing the user to either type a value directly into the control or choose from the list of existing options. If this explanation is not clear to you, I recommend to using the Drop-Down List Content Control only. It is easier and requires less input parameters.
I will only cover a few of more frequently used Content Controls in this article. I will let the readers explore other Content Controls by themselves.
To make the form looks more professional, I first create a table (Insert → Table → Select 1 row and 3 columns). Then I start typing in the field name (First Name, Middle Name, Last Name) in each table box. Afterwards, I insert the input field by using Plain Text Content Control (Developer → Design Mode → Aa). The input field will show up as "Click here to enter the text" with two thick brackets on both ends. You can change the word to “Click here to enter your First Name” or anything you think is more meaningful.
When you move to the next line, you can insert another row of the table by using the Insert → Table → Insert Table.. and choose 2 columns and 1 row. Put in Employee ID and Department. Since there are only a few choices of department, we can create a drop-down menu for the employee to choose. So we click the Drop-Down List Content Control.
After you insert the Drop-Down List Content Control, please click the “Properties” button to display the “Content Control Properties” screen where you can add the selections for the Drop-Down List.
You have to add the selections of the Drop-Down List one-by-one through the “Content Control Properties” screen. I could be wrong on this but there seems to be no way to import a list. So if you want to input 50 states of the US, you need to manually input them one by one. That is why I think the form features in Microsoft are not very efficient to use.
When you are done with the inputting, you can click the “Design Mode” to see how it looks like on the form. Please note that the “Design Mode” button is a toggle button. The first time you click will put you to the “Design” mode. The second time you click will put you to “Normal” mode.
Next we want to list all the applications to be installed for the employee. We first type in the instructions. For the next line, we want to split the table into 3 columns. So we can right click the mouse and choose the “Split Cells..” command. This time we choose 3 columns and 3 rows.
Position the cursor to where you want to insert a check box and then click the “Check Box Content Control” to insert a check box. I recommend to typing up the list before you insert the check boxes.
Insert the “Date Picker Content Control” to allow users to pick a date from a calendar.
When the form is completed, you can click the “Design Mode” button again and see how the form looks like.
To protect the form from being accidentally changed by the users, click the “Restrict Editing”, select the “Filling in forms” option under the “Editing restrictions”. Click the “Yes, Start Enforcing Protection” button and the “Start Enforcing Protection” screen will pop up and prompt you for a password. Please type in a password and the click “OK” button to confirm the selections. You can always un-protect your form later if you need to edit the items later, provided that you remember the password.
You can further format the table by using the below ways to make your form look more professional.
Below is the completed form. Click here to download the form.
You can download some form samples from Microsoft Online Template website (http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates).