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Forms are essential objects in a database and serve as windows through which people see and reach your data. If you have ever wanted to get a holistic understanding about basics of Microsoft Access forms, like what types of forms are available, how to create, customize, and manage them, this article gives you a roundup of resources to help you understand this picture.

In this article


A form is a database object that you can use to create a user interface that allows users to enter and edit your data. Forms often contain controls that perform various tasks. Though you can create a database without using forms by simply editing your data in the table most users prefer to use forms for viewing, entering, and editing data contained in the tables. Forms also allow you to control how other users interact with the data in the database. For example, you can create a form that shows only certain fields and allows only certain operations to be performed. This helps to protect data and reduce possible errors in data entry. This article provides you with a roundup of resources ranging from the basics of Access forms to creating and customizing the forms.

A great way to understand the role and function of forms in your Microsoft Access database is to start with an overview of the different parts of a database and the role of forms in a database to learn more, start from a view of the Database basics..

Next, let’s focus on forms with Introduction to forms.

Before you create a form, take a closer look at controls, an essential feature of most forms. Controls allow users to enter, edit, or display data from your database. Knowing about the different types of controls available in Access can be helpful when customizing your forms. To learn more about controls, see Introduction to controls.

Types of forms

Access offers you several ways to create forms depending on what type of form you want to create. Learn about some common types of forms and how to create them:

What type of form do you need?

Learn more

Detail form: A blank Access form that displays information about one record at a time.

Introduction to forms

Multiple Items form: Also known as a continuous form, displays information from more than one record at a time. Looks like a datasheet but gives you more control over things like text formatting, adding graphics, buttons, and other controls

Create a form by using the Multiple Items tool

Split form: Simultaneously displays the data in the Form view and Datasheet view. Useful when you need to view large amounts of data but only need to change one record at a time.

Create a split form

Navigation form: A form that contains a Navigation Control. Navigation forms are particularly important for navigating your database if your plan includes publishing the database to the Web, because the Access Navigation Pane is not available in a browser

Create a navigation form

Additional ways to create a form

Use the Create tab and try the options in the Forms group to quickly create new forms. You can also select a table or query in the Navigation Pane, and quickly create a new form based on that object by using the Form command.

Take a look at the resources in the following table to learn about some common ways of creating forms:

Methods for creating forms

Learn how to

Form tool: To quickly create a single item form that displays information about one record at a time.

Create a form by using the Form tool

Form Wizard: Use this tool to create a form when you want to be more selective about which fields appear on the form. Also lets you define how the data is grouped and sorted.

Create a form by using the Form Wizard

Blank form:If the form tool or the wizard doesn't meet your needs, the Blank form tool offers a very quick way to build a form, especially if you plan to add only a few fields on your form

See the section on creating a form by using the Blank form tool in the article Introduction to forms.

Using different views for forms

As you have already learned from some of the articles mentioned in the previous sections, Access forms can be viewed in three different views, the Form view, Design view, and the Layout view. Knowing which view to use for a specific task can be useful. For example, you can use either the Design or Layout view to customize a form. The Form view is the default view for a form and is mostly used to view a form with the data or to enter data. Since the Layout and Design views are used for making design changes to a form, see the resources in the following table for more information on using these views:

Type of view

Used for

Learn more

Layout view

Making most types of changes to a form. You can see the data as you modify the design, which is very useful when setting the size of controls or any other design changes that affects the appearance and usability of the form.

Design view

Making changes that require a more detailed view of the form’s structure such as, the Header, Detail, and Footer sections. You cannot see the underlying data when making design the Design view.

What’s good about using the Design view?

  • Possibility to add a wider variety of controls such as, bound object frames, page breaks, and charts.

  • Edit text box control sources without using the property sheet.

  • Resize form sections.

Change certain form properties that cannot be changed in Layout view

Which view should I use: Layout view or Design view?

Doing more with forms

Now that you have designed the structure of your form, if it is a bound form you’ll want it connected to a data source. A data sources can be a table, query, or SQL statement that contains the data displayed on the form. An "unbound" form does not link directly to a data source, but contains command buttons, labels, or other controls that you need to operate your application. To understand how to work with record sources, see: Set the record source for a form or report.

A visually attractive form makes working with the database more pleasant and more efficient, and it can also help prevent incorrect data from being entered. When you want to go beyond creating a basic form to adding some custom touches, and making it uniquely yours, Access offers you several ways to achieve this. Some options may require practice before you get the design to look just as you intended but, if you don’t like a design, changing it is always possible.

The following table presents resources for taking your form to the next step of adding fields and customizing it:

What do you want to do?

Learn how to

Quickly add fields to a form

Add a field to a form or report

Make my form appear more organized, reduce the clutter, and make it easier to work with.

Create a tabbed form

Specify the order in which the controls on my form respond to the TAB key. On a well-designed form, the controls respond to the TAB key in a logical order — for example, from top to bottom and from left to right — so that the form is easier to use.

Set the tab order for controls

Create a subform or a form nested in a main form.

Subforms are useful for viewing data from multiple related tables or queries within the same form.

Create a form that contains a subform (a one-to-many form)

Make certain fields and data in my form more prominent.

Video: Use conditional formatting on reports

Set design options for all forms in my database.

Customize design settings for objects in your database

Add a text box control that displays a value from another form.

Can be used to display results from a subform that contains a calculated text box on the main form.

Create a control that references a control on another form

Working with forms on a Web database

Web database form options

Learn how to

A navigation form is simply a form that contains a Navigation Control. Navigation forms are a great addition to any database, but creating a navigation form is particularly important if you plan to publish a database to the Web, because the Access Navigation Pane does not display in a browser.

Create a navigation form

Access 2010 includes a Web Browser Control that you can use to display Web pages on a form

Add Web browsing to a form

Some next steps

Try some of these features on your forms:

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