Microsoft Word - forms

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About Microsoft Word Forms

The use of fill-in forms is one of the more useful features in Microsoft Word.

Once upon a time we had to fill in forms with a pen, but nowadays nobody wants to spend the time printing forms and dealing with old-fashion postage (especially if it involves walking to the post-office). People nowadays prefer to fill in forms electronically - preferably using online forms. Since an online form is overkill in many situations (not to mention that it typically requires web hosting and a fair about of knowledge to create), e-mailing a fill-in form made in Microsoft Word form is a nice alternative.

When a person receives this "MS Word form" in their inbox their instincts might be to print it and fax it back... but if prompted with instructions it's typically easier to save the form to their computer, open it, enter text into the "special form fields" (this is the only part they can edit), save it again and then e-mail it back. Here I will just discuss the basics of creating such a form.

How to turn your Word Document into a Form

  • Start a new document, and create the layout for your form. I find the neatest best way to do this is using tables, but you could also use frames or just create big underlined/boxed regions where you want the user to enter data.
  • Open the Forms toolbar by going: View >> Toolbars >> Forms.
  • For each spot the user is suppose to enter data: select the spot with the cursor, and then click "Text form field" on the Form toolbar. You can then double click these, give them a name ("txtName", "txtAddress" etc is the format I use), default value, help text, maximum length. and so on.
  • The tricky thing is that while MOST people will prefer to fill it out electronically, others may opt to print it out and use a pen - and hence you will need enough space for people to write answers. To account for this I find the easiest technique is by inserting 1x1 tables (use the "draw tables" mode if you want), and adding each "field" inside one of these cells - you can then drag and resize the table to where you want (although this is often a bit fiddley). By doing this people can easily where they have to enter answers belong and if they type too much text the table will usually just expand down.
  • At this stage you should save the document as MyForm.doc before testing it out.
  • To "test" the form click the "Protect form" icon on the Forms toolbar... and you'll notice you can only select and fill out the form fields. This is what the users of the forms will see, and by entering dummy information you'll quickly work out any problems.
  • Click "Protect form" again to change the form, and keep testing it until you happy.
  • Print out a copy and make sure the user has sufficient room to hand-write answers (for people that prefer fax to e-mail - or if they require a signature).
  • Before e-mailing the form make sure you "Protect form" is selected - and I would recommend you also leave "Form field shading" selected (don't worry, this shading won't appear when you print - it's just to help the user see where to enter info).
  • Close the Form toolbar and save the form (as an ordinary .doc file) in its locked state.
  • E-mail the form to your recipients as an attachment and make sure you have included instructions how to send it back.
  • Wait for replies.  :-)

How to fill in a MS Word Form

  • Save the file to your desktop.
  • Open the "form"... fill in each field and use either the arrow keys or mouse to progress though each field.
  • Save the file (with your information in it) and then e-mail it back.