Simple Strategies for Access Form Designers

Posted by: Avantix Learning Team

Published: February 8, 2016

Applies to: Microsoft® Access® 2010 (also applies to 2013 and 2016)

Objects on a form or report in Microsoft Access are called controls. You’ll save a lot of time if you can select, move and format controls quickly and easily.

Recommended article: 10 Timesaving Shortcuts in Microsoft Access

1. Use themes for formatting

Instead of selecting controls and formatting by manually changing fonts and colors, consider using themes instead. Themes consist of fonts and colors and are applied to the entire form. You can achieve a consistent look across you database if you use themes for both forms and reports.

To apply a theme:

  1. In Design View, click on the Design tab on the Ribbon.
  2. Click on Themes. A menu appears.
  3. Select a theme (overall theme) or a color theme or font theme.

Choosing a theme in Microsoft Access using Themes button.

2. Remove controls from control layouts

Microsoft introduced control layouts in Access 2007. Objects in a control layout can only be moved within a control layout which can be frustrating for some Access users.

Below are controls in a control layout. Notice the icon on the top left.

Sample of a control layout in Microsoft Access.

To remove all controls from a control layout:

  1. In Design View, click on a control in a control layout. An icon should appear on the top left of the control layout.
  2. Right-click on a control in the control layout. A menu appears.
  3. Choose Layout and then Remove Layout.

3. Move controls separately

When you create a form, controls are usually placed on a form in pairs. For example, a text box has an associated label that is attached to it. If you move the text box, typically the label moves with it. To move a control without its associated control in Design View, drag either control by the top left handle. If this doesn’t work, the control is in a control layout.

4. Separate controls

If you want to separate 2 controls such as a label and associated text box:

  1. In Design View, click on the label.
  2. Press Control + X to cut it.
  3. Click in an empty area on the form.
  4. Press Control + V to paste.

5. Select all

You can select all controls on a form, by pressing Control + A. If this doesn’t work, make sure the Pointer or Selection tool is selected on the Design tab in the Ribbon.

6. Select by Shift-clicking

You can select specific controls by Shift-clicking on each control. If this doesn’t work, make sure the Pointer or Selection tool is selected on the Design tab in the Ribbon.

7. Select by dragging

Ensure the Pointer or Selection tool is selected on the Design tab in the Ribbon. Drag around the controls you wish to select.

8. Nudge controls

You can nudge a control or control layout in Design View. Select the control or control layout and press Control + arrow keys.

9. Add a control for an existing field

You can add a control for an existing field in the source:

  1. In Design View, click on Add Existing fields in the Design tab on the Ribbon. A list of fields in the source appear.
  2. Drag the field onto the form.

10. Deal with the Name error

In Form View, if #Name? appears for a control (not all controls), the most common issue is that a bound control such as a text box is not bound to an existing field. This often happens when a user types in a text box.

To attach or bind a field to a control:

  1. In Design View, click on the control that displays the #Name? error when in Form View.
  2. Display the Properties if necessary. You can right-click on the control and choose Properties from the menu or press F4.
  3. In the Properties, click on the Data tab.
  4. From the Control Source drop-down menu, choose an existing field.

Microsoft Access properties for control source.

You can use these 10 strategies when you’re designing reports in Access as well.

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Recommended Microsoft Access training

If you’re just getting started with Access, check out our Microsoft Access: Introduction course or take your Access skills to the next level in our Microsoft Access: Intermediate / Advanced course.

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