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Using Form Fields in Word

First of all, let's get one thing straight: we are not talking about farmer's fields. This tutorial is about making a word document or template that has pre-written text and areas that the user can edit. They can edit these areas either by typing in their own text, such as in a cloze activity, or choosing from a list of possible answers. You can do this within microsoft word without buying any extra add-ons and it's really easy! Honest!

A good example is for sums. Imagine you've got a class of pencil-holding pupils filling in the blanks on worksheets. For those who use a laptop for their recording another solution must be sought.

A simple example of fields in use

Fields in sums An example of fields in sums

With these examples, only the grey space (the form fields) can be written into. Your pupil can even use the TAB key to jump from one sum to the next. The fields can be set to only take numbers or text, and a maximum length can also be set.

a multiple-choice fieldOne great feature of fields is the ability to handle multiple-choice answers. You can make a long or short list of possible answers that will appear when the user clicks on the grey box. They can select their answer without even having to use the keyboard. Unfortunately keyboard-only users will struggle with multiple-choice fields as the keyboard can't be used to open the list unless a special macro is written in advance. Multiple-choice fields are known to techies as 'Drop-Down Form Fields'

download example

Download example: The Planets

You can download an example worksheet that uses form fields by clicking here.

Making a page with form fields

Creating a page containing form fields is much the same a creating a new document. The following guide is intended for Microsoft Word XP 2002 but with a little adaptation you should be able to follow it on the 2000, 2002 and 2003 versions of Word.

Toolbar Menu

Start Word as usual. Go to the View menu and open the Toolbars submenu. This lists all of the possible toolbars available to you. From this list, select 'Forms' by clicking on it. If the Forms toolbar is already showing then this will turn it off.

Forms Toolbar

The forms toolbar should have appeared on the screen. It may be 'floating' around over your work or it might be 'docked' in with the other toolbars. It should look like the picture on the left. If you can't find it anywhere, try going to View and Toolbars again in case you turned it off accidentally.

Text Form Field Icon

This is the text field tool. This allows us to mark a space where text can be entered by the pupil. Try typing a sum into word and then press this button to add the field (Don't forget to put a space before the field or your presentation will be messy!)

Text Form Field Options Dialog

Double-click on the grey box field to bring up the 'Text Form Field Options' window. In here you can set the box to just accept numbers, and set a maximum number of digits or characters that can be typed into the field.

Drop Down Form Field Icon

This is the drop-down (multiple-choice) field. Make another sum, but this time use this drop-down field instead of the text field. To add some possible answers, double-click on the grey box that you have just created.

Drop Down Form Field Options Dialog

The 'Drop-Down Form Field Options' window should pop up. In here you can add as many possible answers as you wish. I always set the top answer as a series of eight blank spaces so that the grey box will appear empty to start with (Try it and you'll see what I mean!).

Protect Form Icon

This button 'locks' your page when you're done. This means that when your pupil uses the document, they'll only be able to edit the fields and not mess with the sums or the layout of the page. To unlock the document, simply press this padlock icon again.

Don't forget to lock your page when you've finished!

Saving as a document or a template

Saving this file as a standard document may seem like the easy option. If you've only got one child using it then that could well be true. Once you've locked the document only the fields can be edited and will remain the case until the padlock button is pressed again to unlock it.

If the document is to be used by more than one pupil, or used more than once then you'll need it to remain blank for each session and consequently you'll need to save it as a template. Also if you create a template then it should be easily available to everybody who logs on to the computer network that you save it on. See your schools technical support for more information.

Save As Dialog

To save a document as a template, go through the same motions as usual, only this time select 'Document Template" in the Save-As Type list. When you select this you might notice that word automatically changes the location on your computer that this template will be saved. Word stores templates in a special place so that they are easy to get to later.

Give your template a sensible name such as 'Adding Up' and click on the Save button.

You should now test that your template is working, and see how easy it is for your pupil to load this template. Close the document if it's still hanging around and then go to File and New. Depending on your version of Word two different things can happen:

New From Template Taskpane

Word XP/2002/2003

With the newer version of Word, instead of having a window pop-up, the New Document task pane should appear (usually on the right of the screen). This option can be turned off, so don't be surprised if Word brings up the New Document window straight away. In the task pane, select 'General Templates' from under the 'New From Template' heading. This will open up the same window as with the earlier versions of word (see below)

Templates Dialog

Word 2000, 97, 95 and below

This dialog appears. In the list under the 'general' tab you should be able to find your template. Select it and press OK.

Protect Form Icon

If the document that is created isn't working as you expected and the non-field text can be erased or edited, then you probably forgot to lock the template before you saved it. You will need to open your template (This will be in the recently-saved list at the bottom of the file menu) and make sure you lock it by pressing the padlock button on the forms toolbar.

Organizing lots of templates

If you think that making these templates is a worthwhile effort then you might start ending up with lots of them and it might be worth organizing the blighters. This is especially critical if you're running these across a computer network, and if they cover lots of subjects.

organizing your templates is exactly the same as organizing your normal documents. I'm sure that you're all very organized and create subfolders to store your documents neatly away in under the 'My Documents' heading. (!)

Save As Dialog

Lets rewind back to the point where you saved your template. You have just selected 'Document Template' in the Save-As Type list and Word has automatically changed the save location to its special templates folder.

New Folder Icon

At this point you can save the file here in the general templates folder or, better still, create a folder within this and store it in there. To do this click on the New Folder button (shown left) and give your folder a decent name such as 'Maths'.

Word will automatically open this folder so now just make sure you've given your template as reasonable name such as 'Adding Up' and click on save.

You should always test a template when you've saved it to avoid delays during class. Close the template if it's still open and select New from under the File menu.

Templates Dialog

Up pops the New Document window again (or if you're using Word XP/2002 you might need to select 'General Templates' from the task pane as mentioned above). This time you'll notice that there is a new Tab named 'Maths' or whatever you decided to call your folder. Click on this and you should see any templates that you have saved within the Maths folder.

As you'd expect, Word, XP, Microsoft, Windows and various other words and the Word logo on this page (and across this site) are trademarks or something similar. Personally I'm not sure how a group of people can own individual words but supposedly this possible. Anyway best to check around before you use them for your own products and so forth.

As you can tell I'm not really an expert in these matters.