There are plenty of online tools to create forms, but if you prefer a desktop application and are comfortable with Microsoft Word, you can make a fillable form in no time. Easily add form controls like checkboxes, text fields, drop-down menus, and more, for the complete package.
FYI: looking for a different form builder? Check out these free alternatives to Google Forms.
Display the Developer Tab in Word
To add the controls to your form, display the “Developer” tab. If you already have this tab at the top of Microsoft Word, you’re one step ahead. If not, follow these simple steps.
Select “File -> Options,” and choose “Customize Ribbon” in the Word Options window.
Use the drop-down menu below “Customize the Ribbon” to pick “Main Tabs.”
In the list below, check the box for “Developer,” then click “OK” to save it.
The “Developer” tab will appear along with your main tabs in Word.
How to Create a Fillable Form in Word
There are a variety of form controls that can be added, depending on how you want respondents to complete the form. You may use a text content control for them to enter their name, a date picker to select a date, or a drop-down list to choose an item.
FYI: can’t find the right place in your doc? Learn how to search Microsoft Word documents.
Add a Text Content Control
You can add both rich text and plain text content controls to your form. To let respondents use text formatting, like bold or italic, use the rich text option. Otherwise, choose plain text for basic text entries.
Place your cursor where you want the text control, head to the “Developer” tab, and choose either “Rich Text Content Control” or “Plain Text Content Control” in the Controls group.
Adjust the settings for the text content control by selecting it and clicking “Properties” in the Controls section of the ribbon.
For this type of control, you can add a title or tag, select how to display the control, use a specific font style, and choose to remove the control when its contents are edited.
For the plain text control, there is also an option to allow multiple paragraphs using carriage returns (pressing Enter).
Select “OK” to save the properties when you finish. Try the control by entering some text inside the box.
Insert a Combo Box or Drop-Down List
Similar to the text content control, you can choose from two types of list controls. If you want to allow respondents to pick from a list of items or enter their own item, use the combo box. If you only want to allow them to select from a list, use the drop-down list control.
Place your cursor where you want the list control, go to the “Developer” tab, and choose either “Combo Box Content Control” or “Drop-Down List Content Control” in the Controls group.
When the control appears in your document, select it, and click “Properties” in the ribbon to add the list items.
Like the text controls, you can add a title or tag, choose how the control displays, and use a particular style. Select “Add” at the bottom to type the first list item.
By default, the “Display Name” you enter in the pop-up box matches the “Value.” However, you can change either one if desired. Click “OK” to save the list item.
Follow the same steps to add the rest of your list items. Use the options to the right of the list box to modify or remove a list item, as well as move it up or down in the order.
To change the default text that displays inside the control before an item is selected, select it in the list, choose “Modify,” make your changes, and click “OK.”
When you finish with your list items, select “OK” to save them, then try your combo box or drop-down list. You should see the items you added in the order you selected.
Tip: working with tables as well? Learn how to create and customize tables in Microsoft Word.
Include a Date Picker Control
For a form where you want the respondents to enter a date, you can use the date picker control. This makes it easy, as you can simply choose a date from a pop-up calendar. Plus, you can set the format for the date’s display beforehand.
Place your cursor where you want the date control, open the “Developer” tab, and choose “Date Picker” in the Controls group.
Select the control, and click “Properties” in the ribbon.
Once again, you have those same options at the top of the “Properties” window for title, tag, and so on. Head down to the Date Picker Properties section to choose the format and other options.
- Display the date like this: choose a date format from the list to be displayed directly above.
- Locale and Calendar type: select a different country or language (if applicable) and a default calendar style.
- Store XML contents in the following format when mapped: if you plan to map the control, choose the text, date, or date and time option you want in the drop-down list.
Click “OK” when you finish, then test your date picker.
Add a Checkbox Control
When you ask your respondents to answer a simple yes or no question, acknowledge a statement, or choose multiple items, you can add checkboxes to your form.
Place your cursor where you want the checkbox control, go to the “Developer” tab, and choose “Check Box Content Control” in the Controls group.
To change the checked and unchecked symbols, select the control, then “Properties” in the ribbon.
Complete the optional properties the same way you did the other controls, or go straight to “Check Box Properties” near the bottom for the symbols. Select “Change” next to the “Checked symbol,” “Unchecked symbol,” or both.
Pick the symbol, character, or icon from the Symbol box that opens, and click “OK” to save it.
When you are finished with the Properties, click “OK.”
Try your checkbox by marking and unmarking the box.
Good to know: want to be more efficient in Word? Read on to learn these time-saving tips for Word documents.
Insert a Building Block Control
If you use Building Blocks in Microsoft Word, such as Quick Parts, AutoText, or equations, you can include a control to choose one. This provides an easy way to insert premade blocks of text.
Place your cursor where you want the Building Block control, head to the “Developer” tab, and choose “Building Block Gallery Content Control” in the Controls group.
To select the Building Block type and category, select the control, then “Properties” in the ribbon.
Optionally, complete or select the properties in the top section of the box. Select the drop-down box near the bottom next to “Gallery” to choose Quick Parts, AutoText, or another option. Then, use the “Category” box directly under that to choose the category. Click “OK” when you are finished.
Select the drop-down menu at the top of the form control to choose the block of text to enter.
Include a Picture Control
One last control you may want to include on your form is for a picture. This is a simple control that allows the respondent to choose an image to add from their device, online, or a stock image.
Place your cursor where you want the picture control, head to the “Developer” tab, and choose “Picture Content Control” in the Controls group.
While there aren’t distinctive properties for the picture control, you can still add the title and tag or change the display type or color. Select the control, choose “Properties” in the ribbon, and make your adjustments.
Select “OK” to save your changes, then try your picture control. When you click the control, you should be prompted to choose an image location.
Tip: check out our guide to learn how to place images where you want them in your Word document.
Use the Legacy Form Controls
If you plan to share your form with others who may have older versions of Microsoft Word, you can also use the legacy form controls. These also include options that are not in the set of form controls discussed above.
Select “Legacy Tools” in the Controls section of the ribbon to see a drop-down menu of options.
Choose from the same types of controls like text content, checkbox, and list controls in the Legacy Forms section. They just offer different properties than the Legacy Forms.
Additionally, there are ActiveX controls that are unique, like an option button, spin button, toggle button, and scroll bar.
If you insert one of the legacy form controls, select it, and click “Properties” in the ribbon to see your options.
Protect the Form From Editing, Except for Fillable Fields
When you finish creating your form using the controls listed here, you may want to protect it from being edited. While you do want respondents to enter text, choose items, and check boxes, you probably don’t want them to edit the verbiage or other items you used to create the form.
For example, we want respondents to enter their name in the Name text field, but don’t want them to edit or remove the “Name” label that was added.
To protect the form, return to the “Developer” tab, and choose “Restrict Editing” in the Protect group.
In the first section, restrict the formatting in the form. Check the box to enable this option, and click “Settings” to choose the styles you want to restrict or allow.
In the second section, editing, other than fillable fields, can be restricted. Check the box for “Allow only this type of editing in the document,” then choose “Filling in forms” in the drop-down list.
When you finish, use the “Yes, Start Enforcing Protection” button to save and restrict editing.
You’ll be prompted to optionally protect the form with a password. To use a password, enter one you’ll remember, verify it, and select “OK.” To proceed without using a password, simply choose “OK” without entering anything.
Note: save the password somewhere safe, as it is not recoverable if you forget it. Check out these password managers if you don’t already have one.
To turn off the protection later and make the form editable again, select “Restrict Editing” in the ribbon, then “Stop Protection” to unprotect the form. Enter the password if you chose this option above.
Easy-to-Make Fillable Forms
Using Microsoft Word to create a form others can complete is a great way to go. Share the form with them using the built-in sharing options, or send it via email if you prefer. Either way, the controls make setting up a form easy in Word.
Now that you know how to create a fillable form in Word, why not look at how to make a checklist for tasks, packing, or shopping?
Image credit: Pixabay. All screenshots by Sandy Writtenhouse.
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