Access 2013: Working with Forms

Lesson 8: Working with Forms



While you can always enter data directly into database tables, you might find it easier to use forms. Forms ensure you're entering the right data in the right location and format. This can help keep your database accurate and consistent.

This lesson will address the benefits of using forms in a database. You will review examples of different forms and form components. Finally, you will learn how to use forms to enter new records and view and edit existing ones

Throughout this tutorial, we will be using a sample database. If you would like to follow along, you'll need to download our Access 2013 sample database. You will need to have Access 2013 installed on your computer in order to open the example.

Why use forms?

Many of us fill out forms so often that we hardly notice when we're asked to use them. Forms are so popular because they're useful to the person asking for the information and to the person providing it. They are a way of requiring information in a specific format, which means the person filling out the form knows exactly which information to include and where to put it.

Illustration of a paper formFilling out a paper form

This is just as true of forms in Access. When you enter information into a form in Access, the data goes exactly where it's supposed to go: into one or more related tables. While entering data into simple tables is fairly straightforward, data entry becomes more complicated as you start populating tables with records from elsewhere in the database. For instance, the orders table in a bakery's database might link to information on customers, products, and prices drawn from related tables. For example, in the Orders Table below the Customer ID field is linked to the Customers table.

Screenshot of Access 2013The Customer ID field links to the Customers table

In fact, in order to see the entire order you would also have to look at the Order Items table, where the menu items that make up each order are recorded.

Screenshot of Access 2013The Order ID field links to the Orders table, and the Menu Item ID field links to the Menu Items table

The records in these tables include ID numbers of records from other tables. You can't learn much just by glancing at these records because the ID numbers don't tell you much about the data they relate to. Plus, because you have to look at two tables just to view one order, you might have a difficult time even finding the right data. It's easy to see how viewing or entering many records this way could become a difficult and tedious task.

A form containing the same data might look like this:

Screenshot of Access 2013The same order viewed in a form

As you can see, this record is much easier to understand when viewed in a form. Modifying the record also would be easier because you wouldn't have to know any ID numbers to enter new data. When you're using a form, you don't have to worry about entering data into the right tables or in the right format—the form can handle these things itself. There's no need to go back and forth between tables because forms bring all of the information you need together in one place.

Not only do forms make the data entry process easier for the user, but they also keep the database itself working smoothly. With forms, database designers can control exactly how users are able to interact with the database. They can even set restrictions on individual form components to ensure all of the needed data is entered and that it's all entered in a valid format. This is useful because keeping data consistent and organized is essential for an accurate and powerful database.

Working with forms

To open an existing form:

  1. Open your database, and locate the Navigation pane.
  2. In the Navigation pane, locate the form you want to open. Forms are marked with the icon.
  3. Double-click the desired form. It will open and appear as a tab in the Document Tabs bar.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Opening a form

Entering and modifying data

Depending on the database you're using, the forms you work with may include special tools and features that let you perform common tasks with one click of a button. You'll see examples of these tools in the interactives later in this lesson. However, no matter what type of form you're working with, you can follow the same procedures for carrying out certain basic tasks.

To add a new record:

There are two ways to add a new record to a form:

  • In the Records group on the Home tab of the Ribbon, click the New command.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Adding a new record from the Ribbon
  • On the Record Navigation bar at the bottom of the window, click the New Record button.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Creating a new record from the Record Navigation bar

To find an existing record to view or edit:

There are two ways to find and view an existing record using a form, and they both use the Navigation bar at the bottom of the screen:

  • To look through records one at a time, click the navigation arrows. The right arrow will take you to the next record, and the left arrow will take you to the previous one.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Navigating through records
  • To search for a record, type a word you know is contained in that record in the navigation search box.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Searching for a record

To save the current record:

  1. Select the Home tab and locate the Records group.
  2. Click the Save command. The current record will be saved.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Saving a record

To delete the current record:

  1. Select the Home tab and locate the Records group.
  2. Click the Delete command.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Clicking the Delete Command
  3. A dialog box will appear. Click Yes.

    Screenshot of Access 2013Deleting a record
  4. The record will be permanently deleted.

Using form features

The exact procedure you use for filling out a form will vary depending on the content and design of the form you're using. The forms in your database might be similar to the examples in the two interactives below. Between them, they include most of the features you'll commonly encounter in forms.

Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn about a simple form.

doneedit hotspots

Some forms may include more options, like calendar buttons, drop-down lists, yes-no checkboxes, subforms, and embedded tables.

Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn about a more complex form.

edit hotspots


  1. Open an existing Access database. If you want, you can use our Access 2013 sample database.
  2. Open the Orders Form.
  3. Create a new record with the following data:
    • Customer: Eric Oglesby
    • Pickup date: February 14, 2014
    • Order items: Cakes: Coconut (1)
    • Notes: Write "Happy Valentine's Day!" with pink frosting.
    • Pre Order: Yes
    • Paid: Yes
  4. Open the Customers Form.
  5. Find the record for customer Dwight Parker and make the following changes: