Microsoft Access Forms are the basic interface between your application, and your users. Whilst form are generally used to provide easy data entry and manipulation, correctly designed and well thought out forms can also be used to create your own menu system.
Because the Microsoft Access form provides the main interaction with your users, it’s very important that they are well laid out, easy to read, and preferably no larger than the one whole screen size.
Listed below some are some of the Form related things that should be considered as good practice, and ought to be implemented with every application developed, using the tips below as a sort of checklist could save you hours of bug fixing, correcting and tweaking in the future.
- Your users will probably want to move through your form in the most efficient manner possible, this will probably mean using the tab key, so make sure the ‘Tab Order’ is set correctly. To check / change use the ‘Tab order’ option under the ‘View’ menu when you’re in design view
- Give all the controls on your Form meaningful names. A list of controls such as Textbox1, Textbox2, etc can be a nightmare to de-bug, especially when you start writing VBA code for them, names such as tbFirstName, tbSurname are much easier to work with
- Create a naming convention for your controls, most people use the common prefixes tbl, qry, frm and rpt, for Tables, Queries, Forms and Reports when creating the structure for their databases, so why not extend this to your controls and use something like tb, lbl, and cb, for Textboxes, Labels, and Comboboxes. You don’t have to use the prefixes given here, you can create your own, just make sure you’re consistent throughout your entire project.
- Ensure that the user sees what you expect him to see, it’s a common mistake to copy a control and forget to change things such as control tip text, input masks etc.
- Enlist a small band of product testers to help provide feedback before you release your application. It’s common for developers to see what they expect to see rather than what is actually there! Feedback from testers, preferably recruited from your end users can prove invaluable in the long run.
- If you use hotkeys on your form, check each one twice to ensure that they’re not duplicated, on a large and complex form designed over many hours or even days it’s easy to forget which keys you have assigned, and duplicate assignments. It’s useful to have check list prepared with what hot keys you have already used.
- Make sure that the ‘AutoCenter’ property is set to ‘Yes’ this will ensure that the form is always in the middle of the screen no matter what screen resolution your users are running.
- Linked to ‘AutoCenter’ is ‘AutoResize’, setting this property to ‘Yes’ will ensure that your form will be displayed at its correct size, otherwise Access has a habit of displaying it at the same size as the design window, which may be larger or smaller than the forms real size.
- Set the AllowDesignChanges property to Design View Only, Access versions 2000 and previous have this set to All Views by default, meaning that it’s possible for users to still make changes to your form. Microsoft have taken account of user feedback and for Access versions later 2002 (XP) and later have changed the default to Design View Only
- Use a form caption. In the properties for the form, add a caption that sums up the purpose of your form, without it Access will display the name of your form, “Main Menu” looks so much better than “frmMainMenu”
- If, in a combo box, users are to be restricted to selecting only what’s in the given list, set the LimitToList property to ‘Yes’. If think there may be an occasion where users need to enter something not on the list, use the NotInList event to handle it.