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Create a fillable form in Word: an easy step-by-step guide

Author: Siluvia Last Modified: 2024-05-17

Microsoft Word's fillable forms are an essential tool for creating documents that require user input, such as surveys, applications, or registration forms. This guide will walk you through the process of creating a fillable form in Word, from enabling the necessary tools to locking the form for use.

doc make fillable form 1


What is a fillable form in Word?

Fillable forms in Word allow document creators to incorporate interactive form elements into their documents, enabling users to enter or select information within a structured format. These forms can be used in various contexts, such as for gathering data in a consistent and organized manner, and are often designed using form fields, which may include text boxes, checkboxes, dropdown lists, and date pickers.

Here's why using fillable forms can be particularly beneficial:
  • Standardization: Fillable forms ensure that information is collected uniformly from all respondents, which is especially useful for applications, surveys, or legal documents.
  • Efficiency: They streamline the data collection process. Users can quickly fill in their information, and the forms can be set up to tab through fields in a logical order.
  • Accuracy: By restricting the type of data that can be entered into specific fields (e.g., numerical entries in date fields), fillable forms help in reducing errors.
  • Automation: Fillable forms can be integrated with other tools to automate data collection and analysis. Once filled out, the data can be easily transferred into databases, reducing the need for manual data entry.
  • Professionalism: They look more professional and can be customized to fit the branding of a business or the specific needs of the document.

How to make a fillable form in Word?

Creating a fillable form in Word involves several steps that transform a standard document into an interactive form designed for data entry. This section will show you how to accomplish this task.

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Step 1: Enable the Developer tab

The Developer tab contains the tools needed to create fillable forms, including form controls and document protection options. If you don’t see the Developer tab on your ribbon, follow the steps below to display it; otherwise, proceed to Step 2.

  1. Right click on the ribbon and select Customize the Ribbon from the context menu.
  2. In the Word Options window, go to the right pane, check the box labeled Developer and then click OK to save the changes.

This will add the Developer tab to your ribbon.

Step 2: Insert and configure form fields

Form fields are the building blocks of fillable forms in Word. They allow you to add places where users can input text, make selections, choose dates, etc. In this case, I will demonstrate how to convert the following basic Word document into a fillable form.

Insert form fields
  1. Go to the Developer tab.
  2. Place the cursor at the location in the document where the form control is needed. In the Controls group, click the form control you need to insert.
    Tip: Click to know more about the form controls listed in the Controls group.
    • Insert a text content control
      In this example, to allow users to input their names, click on the blank area after the Name: label, and then select Rich Text Content Control from the Controls group.
    • Insert a drop-down list control
      To enable users to select a department name from a drop-down list, click the blank area next to the Department: label and then choose Drop-Down List Content Control from the Controls group.
      Note: To insert other form controls like Check Box, Date Picker, or Picture Content Controls, follow the same steps as outlined above.
Configure the properties of the form control

After inserting form controls, you need to set properties for each of them. Please do as follows:

  1. Click on the form control you want to configure, and then select Properties in the Controls group under the Developer tab.
  2. In the opening Content Control Properties dialog box, you can configure different types of form controls as follows.
    • Configure the properties of Drop-Down List content control
      Adding items is a crucial step when configuring a drop-down list. In this guide, I will show you how to set up the properties of a drop-down list to include all the necessary items.
        1. In the Drop-Down List Properties section, click the Add button.
        2. In the opening Modify Choice dialog box, enter the item you need into the Display Name text box and then click OK.
        3. Repeat the above two steps until all items are added to the Drop-Down List Properties box.
        4. Click OK to save the settings.
          Notes: Here I keep the default settings for the other fields in the dialog box since they typically satisfy my basic needs. But understanding how to adjust these settings allows you to tailor the control to match specific requirements, enhancing the form's functionality and user experience.
          • Title: Give your drop-down list a descriptive title. This title will not be visible in the document but can help identify the control during editing.
          • Tag: You can also assign a tag for further customization or programming, such as linking the field to a database or using it in scripts.
          • Show as: Allow you to adjust the appearance of the drop-down list form control. You can leave this as the default "Bounding Box" for visual consistency, or choose "None" to make the control less noticeable.
          • Style and formatting: If necessary, apply a specific style to format text entered into the drop-down list to maintain consistency with the rest of your document.
          • Locking section: Consider if you need to lock the control to prevent deletion or editing of the content. These options are particularly useful in formal documents where unintended modifications could be problematic.
      Now you can select an item from the drop-down list form control.
    • Configure the properties of other content controls
      Here I will list an overview of 4 common content controls and any essential settings you might need to configure.
      1. Text Control (Plain & Rich Text):
        Title and Tag: Useful for identification and scripting.
        Locking: Options to lock content from editing or deletion.
        Multiline: For rich text controls, decide whether to allow multiple lines.
      2. Check Box Control:
        Title and Tag: For identification and scripting.
        Checked symbol: Set a default state (checked/unchecked).
        Locking: Lock editing or deletion, if needed.
      3. Combo Box Control:
        Title and Tag: Helps in identification and scripting.
        List Items: Add, modify, or remove items from the combo box list.
        Locking: Prevent changes to the list and control deletion.
      4. Date Picker Control:
        Title and Tag: For identification purposes.
        Display the Date like this: Choose the date format that fits the document's needs.
        Locking: Restrict editing or removal of the control.

Step 3: Restrict editing to form filling only

Once your form is set up, you need to restrict it to prevent users from modifying the form itself, allowing them only to fill in the designated areas. Please do as follows.

  1. Still under the Developer tab, click on Restrict Editing in the Protect group.
  2. The Restrict Editing pane is now displayed on the right side of your document. Please make the following configurations.
    1. Check the Allow only this type of editing in the document checkbox.
    2. Select Filling in forms from the drop-down menu.
    3. Click the Yes, Start Enforcing Protection button.
    4. Set a password for this form or just leave the password field blank.
    5. Click the OK button. See screenshot:

After enabling protection for form filling, the fillable form is now complete and ready for use.


Notes for fillable forms

  • The following table provides a clear understanding of each control's function listed in the ribbon.
    Icon Type Description
    Rich Text Control Enables input of formatted text. Users can apply styles like bold, italics, and underline, as well as change font types and sizes within this text field.
    Plain Text Control Allows for the entry of unformatted text. No styling or formatting options are available, ensuring the text remains plain and consistent.
    Picture Control Permits the insertion of a single image. Users can add an image from their device, which will be embedded directly into the document.
    Building Block Gallery Control Displays a selection of preformatted document parts, such as cover pages, text boxes, headers, and footers, from the Quick Parts gallery.
    Check Box Control Inserts a checkbox that can be toggled on and off. Ideal for forms requiring binary choices like yes/no or true/false options.
    Combo Box Control Provides a drop-down menu that users can edit. This control allows for the addition of new items by the user, making it flexible for various inputs.
    Drop-Down List Control Offers a fixed list of options that users can select from a drop-down menu. This control does not allow user modifications to the list items.
    Date Picker Control Facilitates the input of dates by providing a calendar interface. The control automatically formats the date according to the document settings.
    Repeating Section Control Allows users to duplicate a specific section of the form as many times as needed. This control is useful for forms where multiple entries of the same type of information are required, such as listing multiple job experiences or educational qualifications.
    Legacy Tools Includes various form controls from older versions of Word, useful for compatibility with documents created in these versions.
  • Compatibility and Sharing:
    Ensure that the form is compatible with the version of Word that all intended users have. Forms created in newer versions of Word might not function correctly in older versions.

Creating fillable forms in Word is a straightforward process that can greatly streamline how information is collected and processed. By following these steps, you can create professional and functional forms tailored to your specific needs, enhancing both productivity and data collection accuracy. For those eager to delve deeper into Word's capabilities, our website boasts a wealth of tutorials. Discover more Word tips and tricks here.


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