Fill in Access forms at light speed with these indispensable data entry tricks


by Christine Spencer

Application: Microsoft Access 2000/2002/2003/2013

Operating System: Microsoft Windows

Entering data in a form is pretty straightforward in Access: All you need to know is how to click and type. But when you work with complex forms and lots of data, click and type is about as efficient as hunt and peck. Luckily, you can work at twice the speed if you know the right data entry tricks.

To demonstrate some of the tricks you’ll be able to use in Access forms, we’ll:

  • Move between records in a form.
  • Add a new record or data.
  • Move between fields.
  • Select, enter and edit text in field.
  • Show you a neat way to find a specific record based on the current field.

Access users may know some of the program’s many form designs, but that’s only half the battle. Once the form is up and running, you have to utilize it. As you might expect, there are some great shortcuts you can use to enter data in your form as quick as possible.

Navigate between records

When you first open a form, you’ll see the data from one of the records in the table or query to which it’s related. You can display a different record in several ways. The basic navigation technique is to use the navigation buttons at the bottom of the form, as shown in Figure A.

You can move one record either way, as well as move quickly to the first or last records, by clicking the navigation buttons. Without using the mouse, you can display the next record or the previous record.

To move to a field in a record:

  • Press [Ctrl][Page Down] to move to a field in the next record.
  • To move to the same field in the previous record, press [Ctrl][Page Up].

If you know the record number, you can type that in the record number box between the navigation buttons and press [Enter]. A shortcut for this technique that doesn’t use the mouse is to press the [F5] key. When you do, the number in the record number box is selected. Then, all you need to do is type the new record number and press [Enter].


A: The navigation buttons can help you move quickly among the records.

Move between fields

When you’re entering data in a form, you can easily move from field to field and record to record using the keyboard.

To move the insertion point to the next field in the tab order press the [Tab] key. To move back one field, press [Shift][Tab]. When you press [Tab] in the last field, you go to the next record. To move the insertion point to the last field on a record, press the [End] key. To move to the first field, press [Home].

Tips for entering data in text boxes

The most common way to enter data in a text field is to click in a field and type. If you make a typing mistake, press [Backspace]. To back out of the changes you made to a field, press [Esc] before you move to the next field. To remove all the changes you made to a record, press [Esc] twice.

If you want to see all the text that you’ve typed in a small text box field, consider using the Zoom box. For example, if you have a notes field in a form, you might want to expand the text box to make it easier to see what you’ve typed. To see the Zoom box, place the insertion point in the field and press [Shift][F2]. This expands the field, as shown in Figure B. When you’ve completed your entry, click OK.


 B: Use the Zoom box to expand a text box for easier editing.

Use the keyboard with other controls

You probably think that when it comes to option buttons, check boxes, and option groups, you have to use the mouse for data entry. You can, but there are also some keyboard shortcuts.

To use the keyboard shortcut:

Make sure the control has been selected. As you press [Tab] in a form, you’ll know when a control, such as a check box, is selected, because you’ll see a dotted line around it, as shown in Figure C.  

When an option group is selected, use the arrow keys to select one of the options. If a combo box is selected, type the first letter of the choice you’d find in the dropdown list. If a check box control is selected, press the [spacebar] to place a check in the box or remove one.


C: By looking for the dotted line around the control, you can see that the Ship Via option group is the selected control in this form.

Add a new record

To add a new record, click the New Record button on the toolbar or the New Record button  on the navigation bar. [...]

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