How to create custom fillable user forms in Microsoft Office 2016 / 2019 applications?


Content developed on Office 2016; however applicable to Office 2019,2013, 2010; desktop and Office 365 versions; Windows 10, 8 and 7;

Post updated on: April May2019

Here’s a question from Deanne:

I need to create a short survey to send to my office coworkers. I know that i could probably use an online solution such as Google Forms or Microsoft Forms. However in my case, i would like to design the form and then send it as an attachment to my colleagues via Microsoft Outlook. I am not sure whether this should be an Outlook, Excel or Word form, but i do want to use Office to create my fillable form. I don’t find the menu item that allows me to go ahead and  start working on my form layout. Any hints are appreciated. Thanks.

Custom forms allow us to capture user feedback in Microsoft Office applications in a relatively neat way.  In this post, we’ll teach you how you can easily create interactive custom fillable user forms and add them into your Microsoft Outlook emails, Excel workbooks and Word  documents. For each office application we’ll provide some basic examples that highlight the use of this capability. Feel free to leave as a comment in case of questions.

Forms in Outlook 2016 and 2019

Before we add our form to Outlook email messages, we’ll go ahead and enable the so-called Developer tab:

  • Open Microsoft Outlook
  • Now right click the Ribbon and select Customize Ribbon.

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  • Click on the Developer Check box and select OK.

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  • You’ll now notice the newly added Developer tab in your Ribbon.

Now we’ll go ahead and design a form by re-using an existing template stored in your the standard forms library. Microsoft Outlook ships a nice collection of forms related to the main Outlook objects that you can select and jump-start your form development process.

  • From the Ribbon, select Developer  and hit Choose form.

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  • Hit OK to open your standard form.
  • Make the required changes (using  the Design This Form  command).

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  • When done, hit Publish.

If you are looking for a more in depth tutorial, make sure you visit this detailed example of an email and appointment template design for Outlook (both Windows and macOS)

Special Bonus: Download the Free PDF version of our Outlook tips and Tricks guide.

Excel user forms

In this section we’ll learn how to quickly define a data entry form that can help you populate a spreadsheet table. If your job involves significant data entry job, this tutorial could really help. Follow through for the entire procedure for creating a simple form in Excel:

Setup the Excel data entry form

  • Open Microsoft Excel
  • Right click the Ribbon and select Customize Ribbon.
  • In Choose Commands from drop down box, Select Commands not in Ribbon.
  • Search for the Form command.
  • Now in the right hand side, hit the New Tab button. This creates a new tab in the Ribbon that will allow you to place the Form command under it
  • New highlight the new tab you just created and hit Rename. Call the tab Form.
  • Now highlight the New Group (Custom) group that was automatically created once you created the new tab.
  • Now highlight Form in the left hand side and hit Add.
  • This will add the Form command to the new tab as shown below:

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  • Select OK.

Using your form

  • Now in your spreadsheet, define your table header as shown below. In our case, we added the Name, Gender etc’.
  • Highlight your table header and, hit the Form tab and hit on Form.
  •  Your custom fillable form is automatically created and can be used to populate the table as shown below.
  • The form can be now emailed to your Outlook recipients as needed.

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Data entry form capabilities

It’s worth noting that the custom form has some interesting built in capabilities for data entry:

  • New: add new record to the table
  • Delete: remove records from the table
  • Navigate the table according to field value using Find Prev and Find Next
  • Criteria: Search and Filter the table according to predefined values.

Note: Obviously, you can build much more fancy forms in Excel, equipped with every possible data input control.  Today, we wanted to show you the basics, in case of questions, feel free to leave us a comment.

Word 2016/2019 forms:

  • Open Microsoft Word.
  • Right click on Ribbon and select Customize Ribbon.
  • Hit the Developer check box and select OK.
  • Enter your Header text and make it to convert text into Table.
  • Use the Content Control tools and prepare the texts accordingly to your Header texts.

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  • Click on Restrict Editing and select Editing Restrictions.
  • Click on the Check box and change Filling in Forms from the drop down box.
  • In Start Enforcement, Select Yes, Start Enforcing Protection.

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  • Enter a Password and Retype Password for the Protection.

Can i use an Excel or Word form template?

If you want to jump start your form development process, you can use a canned template delivered by Microsoft Word (or Excel).

Kindly proceed as following:

Windows users:

  1. Open Word (or Excel).
  2. Hit New.
  3. In the template search box and type “form”, then hit the magnifying glass icon. Microsoft ships several useful online form templates including:  travel expense, meeting summary, cash donations, membership, job description,  field trip, food sign up reports and more; which you can use in Excel or Word.
  4. Look into the available templates, once found double click your chosen form template.
  5. Customize your template according to your needs and save it on your computer or OneDrive.

macOS users:

  1. Open Word (or Excel) for mac.
  2. Hit File and then New File from template.
  3. Search for the available template using the right hand side search box.
  4. Double click the template.
  5. Customize the layout and Save.

Leave a Comment:

1 comments
Steve Tilyou says December 15, 2018

I followed the steps to create a fillable form in excel but when I encountered this step: “The form can be now emailed to your Outlook recipients as needed.” I have no idea how to do this. When the form is visible in excel I cannot save the file or do anything other than use it to populate the table. I have to close the form to do anything. And when I close the form it just disappears. How can this form be emailed? Thanks!

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