Navigation Forms in Microsoft Access 2013

Customize Navigation Forms for Individual Users

Navigation form microsoft 2013
Navigation Forms.

Navigation forms have been around for a while, and many databases including Microsoft Access 2013 use them to make it easier for users—particularly new users—to get around in the software. They are intended to simplify finding the most commonly used forms, reports, tables, and queries. Navigation forms are set up as the default location when a user opens a database. Users are presented with database components that they are likely to need, such as an order form, customer data or monthly report.

Navigation forms are not a catch-all location for every component of a database. Generally, they do not include things like executive reports or financial forecasts unless that is the purpose of the database because that information is usually restricted. You want employees and teams to be able to access data quickly without exposing them to unique, restricted or beta-testing material.

The best thing about navigation forms is that you are in complete control of what users find on them. You can design different navigation forms for different users, which simplifies training new employees. By giving users everything they need on the opening page, you reduce the amount of time it takes for users to get familiar with what they need. After they have the foundation for navigation, they can start learning about the other areas where they occasionally need to go to complete their tasks.

What to Add to a Navigation Form in Access 2013

Every business, department, and organization is different, so ultimately it is up to you what you add to the navigation form. You should put time and thought into determining what does and doesn’t belong on the form. You want to make it easy to find and use all the things someone in data entry or report generation needs—particularly forms and queries. However, you don’t want the navigation form to be so crowded that users can’t find what they need.

One of the best places to start is by getting feedback from the existing users. The form will need to be updated periodically, new forms will be added to the process, some tables will be deprecated, or queries will be renamed to make it clear how to use them, but the first version of the form should be as close to perfect as possible. Getting the initial input from current users at least let you know the kinds of things that should be on the initial version. Over time, you can survey the users to see what has changed or should be updated on the navigation form.

The same approach holds true for existing navigation forms. Unless you work with all the databases every week, you probably aren’t as familiar with what different groups and divisions need. By getting their feedback, you keep navigation forms from ending up a legacy object that no one uses.

When to Add a Navigation Form

In most cases, navigation forms should be added before the launch of a database. This accustoms the users to using the form instead of floundering through areas and possibly working in locations in the database where they shouldn’t be working.

If you are a small company or organization, you may not need a navigation form just yet. For example, if you have less than 10 objects—forms, reports, tables, and queries—you aren’t at a stage where you need to add a navigation form. Occasionally, create a periodic review of your database to determine if the number of components has grown enough to need navigation forms.

How to Create a Navigation Form in Access 2013

The initial creation of a Microsoft Access 2013 navigation form is relatively straightforward. The problems start when it comes time to start adding and updating them. Make sure you have a plan before you get started so that you can have a complete first version.

  1. Go to the database where you want to add a form.
  2. Click Create > Forms and click on the drop-down menu next to Navigation to select the layout of the form you want to add. The Navigation pane appears. If it doesn't, press F11.
  3. Confirm the form is in Layout View by looking for an area called Form Layout Tools at the top of the Ribbon. If you don't see it, right-click on the Navigation Form tab and select Layout View from the Layout option.
  4. Select and drag the component you want to add to the navigation form from the tables, reports, lists, queries and other elements on the panel on the left side of the screen.

After you have the form organized the way you want it, you can go in and edit the names of different parts of the form including captions.

When you feel the form is ready, send it around for a final check by those who will use it to get their feedback. 

Setting the Navigation Form as the Default Page

After spending the time planning and creating the form, you want your users to know that it is available. If this is the initial launch of the database, make the navigation form the first thing the users encounter when they open the database.

  1. Go to File > Options.
  2. Select Current Database on the left side of the window that appears.
  3. Click on the drop-down menu next to Display Form under Application Options and choose your navigation form from the options.

Best Practices for Navigation Forms

  • Databases evolve over time, and the navigation form needs to reflect those changes. Create a schedule to periodically review the form.
  • Don’t overcrowd your navigation form. The more stuff you add to it, the less effective it will be.
  • Label form elements with names that make it easier for users to figure out how they should use each element. If users should access forms and reports in a certain order, make the form reflect that.
  • Color coding different navigation forms can save you a lot of trouble later. Setting one department to green and another to purple makes it easier for you to keep track of what you have and haven’t done and prevent confusion when you update several forms at the same time.