How to Use and Apply Report Themes in Microsoft Access 2013

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Along with the practical aspects of databases, Microsoft Access offers some nice-to-have features that make getting the job done a little easier. One of the extra features is report themes, which can turn a data dump into a useful, presentable report. It gives you a way to make all your team, department or company reports look consistent. You can set a different theme for a report that is used at a company meeting or a convention, or you can customize a report for shareholders. By using report themes, you'll find it easier to give your reports the professional look and feel that you really can’t get with Microsoft Excel. It is one of the reasons why you should move your data into a database instead of trying to maintain spreadsheets.

The report themes feature is relatively easy to use, particularly if you are accustomed to working in Microsoft Access. Don’t worry if you haven’t had much experience with Microsoft Access. It is a quick and easy exercise to start applying a classy look to anything that you need to look presentable. You can even update the themes of older reports if you need to resurrect them for comparison with a new report. This is handy when you make a comparison and you don’t want your audience to be distracted by the dated look of a report from five years ago or — in some cases — the extremely basic appearance of reports from over a decade ago. Whatever your needs, as long as you have the data in the database, you can make it presentable.

The Reports Default Settings

The report default depends on whether you start from scratch or with a template. If you use an existing database, the default is whatever the creator of the database used during the setup. If you create your own default, Access has a single location where you can go to check out the themes that come with the purchased version. There are also themes available online so if you don’t like what is with your purchased version, you can find something better suited to your needs online.

Depending on whether you work with old reports or new reports, you may want to take some time to go through the themes to see which ones look best for the different intended audiences. If you are going to be reworking legacy reports, consider something that is similar to what you’ve done in the past; otherwise, you will have to do a lot of work to redo all of the reports.

There is a default theme for new reports that you can overwrite.

  1. Click on the Quick Access Toolbar drop-down menu and select More Commands.
  2. Click on Object Designers.
  3. Scroll down to Form/Report design view and update the Report template to match the one you want to use by default.
  4. Click OK.

You can also set the default from the Design view.

  1. Open the report in Design view.
  2. Go to the Report Design Tools > Design > Themes and go to the drop-down menu under the Themes button.
  3. Right-click on the theme you want to make the default and select Make This Theme the Database Default.

No matter which method you use to change the default, keep in mind that it changes the appearance of any reports you create after it is set. It does not modify existing reports.

Applying Themes to New Reports

The way you apply themes to new and legacy reports is essentially the same, but what you see varies. If you are creating a new report, you may not have any data to populate the report yet. This means that you have a less accurate idea of how the final report will look because it will have empty spaces when you apply the theme. It is best to have at least some data when you start looking at reports so that you can see how the data and theme look together. If you are looking at just a theme without text you may be shocked to see what it looks like when there is data.

  1. Open the report in Design view.
  2. Go to the Report Design Tools > Design > Themes, and go to the drop-down menu under the Themes button.
  3. Select one of the themes from the drop-down menu or open Browse to look at other themes you’ve downloaded.

If you like the design and just want to change the color, you can do that in the same area. Instead of clicking on the Themes button, click on either the Colors or Font buttons to make the changes.

Applying Themes to Legacy Reports

Update legacy reports the same way that you update new reports, but track which legacy reports you update, as well as when you made the changes. You need to keep a record of everything you change over time for configuration control, especially if you deal with financial or other information that is used in audits. If the appearance is different for legacy reports, you have to be able to prove what was changed and when.

Typically, it is best not to update reports that you have already presented. You can update the appearance going forward, treating it like an entirely new report. Chances are you won’t need to present old reports for anything official. On the off chance that you do, it doesn’t hurt for people to see how much your business has changed over time.