Converting Electronic Forms to Printed Forms

It's common to create forms that will be used both from within Word and in printed versions. Word delivers "What You See Is What You Get" formatting, so your forms appear in print exactly as they do onscreen. (There is one exception: The gray rectangles that mark form fields onscreen do not appear in print.)

However, the art of creating an easy-to-use printed form varies slightly from the techniques you need for electronic forms. Keep these pointers in mind:

  • When users are working in Word, they can enter large amounts of data even in a tiny text form field (as long as you haven't limited the maximum length of their entries). Of course, this isn't true in print. Make sure that you leave sufficient space in your design for users to enter all the text they need to enter.

  • You need to remove drop-down fields (so that defaults are not printed in your form, preventing users from making other choices). Then you need to reformat your forms so that users can see a list of the choices from which you want them to select.

  • You may need to enlarge Word's default check boxes to make them easily visible and usable in print.

  • If you're designing a form that will be filled out on a typewriter, make the font size 12 or 10 points. The type elements for most typewriters are usually one of these two sizes, and it makes aligning the responses much easier.

  • The Drawing toolbar enables you to create various shapes perfect for forms: straight lines, arrows, boxes, circles, and numerous AutoShapes. Moreover, they can all be independently positioned and aligned.

  • A table is an easy way to create a series of evenly spaced lines. You can turn off all but the bottom border and set the table height to be exactly a certain point size. The Forms toolbar has both Insert Table and Draw Table buttons.

  • If you need to position an element of the form precisely, use a frame or a text box. To insert a frame, click the Insert Frame button on the Forms toolbar and drag the mouse pointer until you reach the approximate size you need. Then you can refine the size and position by right-clicking on the frame and choosing Format Frame from the shortcut menu.

  • If your electronic form contains a time stamp, when you print it, the time stamp will represent the time of printing.

  • Rather than using check box form fields, consider creating your check boxes through Format, Bullets and Numbering. Select the hollow square check box bullet. You can select any other symbol as a check box by clicking the Customize button on the Bullets and Numbering dialog box and then clicking the Bullet button. Click the Font button to change the bullet's size. Turn off your checklist by clicking the Bullet button on the Formatting toolbar.

    Part I: Word Basics: Get Productive Fast
    Part II: Building Slicker Documents Faster
    Part III: The Visual Word: Making Documents Look Great
    Part IV: Industrial-Strength Document Production Techniques
    Part VI: The Corporate Word