One of the key reasons for using a form is to collect data. Data is best stored in a database where it can be sorted, filtered, and output in various forms. Word gives you an easy method to extract the information from filled-out forms in a format that makes it easier to import into a database. You can save only the data in a form (as opposed to the entire contents of the form, including the skeleton framework surrounding the form fields). To save only the data, do this:
After your form has been filled out, click the Save button on the Standard toolbar.
In the Save As dialog box, choose Tools, Save Options.
In the Save (Options) dialog box, check the Save Data Only for Forms check box and click OK. The file type changes to Text Only.
Choose a filename and folder location for your file. Click Save.
If you want your forms to be saved as data only, regardless of who uses them or how often, choose Tools, Options; click the Save tab; and then enable the Save Data Only for Forms check box. This way users don't have to worry about selecting Save Data Only for Forms in the Save As dialog box.
When Word saves just the form data, it uses comma-delimited fields. You might be familiar with the concept of a comma-delimited field if you've worked with mail merges. The information from each field is placed in quotes and separated by commas. For example, one data file might look like this: "John","Johnson","123 Somter Street","Avery","SC","29678". The data appears in Word's default tab order for the form's fields, or, if you set the tab order using macros, it saves in the order you specified.
Comma-delimited text is also easier to import into applications built on XML.
This file format is used for both text form fields and drop-down form fields; for drop-down fields, Word includes the item selected by the user. Information returned from a check box form field is handled slightly differently. A checked box shows up as a 1, whereas an unchecked box is a 0. Neither appears in quotes.
After you have saved your forms as data, the information can be imported into an existing database in a program such as Microsoft Access. Almost any database program can read comma-delimited fields saved in a text file. If you are comfortable writing Visual Basic for Applications code, you can write a macro to append the information in each form into one master file to make importing even easier.
For more information on working with macros, see Chapter 32, "Recording and Running Visual Basic Macros," p. 1069.