Word's sophisticated forms capabilities permit you to streamline various business tasks that once required paper forms. You can create forms that enable users to choose among lists of options, forms that provide online help, and even forms that guide users from start to finish. Best of all, users can fill in these forms without changing the underlying form itself. And if you're networked, you can use your network server or intranet?rather than some distant warehouse?as your central repository for forms.
As you'll discover, building a printed or electronic form in Word 2003 is relatively easy. However, there may be times when it makes more sense to use another tool:
Forms built in Word can perform calculations, but if your forms require extensive, complex calculations that go far beyond simple arithmetic, consider building them in Microsoft Excel rather than Word.
Forms built in Word can transfer their data to a database such as Microsoft Access, but if integrating the information in your forms into a database is your central goal, consider building the forms in Access rather than Word.
If you are using forms as a front end for applications that utilize XML, consider using the new Microsoft Office InfoPath.
If the users who will fill out your online forms do not have access to Microsoft Word or Office, consider creating Web-based forms that can be accessed from a browser. Alternatively, consider using a traditional forms program such as FormTool or FormFlow.
The tools Word provides for building Web forms?available through the Control Toolbox toolbar?can also be used in standard Word forms.
You can use Word's forms feature to build three types of forms:
Standard electronic forms that are filled out in Word by users whose responses are limited to specific areas and types of information
Guided electronic forms in which you display a series of questions and the forms can fill themselves in as the user provides answers
Printed forms that can be completed with a typewriter or a pen
In addition to fairly obvious applications such as questionnaires and surveys, forms can be used in more traditional word processing functions such as automated document production. Lawyers use forms to fill out contracts, whereas bankers use them to complete loan applications.
In fact, Word's forms feature can help you build any document that is largely repetitive except for small areas of specific, individual information.