Introduction to controls

Introduction to controls

This article describes the different kinds of controls available in Access. Controls are the parts of a form or report that you use to enter, edit, or display data.

Control types

Here are the list of control types you can use in Access desktop databases.

Control Type

Notes

Text Box

Use text box controls for displaying text, numbers, dates, times, and memo fields. You can bind a text box to one of the fields in an underlying table or query. If you let a text box that is bound to a field be updated, you can change the value in the field in the underlying table or query by entering a new value in the text box. You can also use a text box to display calculated values.

Label

Use label controls that contain fixed text. By default, controls that can display data have a label control automatically attached. You can use this command to create stand-alone labels for headings and for instructions on your form.

Command button

Use command button controls to activate a macro or a Visual Basic procedure. You can also specify a hyperlink address that Access opens when a user clicks the button.

Tab Control

Use tab controls to create a series of tab pages on your form. Each page can contain a number of other controls to display information. The tab control works much like many of the option dialog boxes or property sheet windows in Access—when a user clicks a different tab, Access displays the controls contained on that tab.

Link

Use the Link/Hyperlink control option to add a hyperlink in a label control to your form design grid. This hyperlink can contain a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) that points to a location on the Internet, on a local intranet, or on a local drive. It can also use a Universal Naming Convention (UNC) file name to point to a file on a server on your local area network (LAN) or on your local computer drives. The link might point to a file that is a web page or even another object in your current database. Clicking this button in the Controls group on the Ribbon opens the Insert Hyperlink dialog box.

Web Browser

Use a web browser control to display the content of web pages directly inside a form. You can use a web browser control to display, for example, a map of an address stored in a table. You can bind the web browser control to a field in your form’s record source by using the Control Source property of the control. Note that you can't have a bound web browser control in the Detail section of a continuous form.

Web browser controls are available in Access 2010 and newer versions.

Navigation

Use a navigational control to provide an easy way to navigate to different forms and reports in your database. A navigational control provides an interface similar to what you see on websites with buttons and tabs to navigate a website. Note that you can't have a navigational control in the Detail section of a continuous form.

Navigation controls are available in Access 2010 and newer versions.

Option Group

Use option group controls to contain one or more toggle buttons, option buttons, or check boxes. (See the descriptions of these controls later in this table.) You can assign a separate numeric value to each button or check box that you include in the group. When you have more than one button or check box in a group, you can select only one button or check box at a time, and the value assigned to that button or check box becomes the value for the option group. If you have incorrectly assigned the same value to more than one button or check box, all buttons or check boxes that have the same value appear highlighted when you click any of them. You can select one of the buttons or check boxes in the group as the default value for the group. If you bind the option group to a field in the underlying query or table, you can set a new value in the field by selecting a button or a check box in the group.

Page Break

Use a page break to separate between the pages of a multiple-page form.

Combo Box

Use a combo box control to contain a list of potential values for the control and an editable text box. To create the list, you can enter values for the Row Source property of the combo box. You can also specify a table or a query as the source of the values in the list. Access displays the currently selected value in the text box. When you click the arrow to the right of the combo box, Access displays the values in the list. Select a new value in the list to reset the value in the control. If you bind the combo box to a field in the underlying table or query, you can change the value in the field by selecting a new value in the list. If you bind the combo box to a multi-value field, Access displays the list with check boxes to allow the user to select multiple values. You can bind multiple columns to the list, and you can hide one or more of the columns in the list by setting a column’s width to 0. You can bind the actual value in the control to such a hidden column. When a multiple-column list is closed, Access displays the value in the first column whose width is greater than 0. Access displays all nonzero-width columns when you open the list.

Line

Use a line control to add lines to a form or report to enhance its appearance.

Toggle Button

Use toggle button controls to hold an on/off, a true/false, or a yes/no value. When you click a toggle button, its value becomes -1 (to represent on, true, or yes), and the button appears pressed in. Click the button again, and its value becomes 0 (to represent off, false, or no) and the button returns to normal. You can include a toggle button in an option group and assign the button a unique numeric value. If you create a group with multiple controls, selecting a new toggle button clears any previously selected toggle button, option button, or check box in that group (unless other buttons or check boxes in the group also have the same value). If you bind the toggle button to a field in the underlying table or query, you can toggle the field’s value by clicking the toggle button.

List Box

Use a list box control to contains a list of potential values for the control. To create the list, you can enter the values in the Row Source property of the list box. You can also specify a table or a query as the source of the values in the list. List boxes are always open, and Access highlights the currently selected value in the list box. You select a new value in the list to reset the value in the control. If you bind the list box to a field in the underlying table or query, you can change the value in the field by selecting a new value in the list. If you bind the list box to a multi-value field, Access displays the list with check boxes to allow the user to select multiple values. You can bind multiple columns to the list, and you can hide one or more of the columns in the list by setting a column’s width to 0. You can bind the actual value in the control to such a hidden column. Access displays all nonzero-width columns that fit within the defined width of the control. If the list box control is unbound, you can allow the user to select multiple values in the list (also called a multiple-selection list box).

Rectangle

Use a rectangle control to add filled or empty rectangles to a form to enhance its appearance. You can use this control, for example, to visually group different controls together.

Check Box

Use a check box control to hold an on/off, a true/false, or a yes/no value. When you select a check box, its value becomes -1 (to represent on, true, or yes), and a check mark appears in the box. Select the check box again, and its value becomes 0 (to represent off, false, or no), and the check mark disappears from the box. You can include a check box in an option group and assign the check box a unique numeric value. If you create a group with multiple controls, selecting a new check box clears any previously selected toggle button, option button, or check box in that group (unless other buttons or check boxes in the group also have the same value). If you bind the check box to a field in the underlying table or query, you can toggle the field’s value by clicking the check box.

Unbound Object Frame

Use an unbound object frame to add an object from another application that supports object linking and embedding (OLE). The object becomes part of your form, not part of the data from the underlying table or query. You can add pictures, sounds, charts, or slides to enhance your form. When the object is a chart, you can specify a query as the source of data for the chart, and you can link the chart display to the current record in the form by one or more field values.

Attachment

Use an attachment control to bind this to an attachment field in the underlying data. You can use this control, for example, to display a picture or to attach other files. In Form view, this control presents the Manage Attachments dialog box, where you can attach, delete, and view multiple attachment files stored in the underlying field.

Option Button

Use an option button control (sometimes called a radio button control) to hold an on/off, a true/false, or a yes/no value. When you select an option button, its value becomes -1 (to represent on, true, or yes), and a filled circle appears in the center of the button. Select the button again, and its value becomes 0 (to represent off, false, or no), and the filled circle disappears. You can include an option button in an option group and assign the button a unique numeric value. If you create a group with multiple controls, selecting a new option button clears any previously selected toggle button, option button, or check box in that group (unless other buttons or check boxes in the group also have the same value). If you bind the option button to a field in the underlying table or query, you can toggle the field’s value by clicking the option button.

Subform/Subreport

Use the subform/subreport control to embed another form or report in the current form. You can use the subform or subreport to show data from a table or a query that is related to the data in the main form. Access maintains the link between the main form and the subform or subreport for you.

Bound Object Frame

Use a bound object frame to display and edit an OLE object field from the underlying data. Access can display most pictures and graphs directly on a form. For other objects, Access displays the icon for the application in which the object was created. For example, if the object is a sound object created in Windows Sound Recorder, you’ll see a speaker icon on your form.

Image

Use the image control to place a static picture on your form. You cannot edit the picture on the form, but Access stores it in a format that is very efficient for application speed and size. If you want to use a picture as the entire background of your form, you can set the form’s Picture property.

Chart

Use the chart control to add a chart on your form grid. Clicking this button and then placing the control on your form starts the Chart Wizard, which walks you through the steps necessary to create a new chart.

ActiveX

Use the ActiveX control button to open a dialog box showing all the ActiveX controls you have installed on your system. You can select one of the controls and then click OK to add the control to the form design grid. Not all ActiveX controls work with Access.

Understand binding with controls

Controls can be bound, unbound, or calculated:

  • Bound control    A control whose source of data is a field in a table or query is called a bound control. You use bound controls to display values that come from fields in your database. The values can be text, dates, numbers, Yes/No values, pictures, or graphs. For example, a text box that displays an employee's last name might get this information from the Last Name field in the Employees table.

  • Unbound control    A control that doesn't have a source of data (such as a field or expression) is called an unbound control. You use unbound controls to display information, pictures, lines or rectangles. For example, a label that displays the title of a form is an unbound control.

  • Calculated control    A control whose source of data is an expression, rather than a field, is called a calculated control. You specify the value that you want to use as the source of data in the control by defining an expression. An expression can be a combination of operators (such as = and + ), control names, field names, functions that return a single value, and constant values. For example, the following expression calculates the price of an item with a 25 percent discount by multiplying the value in the Unit Price field by a constant value (0.75).

=[Unit Price] * 0.75

An expression can use data from a field in the form or report's underlying table or query, or data from another control on the form or report.

Note: Calculations can also be performed in tables by adding a Calculated field, or in queries by entering an expression in the Field row of the query grid. You can then bind forms and reports to those tables or queries, and the calculations appear on the forms or reports without needing to create a calculated control.

When you create a form or report, it is probably most efficient to add and arrange all the bound controls first, especially if they make up most of the controls on the object. You can then add the unbound and calculated controls that complete the design by using the tools in the Controls group on the Design tab in Layout view or Design view.

You bind a control to a field by identifying the field from which the control gets its data. You can create a control that is bound to the selected field by dragging the field from the Field List pane to the form or report. The Field List pane displays the fields of the form's underlying table or query. To display the Field List pane, open the object in Layout view or Design view, and then on the Design tab, in the Tools group, click Add Existing Fields. When you double-click a field in the Field List pane, Access adds the appropriate type of control for that field to the object.

Alternatively, you can bind a field to a control by typing the field name in the control itself (if the object is open in Design view), or in the Control Source property box in the control's property sheet. The property sheet defines the characteristics of the control, such as its name, the source of its data, and its format. To display or hide the property sheet, press F4.

Using the Field List pane is the best way to create a bound control for two reasons:

  • Access automatically fills in the control's attached label with the name of the field (or the caption defined for that field in the underlying table or query), so you don't have to type the control's label yourself.

  • Access automatically sets many of the control's properties to the appropriate values according to the properties of the field in the underlying table or query (such as the Format, Decimal Places, and Input Mask properties).

If you already created an unbound control and want to bind it to a field, set the value in the control's Control Source property box to the name of the field. For details about the Control Source property, press F1 while the cursor is in the property's drop-down list.

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See Also

Automatically align controls on a form

Create a calculated control

Set the tab order for controls

Set default values for fields or controls

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