Make a Fillable Form in Word 2016 & Collect Data the Easy Way

Saikat Basu 30-05-2017

Have you ever seen a beautiful form in your life?


I don’t think I have. The bland paper form just wants your damned information and then head towards a dusty file somewhere.

That’s where an electronic fillable form can shine. First, you can create and broadcast one at the speed of a few clicks. Second, you can make them pop out from the screen with imaginative design. Third, you don’t need a dusty file.

Fillable forms aren’t Adobe Acrobat’s turf anymore. Several tools can help you make intelligent forms on the fly. Google Forms is the first popular tool that comes to mind. But there are other reliable alternatives to Google Forms The Finest 14 Google Forms Alternatives You Should Try There's a world outside of Google and some pretty great Google Forms alternatives. Find out if these web apps and tools are as effective for you as Google Forms is. Read More out there.

Microsoft Word included.

You may not have paid attention to Word’s powerful abilities 10 Hidden Features of Microsoft Word That'll Make Your Life Easier Microsoft Word wouldn't be the tool it is without its productive features. Here are several features that can help you every day. Read More because you didn’t need to create a form yet. Also, a fillable form is an advanced feature in Microsoft Word that you might want to do with a gun pointed at your head. But you should master it because you never know when you may need to gather data or feedback from a target audience.


It All Starts with a Plan

Think of it this way. Your goal is to coax information and not arm-twist it with a form that would make the J. Edgar’s of this world proud. Your objective is to achieve your goals and that of the user. For example, you can use a form to ask for feedback from the visitors to your site 5 Essential Forms That Every Website Needs to Have Here are five form types that you should consider adding to your website. Read More and expand your own knowledge. Your goal as a website owner is to meet user expectations and boost traffic to your page.

Keep it simple. Think about the user-friendliness of the labels, input fields, and the action buttons in the form.

Ask the right questions. Ask only what you really need. Extra information can be left for other forms of communication.

Make it easy to complete. Users should be able to scan the form in one sweep of the eye.


Form design is an entire subject. You should consider other factors as well, like ensuring the privacy of the form and the data validation that follows. These three are over-arching goals you should set yourself. So, let’s move to the Microsoft Word Ribbon and a special tab where it all starts.

The Developer Tab Is the Control Center for Your Form

The process to create our first form starts in the Developer tab on the Ribbon. You can’t spot it yet as it is disabled by default. Let’s bring it to the surface.

Go to File > Options > Customize Ribbon. Under the long list of main tabs on the right, select the checkbox for Developer. Click OK. The Developer controls now have a place on the Ribbon.

Enable the Developer Tab


Add the Content Controls

Content controls are interactive elements that help you design documents and templates quickly. They are containers for specific content in a document. These form controls have been part of Word since 2007. They are the building blocks for any form. Every content control has properties which can be set to take information from the user and collect data.

Type in the details that you want the recipients to fill out – like Name, Gender, Age, Country, Mobile Number, Operating System…and a few more. Using a table to neatly organize the fields is always a good idea. Here’s how the skeleton of the form looks…

Simple form

Now, we have to add the Content Controls from the Developer tab which will make this form more interactive. Select the Developer tab.  Insert the cursor where you want the control to appear. Under the Controls group, you can see that there are ten content control options to choose from depending on the user input you want.


Choose the Right Content Control for Your Form

Rich Text Content Control: Users can type more than one line and format the text as bold or italic.

Plain Text Content Control: Users can only enter text in the plain text format.

Picture Content Control: This control displays an image. You can specify the image or users can click this control to select an image to insert in the document.

Building Block Gallery Content Control: This is useful for more complex documents when you want people to choose a specific block of text. A building block is any predesigned piece of content. This control can hold these pre-designed blocks for you to select the right one. Building blocks can help you create forms with many variables quickly. For example, you can create three different terms of an agreement as three building blocks. With this control, you select one to apply in the form.

Content Control Options

Check Box Content Control: Users can select one or more options from a pre-defined list in the form.

Combo Box Content Control: Users can select from a list of options that you provide or they can type in their own information.

Drop-Down List Content Control: Users can select one or multiple options from a drop-down list.

Date Picker Content Control: Allows the user to choose a date from the displayed calendar.

Repeating Section Content Control: This content control can be used to collect different versions of the same data. With this, you can repeat the sections of your form as needed.

Legacy Tools: These are the field types that were available in older versions of Word. For instance: frames. You can continue to use them in Word 2016 when you want to save a form for an older version of Word.

Now, all you have to is add the Content Controls at the right places in your document and then use the Content Control Properties to configure them for taking the right kind of data from the users. Let’s do this in the next section.

Add All Content Controls

Insert the cursor where you want the control to appear. Choose from the ten Content Controls as per the user input you want.

For instance, Name needs a Plain Text Control as a fillable data field. Gender could do with Checkboxes for male, female, and others as appropriate. For boilerplate text, you can use the Building Block Gallery Content Control.

Here’s how our simple form looks like after all the Content Controls have been placed at the right places.

Insert the right content controls

Set the Properties for Each Content Controls

Each content control has properties that you can restrict or change. For example, the Date Picker control offers options for the format you want to use to display the date.

Click the content control that you want to change. Go to the Developer tab and click Properties. Change the properties that you want.

Set the Properties for Each Content Controls

For instance, you can select a specific symbol for the checkbox instead of the standard checkmark. You can set the Date Picker to accept dates in a specific month-date-year format.

Here’s another illustration of a drop-down list.

Drop-Down List

By default, the Display Name and Value will be the same, but you can change it if you like. You don’t need to change the values unless you are using Word macros to further work on the form fields.

Once you have filled the drop-down list, click. Users will be able to select the options from the drop-down list in the finished form.

Add Filler Text to Guide the User

Each content control displays a filler text. For instance, the Plain Text Content Control tells you to “Click or tap here to enter text“. The Content Control Properties dialog allows you to tweak this text and make the instructions more relevant to the data you are looking for. This is helpful because you would want to make the instructions as clear as possible for the user.

Tweak the default instructional text in few quick steps:

Go to the Developer tab and click Design Mode.

Add filler text as a guide.

Click the content control where you want to revise the placeholder instructional text.

Edit the placeholder text and format it any way you want.

revise the placeholder instructional text.

On the Developer tab click Design Mode to turn off the design feature. Save the instructional text.

Finalize the Form and Restrict Unintentional Editing

You don’t want users to change the form fields and break the integrity of the information you are looking for. With a single command, you can lock down the editing of form content by anyone other than yourself.

Open the form that you want to lock or protect.

Click Home > Select > Select All (or press CTRL+A).

Click Developer > Restrict Editing.

Restrict editing in your document.

A Restrict Editing pane will be displayed on the right. Click on the dropdown for Editing restrictions and choose Filling in forms. Enable the Allow only this type of editing checkbox above it.

Make a Fillable Form in Word 2016 & Collect Data the Easy Way Restrict editing

Click on Yes, Start Enforcing Protection and then enter a password to secure the restrictions. Now, everything is locked and the user can only access the form fields to enter data.

Always, test the form before sending it. Open the form, fill it out as the user would, and then save a copy in a location that you want.

This is a form at its simplest. Formatting and designing with Word’s other tools can turn even this simple form into a powerful document for data exchange. Let’s leave that for another future article.

Do You Need to Design a Form Right Now?

A form is an engagement tool. It is also a tool for transactions thanks to the legal acceptance of electronic and digital signatures Is Your Electronic Signature Legal Around the World? Are electronic signatures valid and legal around the world? Are they more preferable to the inked handwritten signature in a paperless world? We look at what the law says globally. Read More around the world. If you have a business of any kind, you can make your own forms and keep them around as form templates 10 Free Business Form Templates You Should Keep Handy Business templates can save you lots of time. Here we show you a selection of business form templates you can download for free. Read More for any situation.

Do you create your own forms? How convenient do you find Microsoft Word as compared to the more popular Google Forms or many other online alternatives?

Image Credit: Andrey_Popov via

Originally written by Saikat Basu on July 25, 2011.

Related topics: Digital Document, Microsoft Word.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Mahadeva
    February 23, 2019 at 11:53 pm

    Thank you

  2. DocBot
    August 21, 2017 at 7:02 pm

    Thanks for the help on this.
    You state "Drop-Down List Content Control: Users can select one or multiple options from a drop-down list.", but I can't find a way to do multiple option selection. Can you help me with this? Is it a setting I have not seen?

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    January 17, 2017 at 3:35 am

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  4. clarkson
    October 30, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Great Info there! Wonder if it is possible to export an excel cell content into a content control rich text? Will a plus point if can refresh by itself when the cell is been updated.

  5. fillable
    August 31, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    this is very good website

  6. jay
    June 28, 2016 at 5:09 am

    I have a table with fields in, when I type text in a column the text in the field moves down into another row. I have tried to restrict it to 3 lines in maximum length but this does not seem to stop the text from moving down. Does 2010 have the option like adobe pro where the text would stay in the column & row but just makes the font smaller enabling it to stay in the field.

  7. Kathleen
    June 22, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    I created a fillable form and password protected it. However When i open it on my Android phone it is no longer protected and when I open it on an iphone you can fill in the form.. How do I fix the form so it can by used on computers, iphone and android phone?

  8. CA 35 Mike
    December 8, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    FYI: common grammatical error at,
    "Available since Word 2007, there home is on the Developer tab" should be "their home is on..."
    I appreciate the resources and tips you offer.

  9. Amanda
    March 25, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    I use the "Restrict Editing" feature on my Word form (with a password no one but myself knows), limiting folks to just filling in the form. That said, each year when I collect them from my program participants, a few people ALWAYS manage to override my protections and are able to 1) override drop-down menus and type in whatever they want in the field or 2) type outside the text fields. Any idea how folks are getting around my protection? Thanks!

    • Matthew
      April 8, 2015 at 1:21 am

      You can easily unlock any work document by saving it as a html file, open the html file with notepad to see the code behind the document. You then use the find function to quickly search for the term "enforcement = 1" or "enforcement = yes" and change the 1 to a 0 or change the yes to a no, close, save and voila! the document now has zero protection. (sources: Google).

  10. Dean
    March 17, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    Is there any way to make a fillable form functional in the tablet/iPad version of Word? I have Office 365 Word on my iPad and can't seem to get the fillable form fields to work. Thank you.

    • Saikat
      March 17, 2015 at 4:56 pm

      Honestly, no idea as I don't own a tablet. Maybe, you can pitch this in our Answers section.

  11. Fiona
    February 25, 2015 at 12:44 am

    Hi :) For a text form field I've got Default Text to give users a hint regarding the type of data they need to enter into that field. How do I stop that default text from printing if the user doesn't populate that field? I've tried the add helpt text section in the field properties but whatever I type doesn't appear in the document.

    • Saikat
      February 25, 2015 at 5:17 am

      Enter the Developer mode.
      Click on the box in question and click properties
      Remove the default text
      Once you protect the document again that text will disappear and the blank space now appears.

      I don't think there's any other way. But do ask in our Answers section. Someone might have a neat tip.

  12. Fiona
    February 25, 2015 at 12:35 am

    Hi :) For a text form field I've got Default Text to give users a hint regarding the type of data they need to enter into that field. How do I stop that default text from printing if the user doesn't populate that field? I've tried the add helpt text section in the field properties but whatever I type doesn't appear in the document.

  13. Joel
    January 20, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    How would I get about getting the information from the form and displaying them in something like a label elsewhere in the same document??
    great post

    • Saikat
      January 21, 2015 at 5:44 pm

      I haven't tried that yet, but maybe, follow the same steps as for mail merge into labels?

  14. Kent
    January 19, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    Excellent tutorial. I have a Word 2010 document where I would to create a number field where the user must enter a number greater than a predetermined minimum. So for example the user can enter anything over 500, but not 499 or less. Is there a way to restrict user entered data like this...thank you in advance

    • Saikat
      January 20, 2015 at 7:05 am

      As far as I know, data validation is much more difficult in Word and is an overkill. The easier tool to use is Excel. Hopefully, this WordTips tutorialwill help you out.

  15. Anthony
    January 5, 2015 at 4:24 am

    I have a form with several different types of content controls (ie. checkbox, dropdown, etc.) I want to be able to search for all dropdown controls and replace them with a checkbox control. How do I do this?

    • Saikat
      January 12, 2015 at 9:16 am

      Not sure how to answer this. Why don't you try our community in our Answers section..

  16. Elango
    December 31, 2014 at 8:16 am

    I need for how to export image content control

  17. uchesgirl
    December 16, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    Your article didn't mention anything about how to collect the data, after the document has been created. I need assistance in that area. I would like to import the data in Excel or Access.

    • MaryB
      May 1, 2015 at 3:57 pm

      I have the same question. I need to know how to get this data from the filled out forms into Excel.

    • MaryB
      May 1, 2015 at 4:05 pm

      I have the same question. I need to know how to get this data from the filled out forms into Excel.

      • Mark Ian Alloso
        January 17, 2017 at 3:27 am

        The same situation at the moment. Any update on how to fix this one please?

        • Saikat Basu
          January 22, 2017 at 6:37 am

          This solution is the easiest one --

          There are other solutions that use the power of VBA . YouTube has a few videos on that as well.

          But all in all looks like time for another article ;)

  18. Devon Wright
    December 14, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    Yes , this has helped me to complete a section of an assignment I am doing on interactive CD . I never had a clue how to create such a interactive feedback form. However , I used Word 2007 so I could not get 'check boxes' for age , gender and so on ; I used text for all questions! The drop box for properties never appeared , neither for restriction for editing the question but I was able to use 'Group' to prevent editing by the user. Thanks!

  19. CindyHaight
    October 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    I need to add a function where the user can tab from field to field when completing a form. Where is this function?

    • Saikat Basu
      October 22, 2011 at 7:38 pm

      I am not sure of the answer myself. Maybe, you can post it in our Answers section and ask for the solution from the wider community.

  20. Chris
    October 16, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    Thanks a million for taking the time to compose, type and present this great info, you taught me something it would have taken hours to learn on my own. I do appreciate your time and hard work involved in creating this helpful posting.  It is definitely helping people and changing the world for the common good.


  21. Niels Grundtvig Nielsen
    October 11, 2011 at 8:45 am

    When I try this - just adding checkboxes - the [Yes, Start Enforcing Protection] button remains disabled. All I've managed to find is vague suggestions about DRM, which seems a bit like overkill. Any tips will be welcome!

  22. Kim
    October 4, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Great tutorial.  However, when I protect it and save it as a .dotx and then send it to myself, none of the controls (check boxes or text boxes) are accessible.  I created it in Word 2010. I emailed it to a Word 2007 pc and nothing is working at all.  Any help/advice would be appreciated

    • Saikat Basu
      October 6, 2011 at 11:49 am

      I guess it will only work as a 2010 document. You cannot use it if you create it in the upgraded version and open it up again in the 2007 version.

    • Saikat Basu
      October 14, 2011 at 7:43 pm

      It won't work with the 2007 version. You have to save it as a dotx file and not as doc. Some of the advanced controls are meant for Word 2010.

  23. Saikat Basu
    September 27, 2011 at 3:29 am

    There is a maxlength property. I suppose you can use that. You can also set properties like multi-line, word wrap, and auto-size.

  24. Shamelin
    September 23, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Is there an easy way to know how many characters will fit into a text box? I often need to use several different size boxes and find it difficult to ensure that the text will not "roll" out of the readable area of the box.

  25. hoangmi
    September 20, 2011 at 6:56 am

    Thank you for this wonderful tutorial. I've filled this website URL in my 'useful websites' folder.
    I have one question: Can we make a bigger box than the tick box for yes/no question that respondents can fill digits?

    • Saikat Basu
      September 22, 2011 at 10:22 am

      I am not sure I understand your question. You can use a Rich Text Content control or a Plain Text Control. Using an ActiveX control allows you to set dimensions.

  26. Griego
    September 15, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    How can I add a line below the active area so it appears that the user is typing on a line?

    • Saikat Basu
      September 15, 2011 at 8:09 pm

      I am not sure of this myself. You can use Active X Controls (Text Box) and work with the values given in the Categorized tab of the Active X control's Properties box. But I didn't get the desired result in my trial. You can put this question to the wiser community in our Answers section.

    • Guest
      September 26, 2011 at 8:43 pm

      I don't know if it works in 10 - but I had good luck in 2003 with clicking in the "box" and picking underline.  It will then underline what you type in the box.  I didn't test...

    • JayBird70
      October 21, 2011 at 11:37 pm

      When you create a text box go to home and underline it......I hope this help.  It worked for me

  27. Becca12
    September 8, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    This is very helpful, thanks.  Is there a way for me to create a field for text that is restricted in length, and that also is filled with background color?  I'd like the fillable areas to be colored to indicate where input is needed.

  28. N2s2k2
    September 3, 2011 at 1:31 am

    I want to add Date of Birth with three separate Day, Month, Year dropdowns. How to do that?

    • Saikat Basu
      September 7, 2011 at 7:13 pm

      The easiest way would be to add a Date Picker Control from the Developer tab. But if you want to insert separate dropdowns, the each dropdown has to be populated with values for day, month, and year from the properties tab of the Dropdown List Control.

  29. Umariking
    August 4, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Simply great. but please tell us how to collect the data in the above filled forms to MS Access. 

    Thanking You for the above post

    • Saikat Basu
      August 5, 2011 at 3:58 am

      That's slightly more complicated. You have to create a ADODB connection between the two. Couldn't find an updated tutorial on it for Office 2010, but you can check out an old MSDN article. The process should be similar.

  30. Anonymous
    August 2, 2011 at 9:17 am

    great post dude...