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Designing and Using Custom Forms in Microsoft Outlook 2013

Creating custom forms from standard forms

To begin working with the standard forms, first verify that you have added the Developer tab to the ribbon. If not, right-click the ribbon and choose Customize The Ribbon. Place a check beside Developer in the left list, and then click OK. Next, click the Developer tab in the ribbon, and then click Design A Form to display the Design Form dialog box, shown in Figure 27-2. You can simply select one of the standard forms listed in this dialog box and begin working with the form in design mode. Later sections in this chapter discuss how to save and publish the forms that you modify or create.

Figure 27-2

Figure 27-2 In the Design Form dialog box, you can choose the type of form you want to create.

Compose vs. read

One of the most basic processes in Outlook 2013 is sending and receiving messages and documents. Although this is a fairly simple process, it requires a close look. In nearly all cases, the form that a sender employs to compose an email message is not the exact form that the receiver of that message uses to read the message. For example, the recipient of an email message can’t modify the body of the message without replying to or forwarding the message. This is because the standard forms have Compose and Read areas.

Figure 27-3 shows a message being composed; Figure 27-4 shows the same message after it has been received.

Figure 27-3

Figure 27-3 Compose a message using a standard message form.

Figure 27-4

Figure 27-4 Here is the same message shown in Figure 27-3 after it has been received. Notice that some fields can no longer be modified.

Notice that some of the fields, such as Subject and To, can’t be modified by the recipient in the Read version. It is, however, entirely possible to configure a form with identical Compose and Read areas. Whether this makes sense for your Outlook 2013 solution is up to you.

To work with a standard form, click Design A Form on the Developer tab to display the Design Form dialog box (shown in Figure 27-2), and then select a Message type form. When you’re working with a standard form in design mode, you can switch between the Compose and Read pages by clicking the Page button in the Form group on the Developer tab and choosing Edit Compose Page or Edit Read Page. You can select these options by clicking Page, as shown in Figure 27-5, and then clicking the Edit Compose Page or Edit Read Page option.

Figure 27-5

Figure 27-5 Use the Edit Compose Page and Edit Read Page options located in the Page menu to switch between compose and read views of the form.

In Figure 27-6, the Compose page of the standard message form is ready for editing. When you click Edit Read Page, the Read view of the form appears for editing, as shown in Figure 27-7.

Figure 27-6

Figure 27-6 This standard Compose view is ready for editing.

Figure 27-7

Figure 27-7 The Read view for a message item looks similar to the Compose view.

Because this is a standard form, a number of controls are already on the form. For example, the text box control for the body of the message is the largest element on the form. This control is bound to an Outlook 2013 field. The following section examines fields and what they mean to an Outlook 2013 solution; working with controls is discussed in the section “Adding and arranging controls.”

Outlook fields

An Outlook 2013 field represents a discrete unit of information that is intelligible to Outlook 2013, such as the Bcc and To fields in an email message. You don’t need to tell Outlook 2013 that email messages have these fields—they are already included in the standard form. Outlook 2013 provides a number of fields that you can use, and you can also add new fields. In theory, an unlimited number of fields are available, but the most common practice is to use a generous number of the built-in fields and a judicious number of new, user-defined properties. For now, this discussion focuses on the fields that are already available to you.

Because it provides so many built-in fields, Outlook 2013 groups them to make it easier to find the ones that you need. For example, some fields, such as To, From, Subject, Importance, Expires, Due By, Created, Size, and Attachment, are particular to email messages. Other fields, such as City, Children, and Birthday, are associated with Outlook 2013 contacts. You can, however, use fields from other forms to suit your needs on any form that you’re designing—for example, Outlook 2013 doesn’t prevent you from adding a Birthday field to an email form.

When you work with a form, you can view the available fields in the Field Chooser, shown in Figure 27-8. To display the Field Chooser (if closed), click the Field Chooser button in the Tools group on the Developer tab; this button is a toggle that shows or hides the Field Chooser. In the Field Chooser, the fields are organized by categories and displayed in a list. You can choose a category in the drop-down list and then search in the body of the Field Chooser for the fields you need.

Figure 27-8

Figure 27-8 The Field Chooser allows you to view and choose the fields available for use.

Item types and fields

The scrollable list of fields shown in the Field Chooser in Figure 27-8 contains all the fields available for a form published in a certain folder. The standard item types come with a number of fields already defined. For example, a mail message comes with To, Subject, Body, and Sent fields already defined. Although you have the full range of fields available as you modify or create a form, you can speed up your development time and decrease your effort by carefully selecting a standard form that most closely corresponds to the solution you’re developing. This way, you can use as many built-in fields as possible. You’ll learn how to represent these fields on your form using controls in the section “Adding and arranging controls.”