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Pro tip: Nest content controls using Word 2013's new Repeating Section Content Control

Find out how you can use Word 2013's new Repeating Section Content Control to facilitate data input.

 

Word 2013 Repeating
 

Last month, I showed you visual enhancements made to Word 2013 for existing content controls. Word 2013 also has a new content control, the Repeating Section Content Control (RSCC), that enables you to repeat content throughout a document. In a nutshell, you insert the RSCC around existing text or a table. Then, you can insert copies of that section. While this control is useful for static data, the RSCC is much more than repeating text -- this feature really shines when you nest content controls to guide users entering the same type of data repeatedly. In this article, we’ll use a RSCC to prompt data entry for a table. The downloadable .docx file has the table and controls already in place.

Figure A shows the beginnings of our example table. 

Figure A

 

Figure A
 

The table is our input area with four cells. We’ll use a specific type of content control in each cell. Then, we’ll wrap all four content controls in a RSCC so you can quickly insert an entire new row with the appropriate content controls. To get started, let's add a Plain Text Content Control to the table. Here's how:

  1. Click inside the first blank cell under Name.
  2. Click the Developer tab. If it isn’t visible, click the File tab, choose Options, and then select Customize Ribbon on the left. In the resulting dialog, check Developer in the Main Tabs list on the right, and click OK.
  3. In the Controls group, click Plain Text Context Control to add a control to the table (Figure B).

Figure B

 

Figure B
 

It’s such an easy process, isn’t it? Repeat the process, using the following information to add the three remaining controls:

  • Hire Date: Date Picker Content Control
  • Gender: Drop-Down List Content Control
  • Department: Drop-Down List Content Control

After inserting all four content controls, click outside the table so you can see the unfinished table (Figure C). 

Figure C

 

Figure C
 

Both drop-down controls need lists. To create the Gender list, do the following:

  1. Select the Drop-Down List Control in the Gender cell.
  2. On the Developer tab, click Properties in the Controls group.
  3. Use Figure D as a guide to set the properties.
  4. Be sure to uncheck the Contents Cannot Be Edited option.
  5. To add the list items, click Add, enter an item, and click OK. In this case, you don’t need a different value setting for each item; use the default setting (to repeat the text).
  6. After setting all the properties, click OK.

Figure D 

 

Figure D
 

Repeat the process to create a department list using the following items: HR, Accounting, Editorial, CS, and Executive. Don’t forget step 4!

Now, let’s add a RSCC to corral the other four content controls:

  1. Select the table row that contains the content controls -- be sure to select the entire row.
  2. Click RSCC in the Controls group on the Developer tab. That’s it! Figure E shows the results.

Figure E

 

Figure E
 

You can set properties by clicking the small handle to the left -- make sure you select only the RSCC -- and click Properties in the Controls group. Use Figure F to set the RSCC’s properties. 

Figure F

 

Figure F
 

Click OK to close it when you’re done. Now, you’re ready to tab through the data input controls and add a record. Figure G shows a Hire Date selection.

Figure G 

 

Figure G
 

Figure H shows a Gender selection.

Figure H 

 

Figure H
 

After completing a record, you’re ready to experience the RSCC’s real strength. Click the plus sign [+] circled in Figure I to copy the four nested input controls (or section) to the next record, as shown in Figure J. You can add a new section (or row) as needed or add several at once. To insert a new section between two existing sections, select the section (record) above to display the plus sign [+] to the right, and click it.

Figure I

 

Figure I
 

Figure J

 

Figure J
 

In this simple example, I’ve used the RSCC to repeat the nested controls, not text. You can also use this control to repeat static text, such as a company name or logo.

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About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

4 comments
Ujjwal100
Ujjwal100

I wasn't aware of these features.

hirussellsmith
hirussellsmith

Now user can improve their contents in more organized way. Finally, it makes helpful understanding with document files.

Tolga BALCI
Tolga BALCI

Hi Susan,

Great article as always. A quick question: is it possible to send this page as an HTML mail from Outlook and collect the results in an Excel sheet or an Access database?

Thanks

info
info

I wasn't aware of these features, so thanks. 
Even so, can you suggest reasons WHY you would do this in Word rather than Excel?

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