Software

10 easy steps to customizing an Outlook 2010 form

Outlook forms can streamline your email chores -- especially when they're designed with your needs in mind. This walk-through shows how easy it is to set up your own custom forms.

Creating a custom Outlook form is easier than you might think. You'll begin with a template that already contains most of the functionality you'll need. You can add and delete fields and controls. You can even use VBScript to automate specifics tasks. While creating and implementing a custom form is easy, it does require several steps and for that reason alone, can be a bit confusing. I'll walk you through the process and even show you how to add a bit of VBScript magic.

1: Determine your needs

You'll always begin a custom form by modifying one of the default forms shown in Figure A. Perhaps users need an updated message or journal entry form. If you're sharing calendar data, you'll probably start with an appointment or even a task form. You'll have to alter the default -- that's the whole point -- but the default gives you a good head start.

Figure A

Base a custom form on one of the many default forms.

2: Display the Developer tab

The tools you need for customizing a form are on the Developer tab in Outlook 2010. To display this tab, click the File tab and select Options under Help. Then, click Customize Ribbon in the left pane, check Developer in the list to the right (under the Customize The Ribbon drop-down), and click OK.

3: Open a form template in design view

In step 1, you determined your task and chose an existing form to customize. Now, you're ready to open that form in design view. To do so, click the Developer tab (step 2) and click Design A Form in the Custom Forms group. In Outlook 2007, choose Forms from the Tools menu and then choose Design A Form. The default library, the Standard Forms Library (shown in Figure A), is the right library. Select Contact and click Open. Outlook will open the default form in design view, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

You'll begin with a default form in design view.

4: Add and change fields

You'll start with a default form and remove what you don't need and insert what you do. Deleting a field is easy: Select it and press [Delete]. For instance, select the Business Fax components (one at a time or hold down [Shift] as you click each) and press [Delete] to delete them. To change a field's label text, right-click the label, choose Edit, and enter the new text. Not all fields can be changed or deleted; if the background is gray and the Field Chooser (shown in Figure B) is visible, you can edit the contents.

5: Add new fields

To add a field, choose the appropriate category from the Field Chooser drop-down and then drag a field to the form. Figure C shows two new name fields: Assistant's Name and Manager's Name. If the Field Chooser isn't visible, click Field Chooser in the Tools group. If the option's dimmed, you can't edit (add fields) to the current page. Spend a little time familiarizing yourself with the available fields.

Figure C

Drag and drop new fields onto the custom form.

6: Add a custom field

Many predefined fields are available, but you can create a custom field when necessary. To do so, click New at the bottom of the Field Chooser. Enter a name for the field, define a data type, and specify a format using the Type and Format drop-downs, respectively. Once you've defined the field, it will appear in the Field Chooser. Drag it to the form as you would a predefined field.

7: Add a control

Using the Control Toolbox, you can add any of the controls you're used to working with: label, text, combo box, list box, check box, option button, toggle button, command button, and so on. If the Control Toolbox isn't visible, right-click the form's gray background and check Control Toolbox. Then, drag and drop a control to the form and update the label text, if necessary.

If you plan to use VBScript to program the field, click the Display tab and give the control a meaningful name you can refer to easily later. In Figure D, I've added a combo box and named it cboDepartment.

Figure D

Rename controls (and fields) if you plan to refer to them in VBScript.

8: Add a little VBScript

It's likely that you'll want to enhance the new form by using VBScript. For instance, to populate the combo box with a list of departments, click View Code in the Form group to launch the Script Editor. Then, in the Script Editor window, insert the following lines:

Sub Item_Open()

  Set FormPage = Item.GetInspector.ModifiedFormPages("General")

  Set Control = FormPage.Controls("cboDepartment")

  Control.PossibleValues = "Administrative;Accounting;IT"

End Sub

9: Publish your form

Before anyone can use the custom form, you must publish it to a library or a folder. While still in design view, click Publish in the Form group and choose Publish Form. (The Publish Form and Publish Form As options work similarly to the Save and Save As commands.) In the resulting dialog, choose Outlook Folders from the drop-down, click Browse, and select Contacts. After selecting the folder, click OK and name the form NewContactForm, as shown in Figure E. Finally, click Publish.

Figure E

Publishing forms

Designate a folder and give the custom form a name.
To use the form, go to Contacts and click the New Items option in the New group (on the Home tab) to access the custom form, as shown in Figure F. The published form, shown in Figure G, displays the new fields and the combo box populated by VBScript. In Outlook 2007, choose Forms from the Tools menu and then select Choose Form.

Figure F

The custom form will be available for use as soon as you publish it.

Figure G

VBScript populates the combo box you added to the new contact form.

You can also save the custom form to a library by choosing Personal Forms Library instead of Outlook Folders.

10: Make the custom form the default

When using a custom form to modify the default form, you must override the built-in default. Right-click the folder -- not the Contacts shortcut, but the Contacts folder under My Contacts, as shown in Figure H. Choose Properties from the resulting context menu. On the General tab (the default), choose the custom folder from the When Posting To This Folder Use drop-down and click OK.

Figure H

Use your custom form as the default, when appropriate.

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.

27 comments
DVD2013
DVD2013

I'd like to explain a little bit more on my issue #2: when i tested the new form, I checked checkbox#1 and entered some text into the textbox, then I sent to my self. When I opened the email, I could see the checkbox #1 being checked and the text that I entered.

However, when I replied to this email, the input that I had made were not showing.

DVD2013
DVD2013

I am trying to create a new form. I customized the "Message" form from the "Standard Forms Library" and published the new form (Published As) to the "Organizational Forms Library".

I have two problems:

1. When I tested the new form sending the email to myself, it shows as a post (a pin on a yellow note). Shouldn't it show as a regular email message?

2. On the new form, I created some checkboxes and textboxes. When I tested the form sending it to myself, the input (checkbox and text) are showing. But when I replied, these input are not appearing. Am I missing something?


Please advise.


Thank you.

CaitlinJo
CaitlinJo

I am trying to use Outlook custom forms as a way to assign and manage work items among a team. To get started, I followed the steps in a Tutorial to customize the Outlook Task form. Though the tutorial was based on Outlook 2003, and I am working in Outlook 2010, the steps were close enough for me to follow along. I added custom fields and controllers to the default "Task" form, and ran in design mode a few times. The custom form items seemed to work within my personal Outlook folders, so I published the form in a public folder to share with my team. I created a few sample custom tasks to experiment. The next step is where I encounter the problem: when I use the "assign to" feature to assign custom task items to my teammates, the assignee receives a notification, and accepts the task, but cannot see the custom task form fields. (The task looks like a regular Outlook task.) In ONE of my "test" cases, the assignee could see the custom task fields. So I believe it is possible to create, assign, and receive updates for custom tasks in Outlook 2010. I was learning through trial-and-error, so I am not sure what I did differently in that case. But after several attempts, and trying tips from a few different articles, I am not able to re-produce the result! I am wondering whether anyone else has encountered a similar problem, or can recommend a work around for Outlook 2010. For reference, I consulted these articles: "Tutorial: Creating and distributing custom forms with Outlook." http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook-help/tutorial-creating-and-distributing-custom-forms-with-outlook-HA001210610.aspx "How to determine where to publish a custom Outlook form." http://support.microsoft.com/kb/290802 "Microsoft Outlook Task Forms" http://www.outlookcode.com/article.aspx?id=60

CaitlinJo
CaitlinJo

I am trying to use Outlook custom forms as a way to assign and manage work items among a team. To get started, I followed the steps in a Tutorial to customize the Outlook Task form. Though the tutorial was based on Outlook 2003, and I am working in Outlook 2010, the steps were close enough for me to follow along. I added custom fields and controllers to the default "Task" form, and ran in design mode a few times. All was well. The custom form items seemed to work within my personal Outlook folders, so I published the form in a public folder to share with my team, and created a few sample custom task items. But in assigning custom tasks, I encounter a problem: when I use the "assign to" feature to assign custom task items to my teammates, the assignee receives a notification, and accepts the task, but cannot see the custom task form fields. (The task looks like a regular Outlook task.) In ONE of my "test" cases, the assignee could see the custom task fields. So I believe it is possible to create, assign, and receive updates for custom tasks in Outlook 2010. I was learning through trial-and-error, so I am not sure what I did differently in that case. But after several attempts, and trying tips from a few different articles, I was not able to re-produce the result! I am looking forward to trying the steps in this article, but in the meantime, I am wondering whether anyone else has encountered a similar problem with custom Tasks, or can recommend a work around for Outlook 2010. For reference, I also consulted these articles: "Tutorial: Creating and distributing custom forms with Outlook." http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook-help/tutorial-creating-and-distributing-custom-forms-with-outlook-HA001210610.aspx "How to determine where to publish a custom Outlook form." http://support.microsoft.com/kb/290802 "Microsoft Outlook Task Forms" http://www.outlookcode.com/article.aspx?id=60

melissamedina1
melissamedina1

Hello, this is a great article which is why i'd like to ask you all this question... Is there a way to create a new field that auto generates a ticket number? We'd like to publish an IT ticket form and this is the only thing stopping me... Please help! :-) Thank you

ps2057
ps2057

Step 3 - Open a form in Design View. When I try this, the Original form is not in design view, only page 2, 3, etc. I can add controls to page 2 but not edit the original form. How can I do this? I don't want a form with 2 pages.

warren.taylor
warren.taylor

I have now adapted the standard input form as suggested and this presents itself when making a new entry into the Contacts folder. The question is how to make sure old/existing entries which are pulled up for editing now show up based upon the new 'Contact Form1'.

warddeschepper
warddeschepper

Hi I want to see the BCC contacts also on my printout. So I designed a form in the Sent Mail group. By changing the properties of the added object (BCC) I expected it to work. When I try to set it as a default for my "sent items" folder error displays: "You cannot create an item of this type in this folder"

BHCohen01
BHCohen01

Hi, Thanks for the tip. I created a "message: form and can pull it up, however after filling it out and mailing it the user doesn't receive the form. They receive just the standard email form. What am I missing ? Thanks Bruce

SandyNadjm
SandyNadjm

I'm trying to create a purchase requisition form and am not getting anywhere. From what I can tell it would appear that I have to create a brand new form. If yes, where do I start?

bt.daybreak
bt.daybreak

I have design a message form to my liking and it works. Is it possible to add autotext to the message box inside that form and how can I do that? I did find out how to do it so no need for a reply.

bill-brown
bill-brown

Hi Susan, Thanks for your post! I've been searching for a way to accomplish simple project management in Outlook. I think that the main features that I'm looking for are: 1) ability to group tasks by project 2) task sequencing (which I think Outlook does but haven't tested thoroughly yet) 3) task heirarchies Surprisingly, at least features #1 and #2 don't seem to be available in Outlook. I believe that this must be a deliberate strategy on the part of MicroSoft for fear of cannibalizing MS Project sales. To me, however, the weight of the uses is not comparable. Your post makes me think custom fields might be a way to go to develop these myself. I wonder if you could comment on this? I know alot of Outlook users are looking for the same thing. With regards to your post, I'm not very techy but learned alot. You lost me in step 8 on VBscript, though, which seemed both more techy and less carefully detailed than the other steps. I will try to implement my idea and see how it goes and would be interested in any further conceptual contributions that you might care to share.

brownsr1988
brownsr1988

Great job! When I try to create a from based on the outlook "message" form, after I publish it to my personal forms library and send the completed form to myself, all I recieve is a blank email. any ideas?

freepublicitygr
freepublicitygr

This is without a doubt the clearest and most concise article I've found on the subject. Your teaching style is exceptional in this post.

Tommohawk49
Tommohawk49

Hi, nice article, very helpful. One problem though which I hope someone can help with. Its driving me nuts, and it seems nobody on the planet can solve it. I'm using Outlook 2007, synced with Hotmail via Connector. I have created a lovely user defined appointment form, and set it as default as you described, It works beatifully except that after I do a Send/Receive it reverts to the default IPM.appointment, and in so doing any appointments already created with the new form revert back. I can see any data in my user defined fields by using the "all appointments" view, but this is a pain. Any ideas - really would appreciate it. T49.

pradipsagdeo
pradipsagdeo

The print function under the more+ link causes IE 8 to close and reopen the page. It happens on two different web pages on this site. Please let me know if I am doing something wrong or there is indeed a problem with the coding of these pages. I would like to print this page. Thank you. Pradip

jdayman
jdayman

Great article! Before I dive in and start tinkering, would a similar process work if I'm using Outlook 2007?

drew5251
drew5251

Hi, I didn't have any trouble with this step. If you added developer tab to outlook then you click the "Design a Form" button, you get to where the author got.

drew5251
drew5251

I had the same trouble. With a little help from bt.daybreak, I got my answer. When you're editing the form, go to Page in the Form group, and unselect Separate Read Layout. It warns you that your read view will be lost, as now it's making the read and compose pages identical. I did this, and it worked. .

drew5251
drew5251

I'd also like to know how to automatically add text. I'd like text to automatically be added to the subject line based on answers in the form.

drew5251
drew5251

I had the same trouble. With a little help from bt.daybreak, I got my answer. When you're editing the form, go to Page in the Form group, and unselect Separate Read Layout. It warns you that your read view will be lost, as now it's making the read and compose pages identical. I did this, and it worked.

bt.daybreak
bt.daybreak

I tried this and found that when you design the form in design you have to design both the read and compose pages, they must look exactly alike, it worked after I did that.

jolisadillard
jolisadillard

I have the same issue...Please let me know if you have gotten an answer and what the answer is...

ssharkins
ssharkins

I'm glad you liked it. Outlook forms are so easy to make -- but knowing how to get to the feature and put it all together can be a bit confusing. I especially find VBScript annoying. ;)

rgrich
rgrich

@drew5251

For me, I found the same problem!  The original [page 1] was not editable.  I couldn't see a field chooser, couldn't add fields, and the form was somehow locked.  But (P.2) was completely editable and a blank sheet.  I succeeded when I renamed the 2nd page to the same name as the first page, and then went to the page option in the form area and unchecked the 'display this page' option for the first page.  That effectively hid the first page and made my renamed page two the first thing it saw.  It seemed to work then.