All Outlook users are familiar with built-in forms: the
message form for e-mail messages, the calendar entry forms for recording events
and appointments, meeting request forms, task forms, contact forms, and so
forth. But users aren’t limited to these predefined forms. One of the
greatest—and least utilized—of Outlook’s collaboration features is the ability
to create and distribute custom forms to collect information. In this tutorial,
we’ll walk through the steps for creating custom forms containing specified
Basing custom forms on default forms
Every type of Outlook item you can create is based on a
form. The default forms (with the Message Class in parentheses) include:
- Mail Message (IPM.Note)
- Contact (IPM.Contact)
- Note (IPM.StickyNote)
- Task (IPM.Task)
- Appointment/Event (IPM.Appointment)
- Post (IPM.Post)
- Distribution List (IPM.DistList)
- Journal Entry (IPM.Activity)
- Meeting Request (IPM.Schedule.Meeting.Request)
To build a custom form, you start with one of the default
forms and modify it to suit your needs. If you’re going to distribute your form
via e-mail, it’s easiest to build it on the default message form. If you’re
going to post it in a public folder, you’ll probably want to build it on the
Post form or—if it contains calendar-type information—you may want to build it
on the Appointment/Event form or the Task form. In any case, the first step is
to choose the default form that will be the basis of your new custom form.
If you can’t find a default form that works for your
application, you can use the Standard Default (Message Class IPM with no
Creating a folder for your custom form
Since the type of folder you store it in influences the
type(s) of forms you can use, you’ll first want to create a folder for your
form and the documents created in it. In our example, we’ll create a folder
called Subscribers, where we’ll place entries that are created using a custom
form based on the Contacts default form.
Here’s how to create the folder:
In the top level of the Folder List, create a New Folder (we
named it Subscribers). In the Create New Folder dialog box, click the Folder
Contains drop-down box and select the type of item based on the default form
you’ll be customizing. As shown in Figure A, we selected Contact Items.
Select a location for the folder and click OK.
Create the custom form
To begin creating your custom form, pull down the Tools
menu, click Forms, and select Design A Form, as shown
in Figure B.
Next, select a default form to modify from the Standard
Forms Library. We selected the Contact form, as shown in Figure C.
default form will open in Design mode, as shown in Figure D.
In Design mode, you can remove, add, or move labels,
controls, and fields. For example, in Figure E, we have removed the
Business Fax label, the down arrow for the drop-down box, and the drop-down box
field. We have also removed the Mobile label and drop-down arrow and are about to
remove the field. To do so, we just click it to select it and press [Delete].
You can make a field or label space larger by dragging one end when it is
selected, and you can move it by clicking in the middle of it and dragging.
To change a label, right-click on it, select Edit from the
context menu, and type the new label text. You can specify new fields you want
to add by selecting them from the Field Chooser toolbox (Figure F),
which Outlook displays by default in Design mode.
To add a field from the Field Chooser, click the drop-down
box at the top and select a field category. For example, for the Contact form,
we might choose from the following:
- Frequently Used Fields
- Address Fields
- E-mail Fields
- Fax/Other Number Fields
- Miscellaneous Fields
- Name Fields
- Personal Fields
- Phone Number Fields
(This is only a partial listing of the available field
Once you choose a category, scroll down to find the field
you want and drag it to the desired spot on your form. In Figure G,
we’ve added the Pager field to our form.
To add a field that isn’t listed, click the New button at the bottom of the Field Chooser toolbox. In
the New Field dialog box, type a name for your new field (we named ours
Subscriber No.). Then, in the drop-down box, select the value type (Text,
Number, Percent, Currency, Yes/No, Date/Time, Duration, Keywords, Combination,
Formula, Integer) to control what input will be accepted. For example, if you select
Number, the user will not be allowed to enter alphabetic text into the field,
only numbers. As Figure H shows, you can also further control the format
of the entry. For example, you can limit the number of decimal places the
number can have.
Your new field will now appear in the Field Chooser and you
can drag it to your form like the predefined fields. We’ve added the new fields
Subscriber No. (with a Number value type) and
Subscriber Type (with a Text value type) to our form in Figure I.
You can add controls to your form by right-clicking on an
empty space in the form and selecting Control Toolbox. This opens the toolbox
shown in Figure J. Controls will be familiar to anyone who has worked
with Visual Basic. You can choose from the following controls:
- Label box
- Text box
- Combo box
- List box
- Check box
- Option button
- Toggle button
- Command button
- Tab strip
- Scroll bar
- Spin button
To add a control to your form, drag the control from the
Toolbox and type in any required text. In Figure K, we’ve added a check
box to indicate whether the subscriber has chosen automatic renewal.
If you have programming skills, you can use VBScript to
further customize your forms. You can even add ActiveX controls and Web pages
to your Outlook forms. Click here for more information on scripting.
Making the custom form available to create new items
You need to perform two steps to make the custom form
available for creating new items in your folder:
- Publish the form.
- Make it the default for the folder.
Publish your custom form
You need to publish the form in the forms library or in the
folder where you want to use it to create new items. Here’s how:
- After you have created your new form, click
Tools | Forms while still in Design mode.
- Click Publish Form.
- Click the Browse button to select a location.
- Type a Display Name for your form. This will
also be the form name. Note that the Message class will be changed to append
the custom form name to the class name for the default form on which it is
based. For example, when we name our form Subscribers, the message class
Publish the form to the folder if it will just be used for
creating items in that folder. If you publish it in a public folder, it will be
available for all users who have permission to access the folder. If you
publish it in a personal folder, it’s for your use only. To use the form, go to
the folder and click the Actions menu; the form will be available.
Make your custom form the default for the folder
If you want your form to be the default when creating an
item in the folder, follow these steps:
- Right-clickon the folder.
- Select Properties.
- On the General tab, in the section labeled When
posting to this folder, select your custom form.
- Click OK.
If you want to apply the new custom form to items that are
already in the folder, you’ll need to change the message class of the items in
the folder. See Microsoft KB
article 201087, “How to Update Existing Items in an Outlook Folder
to Use a New Custom Form.”
Prevent users from creating custom forms
Although custom forms have many uses, there may be times
when you’ll want
to prevent particular users from creating custom forms. You can do this by
navigating to the registry key:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\10.0\Outlook and creating a new
DWORD value named NoOutlookFormsDesigner. Set the
value to 1.
The ability to create custom forms can greatly extend
Outlook’s functionality for individual users and make it a more valuable
collaborative tool within an organization. It’s easy to design new Outlook
forms to fit your particular needs. Even if you aren’t a programmer, you can
use the Forms Designer to drag and drop controls and fields to create a
customized version of any of the default forms.