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Inserting a DropDownList control

From: Word 2007: Forms in Depth

Video: Inserting a DropDownList control

There are two different kinds of list controls in Microsoft Word 2007. The first kind of list control, the dropdown list, is the list that we'll be using in this video. And a dropdown list is used when you can describe the entire universe of choices, because the only choice allowed is the choice that you put on the list. For example, in Credit Card Type we only accept three specific kinds of credit cards; therefore, it's not hard to put a dropdown list. If you're not using a Visa, a MasterCard, or American Express, we're not going to take your credit card.

Inserting a DropDownList control

There are two different kinds of list controls in Microsoft Word 2007. The first kind of list control, the dropdown list, is the list that we'll be using in this video. And a dropdown list is used when you can describe the entire universe of choices, because the only choice allowed is the choice that you put on the list. For example, in Credit Card Type we only accept three specific kinds of credit cards; therefore, it's not hard to put a dropdown list. If you're not using a Visa, a MasterCard, or American Express, we're not going to take your credit card.

It doesn't matter that you enter it. The other kind of list box, which is called a Combo Box, allows a user to either choose an item from the list, or to enter another item, if the choice they want isn't there. We might, for example, use that kind of a list box here where we want someone to make a payment and we want there to be a choice even if the choices that we provide aren't sufficient. If somebody were to say to us I want to make a single payment but in September, we would be happy to say yes.

So a Combo Box is used when we can't describe the entire universe of choices. We'll come back to that combo box in the next movie, but here let's work on the dropdown list. So we have several dropdown lists, let's go ahead and talk about that credit card list first. This is the Combo Box here, this is the Drop-Down List. So I'm going to click where I'd like a dropdown list and the text, rather than saying click and type, says, Choose an item. Let's make sure we're in Design mode and click on the Properties. And you'll notice there are some additional properties that we have here.

So this is going to be a Credit Card Type and we're going to say that this control can't be deleted. We've said that consistently all the way through to be able to maintain control of our forms, and also not to have somebody send us a form that they couldn't use, because it had been broken by them or by somebody else. Now here are the properties of the list. The very first "Choose an item " actually gets reflected here. We're going to add three choices. I could say choose a card type.

I have Credit Card Type written under here though, so I probably don't need to. And so I can though modify this to simply say Choose... Dot, dot, dot always means that there is a another choice involved, there is a menu involved. Whenever in the Windows interface you see dot, dot, dot, that means that you can either click a button with dot, dot, dot on it, or click a dropdown list next to that dot, dot, dot and see more choices. So this will give us a smaller list and we can do this consistently. We're then going to add our three choices.

So I said we take MasterCard. Notice when I enter it I have a Display Name and this is the Value that's stored in the XML data. I'm fine with those being the same here. Notice that the Add button has focus right now; it's highlighted. What that means is if I press Enter again, it simply opens that Add Choice dialog box up again, which is really nice. So I can type Visa press Enter for OK, press Enter again for Add, and put in American Express, for example.

Now I might want to simply store the shorter Amex, but show American Express on the list, or I could choose to have the same display name and simply choose the shorter Amex. Simply a matter of how much space I think I have here in my dropdown area and whether I think people will understand that Amex is American Express. I'm going to say OK. Now there are two different theories about how you want to organize a dropdown list. One is to always have items in a logical manner. That would either mean alphabetical, chronological, or numerical.

Chronological could be from oldest to newest, it could be newest to oldest. Numbers could be smallest to largest or largest to smallest, but there's no reason to have a list that's sorted backwards. So I'm going to move Amex up to the top of the list. So now it's in alphabetical order. After the simple placeholder Choose is Amex, MasterCard, Visa. The other possible way to organize a list is to organize it either chronologically for dates, numerically for numbers, or alphabetically for text, but then to make one exception, which is to take the value that is chosen most often and make it your first value rather than Choose, or make it your second value where Amex is here.

If you make it the first value it becomes the default value and it means that people always have to choose something when they're in this form. For example, if we simply said most people use American Express and we put Amex up at the top, then even people who were not interested in using a credit card would have Amex or another choice they'd have to make. If on the other hand, we simply re- add Choose and say it has no Value, and move Choose back up to the top, and let's say more of our folks use Visa than anything else.

Then we can move Visa up to the top of the list and break the rules. So now it's Visa and then the alphabetized list underneath; it's up to you. The idea is that your list shouldn't be random. People should not have to read the whole list to find an entry; they should be able to quickly discern the order. And, in most cases where you don't have a value that you think they will choose most of the time to put as a default, they'll just find the value that they need on this list. One more thought about list boxes before we close this one.

If you find yourself entering 30 values or 40 values, it's too many. The list box itself is going to show about eight by default without forcing a scrollbar into place. Once you find yourself entering more than about a dozen values, you need to find another way to build an interface for your users. Even entering regular text is probably better than having to scroll a list of 50 state abbreviations, for example. So let's say OK. Let's go ahead and switch out of Design mode and see how this works. It says Choose an item, and I click and Choose is my default choice.

Now I'm going to go back into Design mode and change this text to correspond. So I'm just going to say that there should be Choose... There's not a specific place that you actually get to see the properties for this placeholder, you just type it in place here. So there's Choose, our first dropdown list. I'm going to quickly create another dropdown list to make sure that that the concept's locked in for you. We're going to over here to Location and say we have five or six locations. We're going to grab a List Box control really quickly, change to its Properties, tell it that this is a Location, lowercase for our Tag,, and then we're going to modify, Choose an item to simply say Choose...

So it's consistent; there's no reason that it shouldn't be. Then we're going to add our locations. For example, we have a location in Ventura, we have a location in Oxnard, we have a location in San Mateo, and we have a location in Oakland. I can alphabetize these easily using the Move Up, Move Down buttons. I'm all done. I click OK. Go back and with Design mode turned on I can go back and simply change the text here, in my placeholder to also simply say Choose...

Switch out of Design mode, make sure everything works. Looks fine to me, we're all set. That's how easy it is to create a Drop - Down list of values here in Microsoft Word, so that your users can choose from a list rather than having to type data each time. I have a couple of more dropdown list to create, I am going to create one here for Department, and I'm also going to create one for these three items here: Payroll deduction, Credit card, and Personal check. I'll see you in the next movie.

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Word 2007: Forms in Depth

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Gini Courter
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