Microsoft Excel’s Form Feature: Data Entry Has Never Been Easier

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Written By Chris

Just a simple "data guy". Changing the world one formula at a time.

Welcome back to another exciting exploration of your Excel features! Today, we’re diving into the lesser-known, yet highly efficient Form tool, designed to simplify data entry tasks while ensuring optimal productivity. And for those worried about your lack of coding skills, I’ve got you covered.

Or Excel does. Because the Form feature requires no VBA coding whatsoever!

Just so we’re all on the same page, this isn’t Microsoft Forms I’m talking about, the app for creating surveys, polls, and quizzes. The Excel Form feature aims to speed up your data entry and management processes. I covered this a little bit in my last post, where I showed you how to find the Form tool. And while we’ll go over some of the same steps initially, the purpose here is to teach you how to use this powerful feature.

In a nutshell, the Form tool makes quick work of data entry while enabling easy data manipulation without using filters. Whether you’re dealing with small tables or large datasets spanning hundreds of rows, the Form tool empowers you to swiftly make changes and effortlessly analyze your data.

Even better, any changes you make will seamlessly integrate with your current data validation, charts, and conditional formatting.

For you visual learners, check out this short video I put together.

Enabling The Form Tool In Excel

First on the agenda, you must activate the Form button in Excel. Typically, it’s turned off by default.

To enable the Form tool in Excel, follow these steps:

  1. Locate the Quick Access Toolbar, usually above the ribbon.
  2. Click the drop-down arrow and select More commands.
  3. In the Excel Options window, change the drop-down from Popular Commands to All commands or Commands not in Ribbon.
  4. Find the Form command, then click ‘Add‘ and ‘OK.’

Now you have successfully enabled the Form tool, and the Form button will appear in your Quick Access Toolbar.

Excel Options for Quick Access Toolbar

Disclaimer: If, for some crazy reason, you don’t have your Quick Access Toolbar showing, you can follow the same steps by selecting the File tab, clicking options, and navigating to the Quick Access Toolbar tab menu.

Converting Lists of Data into a Table

Since you’ve enabled the Form tool, I’m sure you’d like to use it now, right?

To use the Form tool in Excel, you must convert your data into a table. This allows you to add and manipulate data effortlessly and brings added benefits like better organization, easier filtering, and increased compatibility with advanced Excel features.

If you aren’t working in a formatted Table, that Form button will collect a lot of dust.

To convert your data into a table, follow these simple steps:

  1. Click anywhere within your data range.
  2. Press CTRL + T on your keyboard.
  3. Ensure the “My table has headers” checkbox is selected if your data has headers, then click OK.
CTRL + T to create a table for data entry

Your data is now formatted as a table, and you can customize its appearance under the Table Design tab. Once your data is in a table format, you can enjoy the features offered by the Form tool to manage your data entry tasks much more efficiently.

Adding New Data Entries

Finally, time for some action!

Now that you’ve enabled the Form feature in Excel, it’s time for the real work to begin. To add a new row to your table using the Form tool, simply:

  1. Click a cell within the table, then click the Form icon you added to your Quick Access Toolbar. The Form window will display the headings from your table.
  2. To add a new data entry, click New in the Form window. Fill in the empty fields with the desired information and either click New again to create another row or Close to return to your table with the new data added.
new data entry form window in excel

That’s it! Each new entry you add will populate at the bottom of your table, expanding the range until you’re finished.

Working with The Delete Button

When working with the Form tool in Excel, you’ll come across the Delete button. This feature allows you to remove entries from your table without having to exit the Form window you’re already using. 

Sounds simple, right? Because it is. If you no longer need the row of data the Form tool has selected, just hit Delete. But how do you find the rows you want to get rid of? Keep reading to find out!

Utilizing the Criteria Button

The Criteria button significantly simplifies searching for specific rows or data when working with large tables. To use this feature, click on Criteria, and you’ll see all the blank fields of your form with empty values. Feel free to search by single or multiple columns.

For example, if you want to find all unpaid bills in a personal budget tracker, type “No” in the Paid field and click Find Next. Since multiple entries could exist, you can navigate through the data rows using the Find Next and Find Previous buttons. When you locate the data you need, you can delete or change it according to your requirements.

navigating the form tool with the criteria button

Keep in mind that the search function only cycles through your data once. You’ll need to use the Find Previous button to search rows above the current selection. 

This can often be confusing if you’ve searched with one bit of criteria, finished up toward the bottom of the table, and now want to search with a new criteria value. The new search will begin where you left off, at the bottom.

Making Data Entry Updates and Using The Restore Button

Adding new rows and deleting the old ones is a massive burden off your plate with this tool. But sometimes, you just need to update one field. Maybe you forgot to add that decimal, and now your totals are all out of whack! 

No worries; the Form window helps you do that too.

  1. Click the Criteria button and search for the specific row or rows you want to change.
  2. Once you land on the desired data entry, update the necessary data fields in the form. The Form tool adheres to any preset data validation rules you have in place, so don’t worry about having to reapply them.
  3. When you’re done, click Close to see the updated value in your table.

However, sometimes you might accidentally make an incorrect change. The Restore button can be your lifesaver in these situations. 

use the restore button in data entry form feature

To undo changes while still in the Form tool, select Restore right after making the change. Be aware that it restores all changes made in that row, not just a single field. So use it cautiously.

Benefits of Using The Form Tool

With the Excel Form tool, you no longer have to rely on filters for basic data manipulation. Its user-friendly interface and quick access allow you to breeze through changes, ultimately improving your productivity.

So, give the Form tool a try and experience firsthand how it can elevate your Excel skills and help you make the most of your data management tasks.

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