Access 2007 - Custom Switchboard -
Length: 05 Minutes 32 Seconds

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Hi, I'm Matthew MacDonald the author of Access 2007: The Missing Manual and I'm going to show you how to create a customer switchboard.

You probably already know that Access lets you create forms to enter and edit records. You can also create forms that act like menus. These forms known as switchboard forms have one purpose in life, they let you jump to other forms at the click of a button.

If you've created a dozen forms in your database a switchboard acts as a central hub that can take you exactly where you need to go. The standard Access switchboard is unredeemably ugly and a bit weird. It has this strange shadow effect on the title, an ugly green bar on the side and the buttons that you need to click are set next to the menu entries which is an oddity that even I haven't seen before. But the worst problem is the fact that a standard switchboard page can only hold eight menu items.

The idea of a switchboard is a perfectly good one but the standard switchboard Access gives you isn't terribly pleasant. Fortunately it's easy to create a much nicer switchboard of your own. In fact, you can do it in just a few minutes.

The first step is to chose the Create tab and then click Form Design. This opens a blank canvas where you can create the exact form you want from scratch. The first thing you'll probably do is change the background or add a background picture. In this example I'm going to add an image control for my picture.

Once I add the image control, Access asks me to choose a picture file. Here I'm using a nice looking .jpeg that shows a grand piano. The background of this picture is white just like my form so it blends in well.

The next step is to add the buttons that take you to the task you want to perform. You can add your buttons in the usual way by picking the button control on the ribbon and then drawing it in the right place on the form.

After you finish drawing the button Access starts the button wizard where you can choose what the button does when it's clicked. In this case I want the button to open a form I created previously. This form is named Classes and it allows me to manage class enrollment.

You can hook up more complicated tasks by creating a macro first and then connecting that macro to the button using the property sheet. But in this example all I want to do is create a button that opens a form. As a result, the button wizard is perfectly able to create the macro I need.

To finish off the button wizard I need to supply the text for the button and a nice descriptive button name. Now there are a few things I need to do to transform this ordinary-looking button into a more modern button that fits in with a custom switchboard.

First, I need to call up the property sheet by clicking the Property Sheet button on the ribbon. Then I need to find the back style property and change it to transparent. This gives me a flat look with a button text on a blank background. I could use the picture property to make the button display a fancy button image that I've created in another program but that's an optional touch I'm not using here.

The only problem with buttons that have transparent backgrounds is that the person using the form might think they're just ordinary pieces of text and won't think to click them. The best solution is to set another property on the button control, the cursor on hover property. When this is set to "hyperlink hand" the mouse pointer changes to a hand when you move the mouse over the button.

Let's take a look by switching the form to Form View. Here you can see that when I move the hand over the button it changes to a hand pointer which is the web way of telling you to click here. Now I'll switch back to design view to finish this example.

Now I'm going to add another button and I'll use this button to show a form that allows you to manage students. I'm going to configure this button in the same way so once I've created it I'll give it the same transparent background and I'll use the same hyperlink hand for the mouse pointer.

To finish this example off I'm going to hide two unnecessary details. Right now my switchboard works perfectly well but it shows these navigation buttons at the bottom and this record selector on the left.

Neither detail is necessary because I'm not using this form to show records. To hide these details I need to click the square in the top left corner of the design view to select the entire form then in the property sheet I set the record selectors property to, "no" and the navigation buttons property to "no."

Now I'll switch back to form view one last time to show the result, a fully functioning switchboard with a clean modern look.

There are many more tricks for designing crisp functional forms. If you'd like to learn a few more check out Access 2007: The Missing Manual.