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Five Rules You Must Follow When Customizing a Toolbar in Microsoft Access

Chris Le Roy

Developing applications in Microsoft Access is a really pratical and efficient practice and when done correctly can be a very powerful application. Most people use Microsoft Access nowadays simply because of the ease to get the application built and operational is a lot faster than using traditional methods like Visual Basic or C. This is even more true in that you can distribute Microsoft Access Applications without having a full version of Microsoft Access on the desktop.

You can in fact use a version called Microsoft Access Run-Time which allows the person to use the functionality of the application you have built without the user being able to physically modify the elements that make up the database like the Forms, Reports etc. However to make your applications really useful and user friendly when using the Run-Time version you really do need to build your own customised toolbars and that will be the focus of this article.

Rule #1 – Never customize the Standard Toolbars or Menus

Customizing of your Toolbars must be done whilst you are working in the full version of Microsoft Access and the first step in doing this is to open the Customize dialog box. To do this we first goto the Tools menu and choose Ccustomize from the drop down menu. The dialog box will now appear. By having the Customize dialog box open, you now have the ability to modify any tool bar which includes all the standard ones such as the Database toolbar, Formatting toolbar, Forms toolbar etc. However my advice to all of my students has always been to leave the standard toolbar set alone, always create your own toolbars which is what we will focus on. If you customize the standard Microsoft Access toolbars what will happen is that in the future you will not necessarily be able to use the toolbars as you may have removed some of the buttons on the toolbars and this just means more work for you.

Rule #2 – Give Your Toolbars a Name That Will Means Something to the Users

If we are not going to modify a standard toolbar or menu, then we have to create one from scratch and to do that you must first change to the Toolbars tab. On the right hand side of the list of toolbars you will notice the New button. You simply click on the New button to create a blank toolbar but first you will be asked to give the Toolbar a name. This is the name you will see in the Title bar of the toolbar when it is in Floating Mode. Try to keep the names as logical as possible so that your users will understand what the toolbar is supposed to do.

Now that you have given the toolbar a name you simply press the OK button and you will see the toolbar appear. What you will notice is that the toolbar by default does not contain any buttons at all. The next step is to put the command functions onto the toolbar and we do this by choosing the Commands tab. This tab contains all the functions and commands for every menu item, toolbar item and macros in the database. That is right, when you create a macro, the macro is available to be used on a toolbar or menu.

The Commands tab is broken into two list boxes the Categories list box and the Commands list box. The categories list box, has individual categories that represent elements in your database like the File menu, Edit menu etc as well as other commands for Forms, Tables, Querys, Macros and Reports. The Macro’s category allows you to access your own customized macros.

To add a command from a category you must first select a category, lets say for instance the Edit category. You will notice in the Commands list box it now shows you all the individual functions for this category. For this exercise let us drag the Cut command onto our Toolbar. First click on the Cut command, hold you left mouse button down and keep it held down whilst you drag the icon onto your custom toolbar. Once you see a black line come up on your toolbar release your left mouse button.

You should now see the Cut symbol, which is a pair of scissors on your custom toolbar. To add any other commands simply follow the exact same steps.

Rule #3 – Try To Group Similar Commands On Your Custom Toolbar

When you start creating your custom toolbars, try to keep the commands on the toolbars related. For example, we added the Cut command to our toolbar in the previous paragraph. It would be an unwise move to then put the Copy command on a different toolbar and the Paste command on a third toolbar. It would be more logical to keep the Cut, Copy and Paste commands on the one toolbar.

Rule #4 – When Adding Macros To Your Toolbar, Do Not Use the Default Pictures for Icons, Use Text

To add a macro to your toolbar, you simply choose the All Macro category and then in the Commands list box it will show you your macros. You can then simply drag the macro onto your toolbar. Now when you do that by default the macro will be shown as a combination of Text and the little Macro symbol. What I recommend to all my students is to remove the Macro symbol and stick to text. The reason is that users will become confused if you use symbols they associate with another function.

For example, if you said to a user, what is the symbol for Cut they would immediately tell you the Scissors. If you used the Scissors to do anything else but to Cut, you would have a very confused user so I recommend sticking with text only. To set your toolbar icon to show as text only, simply right mouse click over the toolbar icon and choose Text Only(Always) from the shortcut menu and this will ensure that the user will only ever see the text name.

Rule #5 -Always Use Names That Make Sense and are User Intuitive

When you are naming your macros always ensure that you use names that make sense and actually mean something to the user. For example if your Macro Opens a Report, then use the Report Name as the text on the toolbar do not simply type Open Report, as the user will never know what report you are referring to.

The one issue I impress upon all of my students is this; when you are developing User Interfaces, remember all the complaints you had about the software you were given and ensure you do not make the same mistakes with your user. Remember, users do complain!

Finally, once you have added all the buttons to your toolbar and customized it as you require, simply press the OK button on the Customize dialog box and your toolbar will now be ready for use.

To finish off, always remember the following five rules when developing a toolbar for use by your customers -

Rule #1 – Never customize the Standard Toolbars or Menus
Rule #2 – Give Your Toolbars a Name That Means Something to the Users
Rule #3 – Try To Group Similar Commands On Your Custom Toolbar
Rule #4 – When Adding Macros To Your Toolbar, Do Not Use the Default Pictures for Icons, Use Text
Rule #5 -Always Use Names That Make Sense and are User Intuitive


Back to more Microsoft Access Help

About the Author:

Chris Le Roy has developed a number of Microsoft Office Tutorials including a Microsoft Access Training Advanced Program, Microsoft Excel Tutorial and a Microsoft Word Tutorial.


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