Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Working with Form Fields.

Working with Form Fields

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 19, 2016)


The fields available for use in forms are accessible through the Developer tab of the ribbon. If you don't see the Developer tab (it isn't visible on your system), you need to instruct Word to display it.

If you display the Developer tab and take a look at the Controls group, you'll notice that there are a bunch of controls available. None of these controls are form fields. Instead, you need to click the Legacy Tools icon, which displays a whole group of controls that originate with older versions of Word. The Legacy Forms group (visible after you click the Legacy Tools icon) includes three types of form fields you can insert in a document: text, check box, and pull-down. Each of these form fields allows the user of the form to select or enter information of the type that you deem appropriate.

As an example, let's say you are creating an order form and you need a field where a user can enter the name of the person making the order. Further, you want to allow only up to 25 characters to be entered in the field. To accomplish this, follow these steps:

  1. Position the insertion point where you want the field to appear.
  2. Display the Developer tab of the ribbon.
  3. In the Controls group click Legacy Tools and then click the Text Form Field tool. A field indicator appears in the document.
  4. Right-click the form field just entered and choose Properties from the resulting Context menu. The Text Form Field Options dialog box appears. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Text Form Field Options dialog box.

  6. Make sure the Type pull-down list is set to Regular Text. (This is the type of information you want to allow in the field.)
  7. Change the Maximum Length option to 25.
  8. Click on OK.

You can repeat these steps for all the fields in your form. The only difference would be the type of field entered (which should be appropriate to the type of information you want entered) and the options you set for each field.

The trickiest option you can set is the Maximum Length option, which only appears when you are working with text fields. By default, this option is set to Unlimited, which means the user can enter any amount of information desired. If the information being entered exceeds the right margin of your document, the field height increases and the text entry continues on the next line. If you don't want this effect in your form, then the only way around it is to set some maximum length for the field. For instance, if you don't want your field to wrap to the next line, then you need to set a maximum length guaranteed to fit on a single line. Calculating such a length can be difficult, particularly if you are using a proportional font. For this reason, some people like to set the font of their fields to a monospace font, such as Courier; it makes calculating field lengths easier.

One way around the potential "overrun" problem is to create a table to contain your form fields. The advantage to this is that you can define the width and height of every cell in your table, which limits the vertical movement of text fields if they should be too long. The disadvantage is that some information is not readily displayed in tabular format, and if the entered text is too long, it is not all displayed on the screen or printout. (If the text overruns the size of a static table cell, the additional information is suppressed.

As you set the options for your various fields, notice that you can also define macros that can be executed when the field is entered (first selected) and when it is exited. These allow you to process the information provided in the field.

When a form is being used, the information entered into a field is assigned to a bookmark name. This name is specified in the Options dialog box for each field. Through the use of other bookmark-related fields, you can thus reference field contents elsewhere in your document.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (8303) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Working with Form Fields.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 7 - 1?

2017-10-13 04:11:38


Second question - I also inserted checkboxes. How can I ensure that only either yes or no is ticked in one line? At the moment the user can tick both.

2017-10-13 04:03:46


I am trying to enter a form field with a limit to "number - max. length 9" for example. When starting a new doc with this template I can still enter any character and much longer than 9. I did the field with the legacy field but it does not work.
I even tried in the table (initially) and after reading Matt's comment outside of the table. Both don't work. Any ideas?

2017-08-30 11:23:13

Matt Kreiling

There is one part of this advice that is not good for accessibility. Screen readers cannot understand tables in the way sighted users can. A table is meant to have a heading row and contain tabular data. Please do not put your form fields in a table.

2017-08-05 23:31:34

Maria Fields

I have navigated all through several posts and my question remains unanswered. I am looking for the location of the drop-down ITEM BOX. Every post wants to tell me about fields or drop-down fields. i am doing word-processing homework. Today is Saturday, I need to find the answer by Monday. I have 4 columns & 4 rows to work in. So again: Developer ribbon tab, legacy tools, drop-down item box. Click add. This is the 3rd part of my assignment.

2017-05-13 11:22:21

Jeremy Stuart

Hi Allen,

Is there a way to have the contents of a dropdown list display on another document? For instance, I have three employees: Joe, Susie, and Mark. When working in a word Client Project file, I want to be able to assign a specific task to one of those three employees. When I select "Susie," for instance, I want the name "Susie" to appear on a master list that also indicates which Client Project File that I assigned a task for Susie to work on. An alternative solution would be that every time I select "Susie," she would receive an automatic email indicating that I assigned her a task on that particular file.

Thank you,


2017-03-06 13:59:27


I have just started working with Developer in Word. I am trying to create a smart form that will allow the field to have a place marker but when the user types in it, it will disappear. I tried the rich and plain text content control, but it doesn't allow fillable info. I did a txt box but it still isn't correct, Please Help!

2017-03-06 13:40:58


I have just started working with Developer in Word. I am trying to create a smart form that will allow the field to have a place marker but when the user types in it, it will disappear. I tried the rich and plain text content control, but it doesn't allow fillable info. I did a txt box but it still isn't correct, Please Help!

2017-01-18 12:06:46


The legacy tools in Developer is grayed out and cannot be clicked in Word 2013. Can I reactive them?

2017-01-11 13:49:59

Sunni bee

There is no "Legacy Tools" icon in the Controls section of the Developer tab in the Word 2013 ribbon.

2016-08-26 02:41:05


Word 2007, is it possible to limit number characters in tex field to an exact lenght, or "min-max"?
The max. lenght is not good enaugh for my work.

2016-08-25 21:52:08

R Smith

This is a bit off topic, but I can't find the topic anywhere else on here.

I'm wanting to write a minimum amount of words with every session I open with MS Word. Is there a function in Word for me to enter that amount, and have it alert me if I'm under it when I attempt to close the program? I know that sounds a bit lazy, but I think it would be very useful. Any ideas?

2016-07-13 15:20:06

Rick Costello

I want to place activex text control in my document that can be seen and handled by many people. After I create the form, I want the text that is in the control box to be locked. I can't seem to find a way to do that. I can lock the control but then no entries can be made.

Anyone have any suggestions?

Thank you.

2016-05-20 13:51:39

Todd Arey

The length of 'Unlimited' is actually 255 characters in Word 2010.

2016-05-05 13:43:19

Cyndi Houser

This tip did not apply to my version of 2010 Word. There was was no legacy tools group therefore nothing could be done to set a limit on a field box. Any other methods for this problem??

2015-05-28 11:17:46


I have a form created that works perfectly. But, when there is a field that is multiple lines, how do I show when I print it out that everything will be underlined?

2015-04-16 11:17:10


I made text boxes in my form from the Legacy Tools in the Developer Tab but when I enter the required information, it lets me write all that I need to but when I print it, it does not show all the information I typed into the box. How can I fix this?

2015-04-16 03:17:59

Patrina Hayter

Is it possible to limit the number of characters in the Form Field in Word 2013?

2015-03-04 07:47:00


In my Word 2010 Legacy radio button does not work apparently because the program FORMS is not installed or not responding. How does check this is missing or not working - the non-active x options work but not the active x options?

2015-02-24 19:31:49


How do I stop the 'default text' in the properties from printing? If someone hasn't filled in the form prior to printing I don't want the default text to print as well. I've tried Add Help Text section but it doesn't show the hint I enter. Thanks

2015-02-06 13:27:49

Michael Bickel

Thank you! I have been searching through helps (including microsoft) that omit one little step. You Rock!

2014-10-28 14:42:16


"If the information being entered exceeds the right margin of your document, the field height increases and the text entry continues on the next line."

My field is not doing this, it just keeps exceeding the right margin. Any ideas?

2014-10-02 16:55:49


Good tip - but Word 2010 does not have the Legacy Tools - now what?

2014-02-20 15:43:43


Using Word 2010, I have been trying to identify a paragraph of Default Text using the Legacy Tools Text Form Field Options. In past versions of Word, I have done this using the Maximum Length 'Unlimited'. This would put the text in the template with a grey box that a user could then F11 through the document and delete the entire paragraph with one click of the delete key. This is not the case after upgrading to Word 2010. It will only allow the first 30 words or so, when unlimited should allow my 500 words right? If there is an answer to this, you would be the first to help. Even my help desk personnel and forms expert don't know. Thanks.

2014-02-16 14:24:00

Barry Seymour

I have gone through these instructions in Word 2007 but I am having trouble with the form itself. When I click on the field and start typing, the field is overwritten with my text.

If I protect the document and only allow 'Filling In Forms' then I can't do anything; clicking on a field does nothing, and double-clicking on a field pops me back to the start of the document.

Any tips? Thanks,

2013-11-21 15:01:38


Thank you, Thank you!!! Only place I found this tip.

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