Of all the work related items I need to do, the one I hate is data entry. It’s mind numbing and given the chance, I’ll make mistakes. One way I found to make the process easier is to use the Excel data form. It’s great when the records span across many cells.
I’ll admit entering data into Excel isn’t difficult. You type in one cell and move to the next. I had a project where the records spanned past the width of my monitor. Several of the cells contained a paragraph of pasted text. I wanted an input method that would allow me to focus on one organization. This would also make it easier to copy and paste paragraphs from the original PDF document.
The problem with using the default data entry method is it’s easy to lose sight of your target. You also have to navigate to the next row. A data form solves these issues.
What is a Data Form
A data form is a fancy phrase for a dialog box with the fields for one record. The form sits on top of your Excel spreadsheet and allows you to enter up to 32 fields per record. You might think of it as an on screen form. Your column headers become the form field labels.
As you can see from the screen shot above, there are three main differences with the data form.
- You’re only viewing one record.
- Your orientation is vertical, not horizontal.
- Some fields now have a shortcut key allowing you to jump within the form.
Using the form, I can enter data faster and when I tab to the end of the form, I can hit Enter to start another record. I can also navigate through the records using the controls on the right side.
Switching to the Data Form
The process for opening the data form depends on whether you’re using a new spreadsheet or one with existing data. The difference is the range you highlight.
To switch to the Data Form,
- Open your spreadsheet.
- Adjust the width in Column A to a suitable width for all columns. The form will use this width as the default size for all form fields.
- Add your column labels if this is a new sheet.
- Highlight your data range including column labels.
- From the Data tab or your Quick Access bar, select Form. (Note: Older versions of Excel had this function on the Data menu. You may need to add the Form button to your Quick Access bar if you don’t see it.
Note: If you get an error saying too many fields in the data form you may have selected the whole spreadsheet or more than 32 columns. If so, try again selecting only your range. If you need more than 32 fields, you can use a 3rd party utility such as the free Enhanced Data Form from John Walkenbach.
If you have existing records, you will see a form for each record. If your spreadsheet is new, you’ll see a blank form with your labels.
While the Excel data form may not make data entry fun, it does reduce the time it takes me to enter the data.