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This Microsoft Word Help & Microsoft Word Tips page serves to introduce Content Controls and list links to several more specific articles on Content Controls that are available on this website.
Content controls were introduced with the release of Word 2007 and have changed little with the subsequent release of Word 2010. I call them "Word's Diamonds in the Rough" because, despite their enormous potential, Microsoft has failed miserably in resolving long standing bugs and in providing enhancements to functionality to fully realize this potential.
Table 1 below provides a general description of the ten types of content controls available in Word 2013. Some of these controls are not available or have less capability in earlier versions.
|Rich Text||A rich text control can contain custom formatted text or other items, such as tables, pictures, or other content controls.||Before Word 2013, rich text controls cannot be bound to an XML data node.|
|Plain Text||A plain text content control is limited to plain text in a single or multiple paragraphs. It cannot contain other items, such as tables, pictures, or other content controls.||All or nothing formatting. For example, if you italicize one word of a sentence that is in a plain text control, all the text inside the control is italicized.|
|Picture||Fills the content control with a single image.||Prohibits users from inserting any other Word objects or any text.|
|Combo Box||Contains a drop-down selection of list entries that users can select and text box that user can edit directly.||All or nothing formatting. Input limited to a single paragraph of text.|
|Drop-Down List||A drop-down list displays a drop-down list of list entries that users can select. Unlike a combo box, the drop-down list does not let users enter a custom input.||All or nothing formatting.|
|Date Picker||Contains a calendar control. Limits text to a single paragraph.||Like plain text, limits text to a single paragraph that cannot contain any formatting.|
|Check Box||A check box provides a UI that represents a binary state: selected or cleared. Available only in Word 2010/2013.||Content is displayed in a rich text control when opened in Word 2007.|
|Building Block Gallery||A building block gallery enables users to select from a list of document building blocks to insert into a document. A document building block is a piece of content that has been created to be used multiple times, such as a common cover page, a formatted table, or a header.||Cannot be bound to an XML data node.|
|Group||A group control defines a protected region of a document that users cannot edit or delete. A group control can contain any document items, such as text, tables, graphics, and other content controls.||Cannot be bound to an XML data node.|
|Repeating section controls can contain text or other controls and allow you to insert as many sections as needed.||Word 2013 only.|
Content controls provide a way for you to design documents and templates that have these features:
Content controls provide a UI that is optimized for both user input and print. When you add a content control to a document, the control is identified by a border, a title tab, and temporary (placeholder) text that provides a simple prompt or detailed instructions to the user. The border and the title tab of the control do not appear in printed versions of the document.
Restricting areas of the document lets you prevent users from changing or deleting the content in that area of the document. There are several ways you can restrict areas of a document by using content controls.
Bonus Tip: Paired content controls can be used to provide labels and input for a simple form. Apply both locking properties to the label control.
1. If you create a "group" or "rich text" content control that contains other embedded content controls, the embedded content controls are not automatically restricted. You must use the "Lock Contents" property of each embedded control to prevent users from editing their contents. For more on grouping controls see my: Content Control Grouping and Navigation
2. Locked and grouped content controls create un-editable regions in the document. Doing so can have undesirable effects. For example if you have grouped or locked controls in a document along with other fields, then if you want to update the document fields, you can't used CTRL+a (select all) the F9, because "all" can no longer be selected.
The real power of content controls lies in their ability to be mapped (or bound) to a custom XML data store embedded in the Word 2007/2010 OfficeOpenXML format document file. Through this binding:
Content controls offer opportunities and several advantages to document designers over the legacy form fields used in previous Word versions. Unfortunately they still have some very significant shortcomings.
Note: Legacy form fields are still available in both Word2007 and Word2010. While not encouraged, there is nothing that prevents you from incorporating both form fields and content controls in a protected document. Content controls contained in protected documents behave similar to grouped content controls discussed above.
Note: For more on navigating in documents containing content controls see my: Content Control Grouping and Navigation.
The following links provide additional tips on using content controls found on this website:
That's it! I hope you have found this tips page useful and informative.
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