Improving the appearance of a switchboard

Despite the number of different buttons and captions you will see as you test the switchboard there is really only one switchboard form in the database. The changes to its buttons and captions are managed by VBA program code. All this happens automatically and it means that you can maintain a consistent design style for your whole navigation structure by just modifying this one form.

Once you have set up your switchboards you can go to the Forms tab of the Database Window and edit the Switchboard form that you find there. Its default appearance appears to be plain turquoise but if you investigate then you will find that it is made up of a number of components:

[Default appearance of the Switchboard Manager in Access XP.]

HorizontalDividingLine The engraved line across the form.
HorizontalHeaderBox A rectangle across the top of the screen surrounding the caption.
Label1 The caption in the turquoise box.
Label2 The shadow of the caption - please delete this if you have any sense of style. It looked good in the early 90's but is a little dated now.
Option1..8 You can move these buttons or change their appearance but don't delete or rename them because the VBA program code of the switchboard form refers to them by name.
OptionLabel1..8 These too must not be deleted or renamed.
Picture Fills the left-hand side of the form.
VerticalShadowBox The dark border between the left and right-hand sides.

A few minutes work leaves you with a form which looks a lot better.

[Custom appearance of the Switchboard Manager.]

All that I have done to improve the appearance is to add a picture, remove Label2 and the VerticalShadowBox, change some colours and the styles of the OptionLabels and make the buttons a little bit bigger.

The only unusual feature here is the icon on the Exit button. It's only possible because the main switchboard is the only form that has five buttons on it. I added the exit icon to the fifth button of the eight on the Switchboard form knowing that it would only ever be visible on this one form.

Switchboards are not perfect as a user interface but they work and the wizard lets you set them up very quickly. If you are writing something that will only be used by yourself or by a few people in your department then switchboard forms are very effective.

Other pages in this series

Part 1 Getting started
Part 2 Building the structure
Part 3 Improving the appearance
Part 4 Behind the scenes

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