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Setting Up a Document for Structured Editing

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A common business scenario involves creating an overall design for a document, filling in some standard text, and then leaving a few sections blank for other users to fill in. In a company report, for example, the design and most of the content might be fixed, but it might also have sections in which different departments can enter results, mission statements, goals, and so on. In these situations, it's crucial that the other users who add their content to the document do not also change the document design or any of the other content.

The previous two sections showed you how to lock document formatting and prevent untracked changes. You can also designate a document to be read-only (choose Office, Prepare, Mark as Final) so that no changes can be made. However, none of these techniques solve the problem of preventing users from editing or deleting parts of a document, while also allowing them the ability to add specific types of content. This is called structured editing, and Word 2007 offers a number of other tools that make it possible.

The first part of structured editing involves setting up regions of the document so that other people can't edit them or delete them. In Word 2007, you do that by forming those regions into a group. By default, a group cannot be edited or formatted, and you can also configure a group so that it cannot be deleted.

To convert text into a group, select the text and then choose Developer, Group, Group. Word locks the group, although you don't see anything on screen to tell you this. (This is by design: Your document looks exactly as it did before, so the quality and design of the document is not changed by creating a group.) If you also want to prevent users from deleting all or part of the group, follow these steps:

  1. Click inside the group.
  2. Choose Developer, Properties to open the Group Properties dialog box shown in Figure 3.4.
    Figure 3.4

    Figure 3.4 Use the Group Properties dialog box to prevent the grouped text from being deleted.

  3. Click to activate the Content Control Cannot Be Deleted check box.
  4. Click OK.

If you need to work with the grouped content, or if you just want to remind yourself of the extent of the group, choose Developer, Design Mode. As you can see in Figure 3.5, Word adds "Group" icons at the beginning and end of the grouped content, and also displays a box around the content when you click inside the group.

Figure 3.5

Figure 3.5 Choose Developer, Design Mode to see the Group icons.

The second part of structured editing involves allowing users to add content to the document, although you don't allow just any content to be added anywhere inside the document. Instead, the editing is "structured" because you place one or more of the following restrictions on content additions:

  • You designate a precise location within the location for the content.
  • You designate the type of content that the user can add (such as a date or a table).
  • You assist the user by offering some kind of user interface feature that leads the user to enter exactly the type of data you want.

You can set up any of these restrictions by using Word 2007's new content controls, which are dialog box-like controls that you can draw directly inside your document. The idea is that you draw each control exactly where you want it, and the control dictates the type of data the user can enter and often comes with some sort of user interface that helps the user enter the data.

In the Developer tab's Controls group, Word 2007 offers seven content controls (see Figure 3.6):

  • Rich Text—Use this control for formatted text that consists of one or more paragraphs.
  • Text—Use this control for plain text that consists of no more than one paragraph. (If you need plain text for multiple paragraphs, click the control, choose Developer, Properties, and then click to activate the Allow Carriage Returns [Multiple Paragraphs] check box.)
  • Picture—Use this control to enable the user to insert a picture into the document. The user clicks the picture icon and then uses the Insert Picture dialog box to select the image.
  • Combo Box—Use this control to enable the user to enter text or select an item from a drop-down list. To add items to the list, click the control, choose Developer, Properties, and then click Add. In the Add Choice dialog box, type a Display Name and a Value, and then click OK. Repeat to add other list items. Figure 3.6 shows an example combo box control.
    Figure 3.6

    Figure 3.6 Use a Combo Box content control to enable the user to type text or select an item from a list.

  • Drop-Down List—Use this control to enable the user to select an item from a drop-down list. You add items to the list using the same method as I described for the Combo Box control.
  • Date Picker—Use this control to enable the user to enter a date by clicking the date from a calendar, as shown in Figure 3.7. To specify the date format, click the control, choose Developer, Properties, and then click the format in the Display the Date Like This list.
    Figure 3.7

    Figure 3.7 Use a Date Picker content control to enable the user to specify a date by clicking it in a calendar.

  • Building Block Gallery—Use this control to enable the user to select an item from the Building Blocks Gallery. If you want the user to have a choice of a specific type of building block only, click the control, choose Developer, Properties, and then use the Gallery list to click the building block type (AutoText, Quick Parts, Tables, and so on).

Here are the general steps to follow to insert a content control into a document:

  1. Position the insertion point where you want the content control to display.
  2. Choose the Developer tab, and then click the content control you want. Word inserts the control.
  3. Choose Developer, Properties to open the Content Control Properties dialog box.
  4. Type a Title for the content control. (This text displays above the control when the user clicks it.)
  5. (Optional) Type a Tag for the content control. (This text displays on either side of the control when you switch to Design Mode.)
  6. If you want to apply a style to the control contents, click to activate the Use a Style to Format Contents check box and then use either Style or New Style to specify the style you want to use.
  7. To prevent the user from deleting the control, click to activate the Content Control Cannot Be Deleted check box.
  8. After the control has been edited, you can prevent anyone else from making changes to it by clicking to activate the Contents Cannot Be Edited check box.
  9. Configure any control-specific settings, as described earlier.
  10. Click OK.
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