You can create a Navigation Form in Access to let the database user choose to display a form or report without needing to use the navigation pane or open the objects directly. This article describes how to create a simple Navigation Form and also describes how to set this form to display when the database is opened or viewed as a web database.

Earlier versions of Access used a navigation form called a Switchboard which lets the user add buttons to open Access forms and report. In Access 2010 the switchboard has been replaced by a Navigation Form which uses tabs rather than buttons to open forms or reports. If you explore the new Access 2010 templates you'll find these all use the tabbed Navigation Forms. These make navigation between the various forms and reports very easy particularly when if you don't want the navigation pane to be used.

We'll next describe how to create a Navigation Form in Access 2010 with a simple example. Suppose you've already created an Access 2010 database with one or more tables, forms and reports.

To create a new Navigation Form first close any open objects and ensure the navigation pane is displaying, showing all the tables, forms and reports. Then choose the CREATE tab and in the Forms group click on Navigation. The pop down shows the different Navigation Form layouts available. For this example you can select the Horizontal Tabs layout. The new Navigation Form is created with one tab containing the "Add New" title. Ensure the form is in Layout View. Now we want to add tabs to the form.

If you type the name of an existing object, such as a form name, into the tab title, and press Enter, Access automatically copies the form or report onto the tab. Alternatively you can drag a form or report from the Navigation Pane directly to a tab on the Navigation Form. A new tab appears with the same name as the form or report, and the dragged form or report shows in the Navigation Form area. So using either of these methods you can easily build up a bank of forms and reports in separate tabbed views within the Navigation Form. If you want to remove a tabbed item, select the tab title and press the delete key.

Once your Navigation Form contains the required content, you can apply different formatting to the entire form, and to the navigation tabs. To apply formatting to the form, for example by applying a theme, ensure the form is still in layout view. Then choose the DESIGN ribbon tab, and in the left of the tab select a theme. To apply formatting to the navigation controls, select a form tab, choose the FORMAT ribbon tab, and select one of the Quick Style tab layouts.

You can also change the display formatting of each tab. To do this switch to form design view and then choose a tab. You'll see that each tab is a Navigation Subform. If you then select the form within the subform, and display the properties sheet, you'll see that you can change the view, for example from form view to datasheet view as appropriate.

Once the form is complete you can save and close the form, perhaps keeping the default name "Navigation Form". Next we want to set this form to open automatically when the database is opened. To do this choose the FILE ribbon tab, then in the lower left click Options. In the Access Options panel choose "Current Database", and then in the right hand side of the panel click the pop down just to the right of "Display Form" and select the Navigation Form you just created. Then click OK to finish. You'll see a prompt saying you need to close and open the database for this take effect, so click OK to close the prompt. Before you close the database minimize the Navigation Pane. This pane will return to whatever state you left it in when the database is next opened.

Now test your new Navigation Form by opening the database. Your form should automatically launch with the easy to use tab navigation buttons, and the Navigation Pane is conveniently minimised.

So the new Navigation Form in Access 2010 replaces the switchboard of earlier versions with an much easier to use tabbed form, allowing database navigation between forms and reports without using the Navigation Pane. If you'd like to learn more about Access 2010 you might like to consider attending a training course. There are lots available and the best ones give you lots of hands on practice using a variety of exercises under expert guidance. Then you can really boost your skills in using Access 2010.