How to Use an Input Mask in Microsoft Access

Written by lisa m. mcmahon
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How to Use an Input Mask in Microsoft Access
Input masks can make entering data easier for users of your database. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

You can specify how users must enter data into specific fields in Microsoft Access by using an input mask. This will help to maintain consistency of the data and make your database easier to manage. Queries will return better results and reports will look better if you use input masks. Access will also let you set a specific format for the input mask and select another format for reports. For example, you may allow the date to be entered "mm/dd/yy" on a form but on reports, you display "Month Day, 4-digit Year."

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


    Using the Input Mask Wizard

  1. 1

    Launch Microsoft Access 2010. Open the database you wish to use. Right-click the table in the "Navigation" pane and select "Design View" from the shortcut menu.

  2. 2

    Click anywhere on the row of the field where you want to add the input mask. At the bottom of your screen is "Field Properties." Select the "Build" button indicated by "..." at the end of the "Input Mask" item on the "General" tab.

  3. 3

    Select the type of mask you want to add from the "Input Mask Wizard." Enter data into the "Try It" box to see how the mask will display in your table field. Click "Next."

  4. 4

    Make any changes to the input mask as needed. For example, the default input mask for "Phone Number" is "!(999) 000-0000." The 9s indicate the area code is optional. If you wish to make it required, change the 9s to 0s.

  5. 5

    Select the placeholder character you wish to use for your input mask. Placeholder characters are replaced as you enter data. Click "Next."

  6. 6

    Indicate how you want to store the data. If you choose to store the data without the symbols, you may save storage space. Click "Next," then "Finish." The wizard enters "!(000") "000-0000;;#" as your input mask. Your value may look different, depending upon what you selected. Save your work when prompted.

  7. 7

    Right-click a query and select "Design View" on the shortcut menu to add an input mask to a query. Place your cursor in any row of the column you wish to add an input mask. Press "F4" to open the field's property sheet. Proceed as you did for the table.

  8. 8

    Right-click the form or report and select "Design View" on the shortcut menu. Select the field you want to change. Select "Property Sheet" from the "Tools" group of the "Form Design Tools" tab of the Office ribbon if it is already open. Scroll down to "Input Mask" on the "All" tab. Proceed as you did previously for the table.

    Using Custom Input Masks

  1. 1

    Open the table, query, form or report in "Design View" by right-clicking the object in the "Navigation" pane and selecting "Design View" from the shortcut menu. Click the field for which you wish to add a custom input mask. Click "..." to start the "Input Mask Wizard." Click "Edit List" on the first screen of the wizard.

  2. 2

    Select the "New Record" button at the bottom of the "Customize Input Mask Wizard." Enter a description for the custom input mask in the "Description" field.

  3. 3

    Click "Help" and then "Know more about characters that define input masks." Enter characters and placeholders from the table to build your custom mask. Enter an optional placeholder character. Enter sample data for your users and select a mask type. Click "Close."

  4. 4

    Select the custom input mask from the list and select "Finish."

Tips and warnings

  • Input masks can be used on table fields, queries or on form and report controls.
  • You need to know the specific characters used to define input masks. Microsoft provides a chart in Microsoft Office Support.

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