One of the most common ways to use Google Docs is to create a Google Docs form. Unfortunately, the most common method of creating a form using underlining for form fields does not work because the line moves and looks strange when the form is filled out.
Fortunately, there are several tricks you can do with spreadsheets in Google Docs that create the perfect form that people can fill out while keeping the rows in the form.
You can create a fillable Google Docs form with many different elements using tables. Read on to find out how. If you want to see the final product, check out the final form here
How the standard Google Docs template fails
The most common form field that people like to insert into a fillable form is a simple text box. This is a label next to a blank line that the user must fill in.
More often than not, people create such a form by simply typing a label for a field and then using the underscore key on their keyboard to create fillable fields.
It looks great until someone tries to fill out the form. You will find that as you fill in the fields, the lines below each record are erased.
This makes the final completed form look messy and odd. The person filling out the form will be asked to underline the text.
But that doesn’t look right either, because the underline doesn’t perfectly line up with the margin lines.
The same problem occurs when people try to create fillable forms using Microsoft Word. However, Word offers some special features for composing emails that Google Docs doesn’t have.
But Google Docs does a good job of filling out forms using tables.
Make form fields fillable with tables
To get started creating a fillable Google Docs form, insert a spreadsheet.
Choose “Insert” from the menu, choose “Table”, and then choose a 2 x 1 size for your table.
This will insert a simple table with a couple of fields. Enter a label for your first box in the left cell and click the right align icon on the ribbon to align the text to the right side of that cell.
At this point, you have everything you need to create the first complete fillable field on the form.
First, select the entire name cell, select the border color icon in the ribbon bar, and change the border color to white so that all border lines disappear.
Now that you have a borderless label, you need to change the input cell to only include the bottom row. When you’re done, it looks like a normal “underlined” field that the user has to fill in.
Creating a cell with only the bottom row in Google Docs is a bit tricky because you need to change the color of the top and side lines to white while leaving the bottom row unchanged.
To take care of the top row, select the entire cell, click the little down arrow in the top right corner of the cell, and select the border with only the top line.
With the top cell selected, select the border color icon and choose white for the top border color.
Repeat this process for the right border as well. When you’re done, you should have your first fill-in field ready.
For any other one-line fields in your form, you don’t have to repeat this entire process. You can simply copy this table and paste it anywhere on the form wherever you want, and also change the label text.
Create multiple fillable fields with tables
If you want to create multiple fields, such as address fields, you can also do this using a table.
To create a field that requires three rows to be filled, insert another table, but this time select the 2 x 3 table.
Repeat the same process as above. Add a label for the three fields in the first cell on the left. Select all three left cells and remove the border color. Remember to align the text to the right side of the cell.
You can also change the width of the cells to align with the table above it in the form.
Now repeat the above process with all three cells on the right.
- Set the top and right lines of the top cell to white.
- Set the right line of the middle cell to white
- Set the right line of the bottom cell to white
When you’re done, your form should look like the example below.
As you can see, tables can be used to create fillable text fields of a regular type. It’s also very easy to align all of these fields by resizing the table cells as needed.
Make check boxes fields with a table
You can also create select checkboxes for your form using a table. Follow the same process as above to create the table and format the fields.
- Insert a 2 x 1 table
- Set the left and right borders of the cells to completely white
- Label the left cell and align the text to the right of the cell.
Then place your cursor in the cell on the right. Check the box by clicking the down arrow next to the marker icon and check the box.
Enter text that describes each checkbox and press Enter to add as many checkboxes as you need for that section of the fillable form.
Keep in mind that these check boxes cannot be checked by simply clicking on them with the mouse pointer. Selecting them requires the user to double-click the checkbox to select only this one. Then they need to right click and select the checkbox icon.
It’s pretty simple, but slightly different from what people are used to. Therefore, be sure to provide user instructions or enter them directly into the form as a guide.
You now have most of the components you need to create just about any fillable form in Google Docs.
Create a text field using a table
The last fillable form feature we’ll look at is a large freeform text box where users can enter whatever they like inside a large text box.
This is not possible in a single-line or multi-line field, because you need to move to the next line to continue typing.
To create a large text box, create the same table type that you created for the multi-line box. This means you will enter a 2 x 3 table. If you need a larger text box, you can choose 2 x 4 or 2 x 5 instead.
Now enter the label text in the first top-left cell, then repeat the process described in the previous sections to set all left margins to white borders.
Then for the fields on the right you will need to merge all the cells into one.
Select all fields, right-click inside the selection and choose Merge Cells.
Next, you need to create a border around the text area. Select all three cells again and click the drop-down arrow in the upper right corner of the merged cell. Select the 4-sided block icon.
This selects all four sides. Then select the border color icon on the ribbon and choose black.
This will create a line around all four sides of the merged cells to form a single text input field where people can enter whatever they want.
Don’t forget to resize the cells so that the label and margin match the rest of the form.
Use the new Google Docs fillable form
Now that you have your first form ready, try it out by filling in all the fields!
You will find that the completed form is much more organized, all lines stay where they should be, and it’s easy to use.
Now, just make as many copies of your blank form as you like and share them with people to start filling them out!
If you want to go a little further, there are Google Docs add-ons that allow you to create fillable documents using even more field types.