Using an Input Mask
After you've opened the table you want to change in Design view, click in the field to which you want to apply an input mask (in this example, the Artist Phone field).
In the property sheet, click in the Input Mask field. A button featuring an ellipsis appears to the right of the field.
Click the ellipsis button.
One way to simplify data entry is to use an input mask. Input masks are similar to the display formats discussed in the preceding task, but input masks are displayed before data is entered in a field and are meant to indicate to the person entering data what an appropriate entry for the field might be. For example, you might use an input mask containing parentheses and a dash for a phone number field so that entries appear as follows: (555) 555-1212. You can also select input masks for other common fields such as ones for social-security numbers and ZIP codes.
Access prompts you to save the database before continuing. Click Yes.
Access launches the Input Mask Wizard; the first screen displays a list of available input masks. Select the input mask you want to apply to this field.
Customizing Input Masks
Access includes several common input masks, but you can create your own. For instance, you may want to set up a mask for a product number. To do so, choose a similar mask from the Input Mask list found in the first screen of the Input Mask Wizard, but click Edit List rather than Next. Create the new entry, using Access's help system for specific instructions.
To see how the input mask looks, type a phone number in the Try It text box. If you're satisfied, click Next to continue.
The next screen of the wizard appears. In the Placeholder character list, click the character you want Access to display as a placeholder in the input mask.
Validating Data with Input Masks
Because input masks require that a certain number of characters be entered, they can serve an important role in data validation. If someone enters the wrong number of characters in an input-mask field by accident, Access displays an error message noting that fact.
The Input Mask Wizard asks you how you want to store the data that is entered ówith or without the symbols used in the input mask. Make your selection and click Next.
If necessary, you can click the Back button found in the various Input Mask Wizard screens to go back a step and modify an earlier selection.
The new input mask is added to the property sheet. Click the View toolbar button to toggle to Datasheet view.
Before it changes to Datasheet view, Access prompts you to save the changes to the table; click Yes to do so.
Any blank fields for this field contain the selected input mask and placeholders. Here, you type only the digits in the phone number, not the parentheses around the area code or the dash within the number.
Placeholders are the characters that appear in the datasheet when you are entering data in the input mask field.