Access: Change the Tab Order on a Form

So you've created a form in Microsoft Access and everything seems to be laid out perfectly... but wait! Why does your cursor jump around to the different fields in an awkward order when you press the Tab key? Is there a way to change that?

Changing the tab order on a form is actually a fairly painless process. From the design view, click on the 'Design' tab on the ribbon (it's in the 'Form Design Tools' group). To the very right of the ribbon, click on the 'Tab Order' button.

The 'Tab Order' window now appears. You'll have some different sections on the left-hand side of the window, depending on what you've included in your form design. Things you might see here include: Form Header, Page Header, Detail, Page Footer, and Form Footer. Each section of the form has its own tab order, so you'll want to first select the appropriate section. Chances are, you're looking to change the tab order in the 'Detail' section.

Once you've selected a section, take a look at the right-hand side of the window. Here you're going to see a list of all of the objects that you can jump to using the Tab key. Click the box to the left of an item to select it. If you drag while clicking, you can select multiple items at once. When you've finished making your selection, click once more and drag to move the item(s) up or down in the list. Rearrange it as you please, then click the 'OK' button to finish.

Besides manually reordering these items, you can click the 'Auto Order' button on the 'Tab Order' window, and Microsoft Access will try and guess a good order for you automatically. I find this option works fairly well if you've organized your form in a standard manner and haven't gotten too creative.

And there you have it! Hope this helps some of you out as you design your forms.


  1. I have a strange case. Tab order lists controls but does not allow me to drag/drop any control. Reorder works but does not produce the desired result. All the controls on the repeating line don't have a number that I can change. Any idea how to resolve this?

  2. I have the same issue - have you reached any solution?