Take a look at the picture below. The bottom curved figure
looks larger than the top figure. In reality they’re the same
size. If you don’t believe me, break a ruler and and measure
This particular optical trick, called the Jastrow illusion,
appears distorted because of our tendency to measure similar
elements from a central location. For a more in-depth explanation
of this effect as well as others, see
In Access, we typically want similar things to be the same size.
We don’t want people using our database to become distracted when
similar items have slightly different or inconsistent sizes.
Instead we want people to tune in to the information contained in
the data rather than some disconcerting design elements.
In Access, you can spend a lot of time adjusting control sizes to
get them to be the same. Last month, we talked about ways to get
things to align easily. This month, I will show you how to get a
series of elements all to the same size and neatly spaced.
As you place form or report controls, they probably start out
the same size, but as you adjust their size for their contents,
you may find that you have, in some cases, a jumble of different
sizes as you see below.
What we would really like to see is this:
To get them sized and aligned nicely, we use the Size/Space Tool.
The Size/Space Tool
This nifty tool, used while designing elements in forms and
reports, helps make things organized and neatly arranged. When you
are designing a form or report, you will see a group of tabs
called Form Design Tools. One of the tabs in that group is called
Size/Space, shown below.
The elements in this toolbar become available once you have
selected more than one control on your form or report.
To use this tool take the follow steps: Select elements you want
to be the same size, then click in the ribbon menu either To
Widest, or To Narrowest. Now everything you selected will be a
uniform width. Follow the steps again to get them to the same
height by choosing either tallest or shortest.
If there are a lot of elements, you might find that you have to go
through several iterations because your preferred size may not be
either the widest or narrowest. To deal with this limitation, you
choose only those elements that are either wider or narrower than
your preferred size, as well as the element which is your target
size and the use the tool. After that, repeat the process
selecting all elements and choosing To Narrowest.
For uniform spacing, apply the same procedure and just apply a
different menu selection to make things uniform. The spacing menu
also allows you to increase or decrease spacing, so you easily
tweak away until you get the look you want.
Using the approach I’ve shown you here will help you get away
from trying to nudge controls to the right size and space.