How to Format A Report In Ms Access: Printing, Previewing, And Exporting

It is always a good idea to give your reports a professional look by formatting it further under the Design view, using professional templates and adding pictures to help illustrate ideas. You may also need to preview, print and export the report. Once you’ve created the perfect report, it’s time to share it with rest of the world. Most commonly, you’ll choose to print it or preview it before you start distributing it online. In this tutorial part, I will give you the step by step guide on how to professionally format a report: add pictures and logos, print, preview, export the report to different supported available file formats in MS Access such as pdf, xps, rtf (rich text format format), xlsx (excel file format), txt, html, doc (ms word file format), etc.
how to print, preview and export your reports to various formats in ms access
This is part 3 of chapter 7 of the Free Online Access Tutorial Series at Microsoft Tutorial website. In this part, I will explicitly explain how you can print, preview and export your report to any format of your choice in MS Office Access.
In the previous part (Part 2), I explained how to create mailing labels, charts and graphs in later versions of MS Access in detail. Also see the full tutorial course content of this Microsoft Access Tutorial Series.


If your data source tables include embedded pictures using the Attachment data type, you may then want to include them in your printouts. It is possible to show your pictures in a report (and even print them), provided you meet the following requirements:

Your picture is stored in an attachment field.
Your picture is stored in a standard picture format (like “.bmp”, “.jpg”, “.gif”, “.wmf”, etc.). If you have another type of file in an attachment field, you just see the icon of the related application (like Microsoft Word for a .doc file) in your report.
Your picture is the first attachment.  If you have more than one attachment, when you select the row

How to Print a Report in MS Access

Printing a report is easy—simply select the port in the navigation pane (it doesn’t even need to be open), and choose File > Print > Print. Access makes it easy with its integrated Print Preview feature. Note that in MS Access 2013 and later versions, you can print directly without making any changes using the Quick Print feature.

How to Preview a Report in MS Access

To get a preview of what your printed report will look like, select it in the navigation pane and choose File >Print > Print Preview. Or, if the report is already open, you can right-click the report tab title and choose Print Preview.

Print Preview mode doesn’t let you make any changes or select any part of the re- port. You’re limited to zooming in and out, and moving from page to page. When you’re finished looking at your print preview, choose Print Preview > Close Preview > Close Print Preview. Or, right-click the tab title of the preview window and choose a different report view.


Reports always use your standard paper size (which is usually 8.5 x 11 inches, or letter size) when you first create them. However, if you change the size, the new size setting is stored with the report. That means the next time you open your report, it still has the customized paper size. The same applies for the paper orientation setting.

Access has two extra options that are not provided in a normal datasheet print preview:

1. Print data only:
Click the Print Preview > Page Size > Print Data Only check box to produce a streamlined printout that leaves out details like column headers and titles. This option is rarely useful, because the resulting printout is harder to read.

2. Print multiple columns:
Click Print Preview > Page Layout > Columns to fit more report data on a page. This option works only if your report is much narrower than the page width. For example, if your report is less than half the width of the page, you can double-up by using two columns. You’ll need half the number of pages.


 You can change several of the page layout settings (like margins and paper orientation) without heading to the print preview. You’ll find the same buttons in the Report Layout Tools | Page Setup tab of the ribbon, which appears whenever you have your report open in Layout view.


Although MS Access supports many different formats for exporting a report, you’ll use just a few with reports. The useful formats for exporting reports include: PDF or XPS, Excel, Text file, HTML document formats, etc.


This option lets you preserve your exact report formatting (so your report can be printed), and it lets people who don’t have Access (and possibly don’t even have Windows) view your report. It’s one of the most popular export options.

Adobe PDF Reader is Adobe’s popular format for sharing formatted, print-ready documents (in “.pdf” file extension).  PDFs are used to pass around product manuals, brochures, and all sorts of electronic documents. Unlike a document format such as “.xlsx” (MS Excel file extension), PDF files are designed to be viewed and printed, but not edited.

The best feature of PDFs is that they can be viewed on just about any type of computer and operating system using the free Adobe Reader. You can download Adobe Reader at, but you probably don’t need to. Most computers already have Adobe Reader installed, because it comes bundled with so many different programs (usually so you can view their electronic documentation). It’s also used widely on the Web.

Apart from Adobe PDF Reader, there are other applications for viewing Print Document Format files. Microsoft’s Windows Vista and Windows 7 and later versions OS include an electronic paper format called XPS (XML Paper Specification). In time, as XPS is integrated into more and more products, it may become a true PDF competitor. But for now, Adobe PDF Reader is dramatically more popular and widespread, so it’s the one to stick with.


This option transforms your report into a document you can open in Word. However, the format Access uses is a bit clumsy. (It separates each column with tabs and each line with a hard return, which makes it difficult to rearrange the data after the fact in Word.) A nicer export feature would put the report data into a Word table, which would make it far easier to work with.

HTML Document:

This option transforms your report into a rich HTML document, suitable for posting on the Web or just opening straight from your hard drive. The advantage of the HTML format is that all you need to view it is a web browser (and who doesn’t have one of those?). The only drawback is that the formatting, layout, and pagination of your report won’t be preserved exactly, which is a disadvantage if someone wants to print the exported report.


When you export a report, Access does its best to stick to your page setup. For example, if your report takes 12 printed pages and you export it to Word, Access distributes the contents in exactly the same way over a 12-page Word document. If you export the same report to HTML, Access creates a separate HTML file for each page of the report. It also adds navigation links at the bottom of each page, so you can jump to the next, previous, first, or last page when viewing the report in a browser.


Exporting a report to a PDF or XPS is slightly different than exporting it to any other format, due to the fact that PDF and XPS exporting ability started out as a separate plug-in (helper program) for Access 2007. This plug-in has been incorporated into MS Access 2010 and later versions. So you can create PDFs right out of the box.

To Export a Report to a PDF or XPS:

1. Open your report and switch to Print Preview mode by clicking the View drop down arrow located in the Results group under the File tab.

2. Click the PDF or XPS icon in the Data group under the Print Preview tab as shown below.
Select PDF or XPS
3. This prompts the Publish as PDF or XPS dialogue box).Type your file name, file type, and quality. Also specify the export location on your computer system.

You can export PDF files with different resolution and quality settings, which mostly affect reports that have pictures. Normally, I advise you to use the Standard (publishing online and printing) options although it produces a heavy file which is both recommended for viewing in pc screens and for printing. 
Also select this option if the people reading your PDF might print it. But if your intention is to just email the PDF so people can view your report onscreen, choose the Minimum size (publishing online) option.

4. Finally, if you want to publish only a portion of your report as a PDF file, click the Options button to open a dialog box with yet a few more settings. You can opt to publish a fixed number of pages rather than the full report as shown below.
Specify your export settings from the Publish pdf or xps dialogue box
5. Click the Publish button to perform the export. If you have checked the Open file after publishing checkbox, MS Access launches your PDF viewer after it creates the file. Or, if you are exporting an XPS file, MS Access opens the exported file in Internet Explorer (on Windows Vista computers) or in the XPS Viewer (on Windows 7 and later versions).

6. Check the Save export setting and click the Close button in the Export dialogue box. By saving your export settings, you can quickly export the same report later on.


The procedures for exporting a report to other available formats apart from PDF and XPS are very similar with just little differences. Once you select the file format export icon, the Export dialogue box pops up, from where you can specify your export settings and publish your report to the selected format.

To Export a Report to Other Format Apart from PDF or XPS:

1. Open your report and switch to Print Preview mode by clicking the View drop down arrow located in the Results group under the File tab.

2. Click any other export icon apart from the PDF or XPS export icon in the Data group under the Print Preview tab. Some of the options are located More menu. For example, click the More drop down arrow to copy the results of your report into a Word-compatible document as shown below. Note that the report will be published with a “.rtf” (Rich Text Format) file extension.
Click the more dropdown arrow to see more export options
3. This prompts the Export dialogue box. Specify a destination URL or path which is made up of the save location URL or path and the export file name by clicking the Browse button as shown below. The destination location is the place where the exported data will be stored.
Specify a save destination path and click OK
4. If you wish to open your exported file in the related program, check the setting Open the destination file after the export operation is complete check box. For example, if you are exporting a Word document and you choose this option; Access will export the data, launch MS Word, and load the document. This is a good way to make sure your export operation worked as expected. This option works only if you have the program you need on your computer.

5. Click OK to perform the export. Ignore the other two check boxes, which are grayed out. They apply only to export operations that work with other database objects.


MS Access assumes you want a name that matches your report. However, you can change the file name to whatever you want.
Remember also that exporting a report is like printing a report. Your exported file contains the data that existed at that moment in time. If you decide a week later that you need more recent data, you need to export your report again.

6. Check the Save export setting and click the Close button in the Export dialogue box. By saving your export settings, you can quickly export the same report later on.

This is the end of chapter 7 of this FREE online MS Access tutorial training series.

Recommended MS Access Textbook

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Click Here to know more about the book.

In the next chapter (chapter 8), I will give you the step by step guide on how to macros and switchboards in MS Access.

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