Adobe InDesign CC 2015 release (2016)

14. Creating Adobe PDF Files with Form Fields

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, you’ll learn to do the following:

• Add different types of PDF form fields to a page.

• Use prebuilt form fields.

• Add a description to a form field.

• Set the tab order of form fields.

• Add a Submit button to a form.

• Export and test an Adobe PDF (Interactive) file with form fields.

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This lesson will take approximately 45 minutes.

Download the project files for this lesson from the Lesson & Update Files tab on your Account page at www.peachpit.com and store them on your computer in a convenient location, as described in the “Getting Started” section at the beginning of this book.

Your Account page is also where you’ll find any updates to the chapters or to the lesson files. Look on the Lesson & Update Files tab to access the most current content.

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Adobe InDesign CC provides all the tools you need to create simple PDF forms, and you have the option to use Adobe Acrobat Pro DC to add features and functionality that aren’t available in InDesign.

Getting started

In this lesson, you’ll add several different types of form fields to a volunteer registration form, export an Adobe PDF (Interactive) file, and then open the exported file and test the fields you created in InDesign.


Image Note

If you have not already downloaded the project files for this lesson to your computer from your Account page, make sure to do so now. See “Getting Started” at the beginning of the book.


1. To ensure that the preference and default settings of your Adobe InDesign program match those used in this lesson, move the InDesign Defaults file to a different folder following the procedure in “Saving and restoring the InDesign Defaults file” on page 3.

2. Start Adobe InDesign. To ensure that the panels and menu commands match those used in this lesson, choose Window > Workspace > [Advanced], and then choose Window > Workspace > Reset Advanced. To begin working, you’ll open an InDesign document that is already partially completed.


Image Note

If an alert informs you that the document contains links to sources that have been modified, click Update Links.


3. Choose File > Open, and open the 14_Start.indd file in the InDesignCIB\Lessons\Lesson14 folder on your hard drive. This one-page document is a registration form. (If the Missing Fonts dialog box displays, click Sync Fonts, and then click Close after the fonts have successfully synced from Typekit.)

4. To see what the finished document looks like, open the 14_End.indd file in the Lesson14 folder.

5. Close the 14_End.indd file after you have finished examining it, or you can leave this document open for reference.

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6. Choose File > Save As, rename the document 14_PDF_Form.indd, and save it in the Lesson14 folder.

Adding form fields

Some setup work on the form fields has already been done. You’ll complete the form by adding some more fields and then modifying some of them.

Adding text fields

In a PDF form, a text field is a container into which the person who fills out the form can enter text. All but two of the text frames have already been converted into text fields. You’ll convert these two text frames into text fields.

1. Choose Window > Workspace > Interactive For PDF. This optimizes the panel arrangement for the work you’ll be doing in this lesson and provides quick access to many of the controls you’ll use.

2. Use the Zoom tool (Image) to zoom in on the area in the top half of the page that contains the form objects. That’s where all of your work in this lesson will be done.


Image Tip

You can convert any kind of frame—text, graphics, or unassigned—into a PDF form field.


3. Select the Selection tool (Image), and then move the pointer over the text field below “First Name.” Notice that a blue dotted line is displayed around the object and a small graphic of a text field is displayed on the right side. The dotted line indicates that the object is a PDF form element; the icon of the text frame indicates that the element is a text field. Select the object.

4. Choose Window > Interactive > Buttons And Forms, or click the Buttons And Forms panel icon to display the Buttons And Forms panel. Notice the settings for the text field. Text Field is selected in the Type menu, and the name of the element is First Name.

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Image Note

When adjusting the appearance of a combo box, list box, text field, or signature field, keep in mind that only a solid stroke and fill are retained when you export as Adobe PDF. These attributes are visible in an exported PDF file when Highlight Existing Fields is not selected in Adobe Acrobat Reader DC or Adobe Acrobat Pro DC when the form is opened.



Image Tip

When the Scrollable option is selected for a text field, more text can be entered in the field than is visible onscreen. This can result in only part of the text appearing on a printed copy of the page.


5. Select the text frame below “Last Name.” In the Buttons And Forms panel, choose Text Field from the Type menu, and then assign a name to the field by entering Last Name in the Name field. Press Enter or Return to apply the name change, and then deselect Scrollable.

6. Select the text frame under “E-mail Address.” In the Buttons And Forms panel, configure it the same as you did the Last Name field and assign it the name E-mail Address.

7. Choose File > Save.

Adding radio buttons

Radio buttons present the person filling out the form with two or more choices, but only one of the choices can be selected at a time, unlike check boxes, which do allow multiple choices to be selected. Radio buttons are often simple circles; however, you can design your own, more elaborate buttons or choose from several sample buttons included with InDesign. In this lesson, you’ll use one of the sample radio buttons.

1. Choose View > Fit Page In Window, and then zoom in to the “In what way are you best able to help?” portion of the form.

2. Choose Sample Buttons And Forms from the Buttons And Forms panel menu or click the Sample Buttons And Forms panel icon (Image) located to the left of the Pages panel icon to display the Sample Buttons And Forms panel. If necessary, reposition and resize the panel so that you can see the “In what way are you best able to help?” portion of the form.

3. Drag the radio button named “019” in the Sample Buttons And Forms panel and position it below the text frame with the text “In what way are you best able to help?” Align the top of the topmost radio button with the top of the line of text to the right. Refer to the screen capture below for the correct position.

4. In the Control panel, make sure that the upper-left reference point is selected in the reference point locator (Image), enter 40% in the Scale X Percentage box, and then press Enter or Return. If necessary, move the buttons to match the screen capture.

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5. With all three buttons still selected, in the Buttons And Forms panel, enter Form of Assistance in the Name box, and then press Enter or Return.

6. Choose Edit > Deselect All or click an empty area of the page or pasteboard.


Image Tip

The Financial donation button is selected by default when the exported PDF form is opened in Adobe Acrobat Reader DC or Acrobat Pro DC. If you uncheck Selected By Default in the Buttons And Forms panel for this element, nothing is selected by default in Acrobat Reader DC.


7. Use the Selection tool (Image) to select the first radio button (to the left of “Financial Donation”).

8. In the Buttons And Forms panel, enter Donation in the Button Value field at the bottom of the panel, and then press Enter or Return.

9. Repeat steps 7 and 8 to name the middle button Time and the bottom button Services.

10. Choose File > Save.

Adding a check box

A check box presents a yes-or-no choice for an individual item. A viewer of the form can click the empty check box (the default setting in the exported PDF) to add a check mark or leave it unchecked. Next, you’ll add a check box that accompanies the combo box below it, which you’ll create in the next task.

1. Use the Selection tool (Image) to drag the check box named “001” from the Sample Buttons and Forms panel, and place it so that the top of the check mark aligns with the top of the text frame that contains “Yes, I would like to receive your quarterly newsletter.”

2. Press Shift+Ctrl (Windows) or Shift+Command (Mac OS) and drag the lower-right corner of the check box until the bottom of the box aligns with the bottom of the text frame to the right.

3. In the Buttons And Forms panel, enter Receive Newsletter in the Name field, and then press Enter or Return.

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Check box after being scaled.

4. Choose File > Save.

Adding a combo box

A combo box is a drop-down menu that lists multiple predefined choices. A viewer of the form can select only one of the choices. Next, you’ll create a combo box that offers three choices.

1. Use the Selection tool (Image) to select the text frame below the heading “Please send me your newsletter in the following format:”.

2. In the Buttons And Forms panel, choose Combo Box from the Type menu, and then enter Newsletter Format in the Name field.

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To provide the viewer of the PDF form with different choices, you’ll add three list items.


Image Note

List boxes are similar to combo boxes in that you add list items; however, combo boxes allow you to select only one item from a list in the PDF form. If you select Multiple Selection for a list box, a viewer of the PDF can select more than one choice.


3. In the lower half of the Buttons And Forms panel, enter Print Publication: Standard Mail in the List Items box, and then click the plus sign to the right of the box. Notice that the text you entered is now displayed in the list below the box.

4. Repeat the previous step to add Adobe PDF: E-mail Attachment and ePUB: E-mail Attachment to the list.


Image Tip

To sort list items alphabetically, select Sort Items in the Buttons And Forms panel. You can also modify the order of list items by dragging them up or down in the list.



Image Tip

To display a combo box without a default selection, make sure that none of the List Items is selected. When a list item is selected, it becomes the default selection when the PDF is opened.


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5. Click Print Publication: Standard Mail in the list of items to make it the default selection. When a viewer opens the exported PDF file, Print Publication: Standard Mail will already be selected.

6. Choose File > Save.

Adding a description to a form field

You can provide additional guidance to viewers who fill out a form by adding descriptions to form fields. A description is displayed when the pointer rolls over a field that includes one. Next, you’ll add a description to one of the text fields.


Image Tip

Adding descriptions to form fields is recommended, as it assists in making PDF forms accessible. For more information, go to www.adobe.com/accessibility.html.


1. Use the Selection tool (Image) to select the text field below the text frame with the heading “ZIP.”

2. In the Buttons And Forms panel, enter Please provide your four-digit ZIP code extension if possible. in the Description box, and then press Enter or Return.

3. Choose File > Save.

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Setting the tab order of the fields

The tab order you establish for a PDF form determines the order in which fields are selected as a viewer of the form presses the Tab key. Next, you’ll set the tab order for the fields on the page.


Image Tip

You can also change the tab order by dragging list items up or down in the Tab Order dialog box.


1. From the Object menu, choose Interactive > Set Tab Order.

2. In the Tab Order dialog box, click Last Name (the name of the text field you created that holds the family name of the person filling out the form), and then click Move Up until it appears below First Name near the top of the list. Use the Move Up and Move Down buttons or drag field names up or down to rearrange them so that they match the order on the page. Click OK to close the dialog box.

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3. Choose File > Save.

Adding a button to submit the form

If you distribute a PDF form, you’re going to want to include a way for anybody who fills out the form to return it to you. To accomplish this, you’ll create a button that sends the filled-out PDF form to your e-mail address.


Image Tip

Any object or group can be converted into a button. For example, a text frame with a fill color and the text “Submit” could become a Submit button. To convert a selected object or group to a button, choose Button from the Type menu in the Buttons and Forms panel.


1. Use the Selection tool (Image) to select the rounded-corner text frame with a blue fill and the text “Submit.”

2. In the Buttons And Forms panel, choose Button from the Type menu, enter Submit Form in the Name field, and then press Enter or Return.

3. Click the Add New Action For Selected Event (Image) button, and then choose Submit Form from the menu.

4. In the URL field, enter mailto:. Make sure you enter a colon after “mailto”. Do not enter a space or a period before or after the colon.

5. Enter your e-mail address (for example, pat_smith@domain.com) after mailto:. This will return the completed form to you.

To cause the button’s appearance to change when a user of the PDF form moves the pointer over the Submit button, you’ll add a Rollover appearance.


Image Tip

A button’s appearance can have three different states. The state that’s displayed depends on the user’s interaction. The Normal state is the default display when no interaction occurs; the Rollover state displays when the mouse pointer is moved over the button; and the Click state displays when the mouse button is clicked.


6. Click [Rollover] in the Buttons And Forms panel. Open the Swatches panel, enter 50 in the Tint field, press Enter or Return, and then close the panel.


Image Tip

Only the Rollover and Click states can be deleted. To delete a state, select it, and then click the Delete Optional State And Its Content button at the bottom of the Buttons And Forms panel.


7. Return to the Buttons And Forms panel. Notice that the [Rollover] appearance is now lighter than the [Normal] appearance, reflecting the tint change you just made. Click [Normal] to display the default appearance.

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8. Choose File > Save.

Exporting an interactive Adobe PDF file

Now that you’ve finished work on the form fields, you’re ready to export an interactive Adobe PDF file and then test the exported file.

1. Choose File > Export.

2. In the Export dialog box, choose Adobe PDF (Interactive) from the Save As Type menu (Windows) or Format menu (Mac OS). Name the file 14_PDF_Form.pdf and save it to the Lesson14 folder, located inside the Lessons folder within the InDesignCIB folder on your hard drive. Click Save.

3. In the Export To Interactive PDF dialog box, select Pages and make sure that Include All is selected for Forms And Media and that View After Exporting is selected. Leave all other settings unchanged. Click OK, and then click OK to close the alert about document color conversion.

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If either Adobe Acrobat Pro DC or Adobe Acrobat Reader DC is installed on your computer, the exported PDF file will open automatically, and you can test the fields you created earlier. When you’re done, click the button that e-mails the filled-out form to you. (A security warning dialog box may display when Adobe Acrobat Reader DC or Acrobat Pro DC creates an e-mail message with the completed form as an attachment.) If you want, modify the settings in the Send Email dialog box and then click Continue to submit the form information, or click Cancel. Return to InDesign.

4. Choose File > Save.

Congratulations! You’ve created a PDF form.

Exploring on your own

Now that you’ve created a simple PDF form, you can explore a little further by creating other kinds of fields and by creating your own custom-designed buttons.

1. Open a new document, create a text frame, and then use the Buttons And Forms panel to convert it to a signature field. A signature field in a PDF form lets the user apply a digital signature to the PDF file. Assign the field a name, and then export an Adobe PDF (Interactive) file. You can use Adobe Acrobat Pro DC to test the signature field by clicking it and then following the onscreen instructions.


Image Tip

Adobe Acrobat Standard DC is a Windows-only product that enables you to create, export, edit, and track PDFs from anywhere. For more information, go to https://acrobat.adobe.com/us/en/products/acrobat-standard.html.


2. Use the Ellipse tool (Image) to create a small circular frame. Use the Gradient panel to fill the circle with a radial gradient. If you want, use the Swatches panel to change the colors of the gradient. Use the Buttons And Forms panel to convert the frame into a button. Assign the button the Go To URL action and enter a complete URL in the URL field (for example, http://www.adobe.com). To test this button, export an Adobe PDF (Interactive) file and click the button.

3. Try one of the other prebuilt form fields in the Sample Buttons And Forms panel. Drag one onto the page, and then view its properties in the Buttons And Forms panel. You can use the element as is, or you can modify its appearance, change some of its properties, or both. Export and test the result.

Review questions

1. What panel lets you convert an object into a PDF form field and specify settings for form fields?

2. What action can you assign to a button that enables a viewer of the exported PDF form to send a copy of the filled-out form to an e-mail address?

3. What programs can be used to open and fill out an Adobe PDF form?

Review answers

1. The Buttons And Forms panel (Window > Interactive > Buttons And Forms) lets you convert objects into PDF form fields and specify settings for them.

2. To enable the viewer of a PDF form to return a filled-out form, use the Buttons And Forms panel to assign the Submit Form action to the button. After you assign the Submit Form action, enter mailto: followed by an e-mail address (for example, mailto:pat_smith@domain.com) in the URL field.

3. You can open and fill out PDF forms using Adobe Acrobat Pro DC or Adobe Acrobat Reader DC. Adobe Acrobat Pro DC also offers additional features for working with PDF form fields