Produced by KelbyOne

Getting into Form with Acrobat 8

Acrobat 8 offers easy-to-use tools and utilities for creating forms, including a new assistant that leads you through the process using a series of step-by-step dialogs. Fields that Acrobat can easily recognize are key to creating forms quickly, so you can save lots of time if you pay close attention to how you create the form in InDesign prior to exporting it as PDF document.

1 [Design a Form in InDesign]
Design your form in InDesign or another page-layout application. (You can create a form in a word-processing application, but you’ll likely find it easier to position and edit your form components in a page-layout application such as InDesign.) Use underlined areas to designate your form’s text-entry fields, and checkboxes to designate choices to be checked. Acrobat easily recognizes underlined areas and checkbox icons so it can automatically create text-entry fields and checkable icons. Be sure to leave adequate room horizontally and vertically to accommodate the length and size of the text you want used in your form.


2 [Create Your PDF Form Template Document]
Export your page-layout document to Acrobat (File>Export), choosing Adobe PDF in the Format field, to create your Acrobat PDF document where you’ll add your interactive form fields. In the Export Adobe PDF dialog, choose [Smallest File Size] as the Adobe PDF Preset to make your form easy to send across the Internet. This preset is also a good choice if your forms have no graphics. Check Optimize for Fast Web View for multi-page forms and click Export.

Tip: Keep any graphics in your form simple so you can compress them without fear of losing too much quality.

3 [Open your PDF: Start the Form Creation Process]
Make a copy of your PDF and open the copy in Acrobat. Choose Forms>Create New Form from the Tasks Toolbar at the top of the document to begin the form-creation process. In the dialog that appears, select Start With a PDF Document. (Forms can also be created using PDF forms templates, spreadsheets, and even scanned documents.) Click Continue and a “Creating and Distributing Forms” message appears. Click Continue to proceed with the forms-creation process.

Note: You can manually create all of your form fields, but the New Form Assistant can speed up the process considerably.

4 [First Step of the New Form Assistant]
The next dialog to appear is Step 1 of a four-step process that will identify and place form fields in your document. Click the Use the Current Document button to choose the currently open PDF file. (The other choice, Import a File from File System, allows you to Browse to find and select another PDF file to use for your form.) Click the Next button to move to the next step in the form-creation process.

Note: Prior to starting this New Form Assistant, you can choose Forms>Run Form Field Recognition to test Acrobat’s form field-recognition process.

5 [Activate Auto Field Detection]
In the Step 2 dialog, choose Run Auto Field Detection, which allows Acrobat to automatically recognize the form fields you’ve created. (As an alternative, you can select Place Fields By Hand if you want to…yep…manually create the fields.) With some practice, you’ll learn to create form fields in your page-layout program that lend themselves to easy sequential auto-form field creation in Acrobat. Organizing your form fields sequentially from upper left to lower right in your page-layout document is key here. Click Next to proceed.

6 [Finish Auto Detection and Form Field Creation]
Step 3 of the New Form Assistant requires only that you wait until the process is complete. When the Auto-Detection finishes, the dialog will indicate how many “field candidates” it detected and created (14 in our example).

Click Next to move to the final dialog, which simply congratulates you on finishing the process and tells you that you’re ready to begin editing your form. Click Done to exit the New Form Assistant.

7 [View and Evaluate Your Auto-Created Form Fields]
Zoom in on the area of your document containing the first (top) form fields. Notice the type of form fields that have been created and how they’re labeled. In our form, the first eight fields are text-entry fields (as they should be) that have been labeled using the names placed in the page-layout design; i.e., Name, Address, City, etc., down through the eMail field. As you can see, this form is set up to make good use of the auto-detection and form field-creation capabilities of Acrobat 8.

8 [Configure your Auto Form Fill]
Let’s stop for a minute to configure the auto-fill features: Choose Acrobat (PC: Edit)>Preferences then click on Forms in the list on the left-hand side of the dialog. In the Auto-Complete section at the bottom of the Forms dialog, select either Basic or Advanced to determine the specifics of how the auto-fill will function. Basic will offer likely alternatives while Advanced will auto-select the most likely field entry choice. Check Remember numerical data if you want Acrobat to remember numeric as well as alpha data. To edit the content of the auto-fill data list click the Edit Entry List button.

9 [Configure your Forms Preferences]
While you have the Forms Preferences dialog open, this is a good time to go ahead and configure the general settings that control how the form fields appear. At the very least, you’ll want to configure the Highlight Color area to assign a color to highlight the fields (here light blue). Click OK to close the dialog. As you begin to control more advanced features, such as required and calculation fields, you’ll return later to this dialog to fine-tune your Forms preferences.

10 [Check Field Data Entry Sequence]
Click on either the Select or Hand tool from Acrobat’s Toolbar. This will change the look of the form fields: They’ll no longer be outlined and labeled.

To begin the form field sequence check, simply click on the first (Name) field. After a brief pause, a blinking cursor will appear on the left side of this field. Now type in a name, then tab through, sequentially filling in the various text fields. At the end of the sequence, check one of the payment checkboxes.

11 [Add a Submit Button]
To finish the setup of your basic form, add a button that will be used to submit the completed forms data. If the Forms tool panel isn’t already open, choose Tools>Forms>Show Forms Tools, then click on the Combo Box tool. Now drag your mouse across a rectangular area at the bottom of the form to set the dimensions and location of the Submit button. A red outlined Combo Box will appear (shown bottom right) as well as the Combo Box Properties dialog.

12 [Configure the Submit Button]
To set up your Combo Box Properties dialog, click on the Actions tab, choose Mouse Down from the Select Trigger menu, choose Submit a Form from the Select Action menu, then click the Add button to open the Submit Form Selections dialog. Type in the URL of the website where you want the forms data sent, then select the data format in which you’d like the forms data submitted—for this example, choose PDF The Complete Document—and click OK. Notice that Mouse Down>Submit a form is added to the Actions area. (Don’t close the Combo Box Properties dialog yet.)

13 [Add a Name and Mouse Rollover Tool Tip]
Now, we’ll name our submit box and add a mouse rollover tip. Click on the Options tab and in the Item field, type “Submit.” Click the Add button, which adds the word “Submit” to the Item List. Click on the General tab and in the Name field, type “Submit,” then type “Click Here to Submit” for the Tooltip. Click the Required checkbox, which places a red border around your button, and click Close. Select the Hand tool and roll your mouse over the Submit button to view your handiwork.


  • Sean Canady says:

    Perfect timing! I’m doing a website for a chiropractor that wants his patients to be able to send in their paperwork (ugh!) ahead of their scheduled appointment. This will do nicely.

  • Karren says:

    Is there a way to keep someone from returning an incomplete or blank form?

  • Ka Yan says:

    I’m creating a form using Acrobat right now. I also want to know if there’s a way to keep someone from returning an incomplete or blank form?

  • Phil says:

    how do i create a text form field in Acrobat Standard 8.0? The reason I ask is that it does not appear I can create forms.
    Then i found out if I created a word document with text form field and exported to PDF Adobe would pick up those text fields, but it did not appear to work. please advise.

  • Claire says:

    Is it possible to make a form that Acrobat Reader users can save after completing?

  • Sarah Sloan says:

    I have Adobe Acrobat Standard 8.0 as well and I do not see an option to create a form. Do I need to have something else such as the InDesign program? When I open up a pre-exisiting PDF the only options I have under “form” are “manage form data” and “track forms”. Nowhere do I have an option to “create” a form. What do I do?

  • Allison C says:

    Phil and Sarah Sloan: Acrobat Standard 8.0 don’t have the Create Form option – you need to have Professional or InDesign to do anything described in the above article. FYI, Acrobat Standard 9.0 will bundle in form creation, so you may simply want to upgrade instead of buying a whole new program.

  • M says:

    Hey, Thanks for the article. I followed the steps, though Acrobat is telling me that no form field annotations are available after I run the auto detection. How do I make the InDesign file text fields export correctly, you seem to miss this step out?


  • Hartman Reid says:

    Great tutorials thanks a lot !!! : )


  • matt says:

    How do I make the check boxes in InDesign so they can be recognised by Acrobat? My ‘test’ PDF picked-up the text fields but not the check-boxes.


  • matt says:

    I worked it out. It seems check boxes are picked with Auto form field if they are placed at the end (or start) of a sentence.
    If they are isolated by themselves, they will not be recognised by Acrobat.

  • Traci says:

    I am completely LOST here. I have worked with extensively creating forms and form fields with an earlier version of Adobe Acrobat Standard and never had a problem like this. I now have Acrobat 8 Standard and my Forms plugin is up to date. But not a single step in this tutorial exists for my Acrobat 8?? I want to use an already prepared PDF form (that has no security) and add form fields. My “Tasks” toolbar choices doesn’t match what is in Step 3 of this tutorial. There is no “Forms” dialog box and my menu for “Forms” only contains “Manage Form Data” (via import or export, which are always greyed out) and “Track Forms.” The “Highlight Fields” and “Clear Forms” options are also greyed out. I have every toolbar visible, every menu option visible, and I have reviewed all of my settings. The PDF document I am wanting to add form fields to, has no security. But the ability to add form fields to a PDF document (or even create one from scratch) simply doesn’t exist. What’s going on? I’ve checked the Adobe website but get no answers. Also, the Help > Forms only provides help on 3 things – 1) Fill In A Form With Fields; 2) Type On A Form Without Fields (Typewriter Tool); and 3) Return A Filled In Form. There is no Help for adding form fields.

  • Traci says:

    I just scanned back up through the comments here and saw the comment left by Allison C on an earlier comment about the same thing I just left. Perhaps I missed it too, but I could find nothing in this tutorial that specified Acrobat 8 Professional was required. The creator of this tutorial needs to either add this very important detail above, or change the tutorial title to, “Getting Into Form With Acrobat 8 Professional.” Please. It would have saved me a lot of trouble.

  • Mela Herbert says:

    Hi, I hope someone can help me here! When I use the command : ‘Create Duplicate Fields’ – It doesn’t seem to copy the properties & formats of the duplicated fields. I need to fill a page with rows of different things for an accountant : date, name, number, currency, sum etc. all in one line, but then I need it copied down 25x on each page. It copies just fine but the formating & properties of echa field have gone!! Does anyone know how to do this without having to adjust each field by hand?? Thanks!!

  • Laura says:

    How do you keep people from editing and changing the form once it’s created? I have 8.0 Pro. Thanks in advance!

  • gabriel says:

    i have an InDesign file i’ve created (sales Flyer). We’d like to send out an editable PDF which our sales team could go into each text box we put in our inDesign file, and change the text inside to put whatever they’d like.
    When i export to pdf…and open Form Wizard…it tells me that it doesn’t recognize any new field forms….WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?

    thanks ahead

  • Rosalie says:

    I have saved a Quark printed form as a PDF file in both Adobe 6 and 8. I find where I have several fields on a page but have indiividually made the boxes which are various sizes, if I type using Reader or Acrobat in one field the same copy comes up in all the fields. Searched and searched and can’t find anything on that.
    Thanks for your help.

  • Travis says:

    When auto-generating a PDF, there is one particular field having a problem. It is a large, free-form text entry field. When the data populating the field is separated by tabs, such as “tab1 tab2 tab3”, for instance, only “tab1” displays initially. The only way to get the data to appear seems to be if I click on the free-form field, then the remainder of the data (separated by tab spacing from the original data) displays (in my example, “tab2 tab3”).

  • Alex says:

    Need solutions ? When we set “complete Pdf” as submit pdf form data type, then in target url (i.e how to read pdf form data ? Becaue in php we can use $_POST or $_REQUEST. How to read submitted data with pdf and forms data submitted ?

  • Doug says:

    I’m trying to do something in Acrobat 8 that goes beyond simple “Form” creation, but that I think might use the same principles discussed in this tutorial. I’m putting together a “workbook” (that features a number of questions requiring long multi-sentence answers) in InDesign CS3 that I’d like to convert to an interactive PDF in Acrobat. However, those types of questions are presenting a problem from the standpoint of “Auto Field Detection.” In short, Acrobat isn’t recognizing multiple blank lines (placed after a question for the purpose of allowing the previously mentioned long multi-sentence answers in the ID document) as input fields. And when I try to set them manually I can’t include input areas that begin immediately after the question without including the entire line of text. In other words, if a question ends mid-way through a line of text, I want to begin the input field (in the form of a blank line) at that point and continue it through a series of line returns. Unfortunately, Acrobat treats this as an “all or nothing at all” proposition. I can’t begin my manual field insertion at the point where the question ends and drag it to include the following blank line returns, without also including all the text on the line preceding my insertion point! Is there a way around this (without creating an additional input field) that will allow the reader to begin typing their “answers” immediately following the questions, and have the type automatically jump to the next line when the end of the preceding line is reached? Hopefully that all makes sense. Is this something that can be done in Acrobat, or does it require an entirely different document setup in ID? Thanks in advance for any thoughts or suggestions.

  • vijee says:


    I would like to request some help with my javascripts in completing my catalogue, created through acrobat pro 9(trial version).

    My catalogue is online here at :

    My questions relate to the following :

    1. When I click on ‘hire’, the JavaScript dialogue box should ask ‘Do You wish to hire…xxxx?’… with the name of the selceted product(the products are listed under the function ‘LoadData’ ‘document JavaScript’…under ‘Advanced’)—-but in my case, it asks the question with the name of some other product name. Where or how can i rectify this, at what level script?

    Thanks for any advice you might have.

  • Ruth says:

    How do I creat a form so that information that is entered goes on each page? Example: Name needs to be entered on each page. How do I get it to fill in all of the places that name is needed, but only enter the name one time?