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So we are looking at a very common form here in the United States that I downloaded this morning from the Internal Revenue Service web site, irs.gov. It's the form that all freelancers in the US need to fill out and give to their clients for tax reporting purposes, called the W-9 form. Whether you have ever filled this out or any other kind of form, you know that if you have it digitally, it's much easier to fill out if it has been converted to an interactive form. And it's very cool that many of the IRS forms that you download as PDFs from their web site are interactive forms.
I have it all here opened up in Reader. You cannot tell that there are interactive field too until you click Highlight Existing Fields, and now you can see them. So instead of me having to actually print it out--heaven forbid--and fill it out with my own hand, manually, with a pen, and fax it, or scan it back, all I need to do is click inside here and start typing my name, and then I can just press the Tab key to jump to the next field, and so on. The check boxes work as well. This field, if I tried typing in letters, I get a little bing, because it won't let you.
It only wants numbers, and so on. These kind of forms are all created in Adobe Acrobat, and that's what I'm going to be covering in this chapter. Let's jump over to Acrobat, where I have a document open that is not an interactive form, but we are going to turn it into a form. And the very nice thing about this is that since Acrobat 9 there's been a form wizard built in. Basically, if you create a form in say Word, or InDesign, like this one was done, and then you convert that to a PDF, you can run a little wizard that will automatically detect where the fields should go and add them.
You can also create your own form manually by dragging out fields, and we will cover both approaches in this chapter. Right now, let's look at the Form Wizard. That's underneath the Tools panel. You go down to Forms. And if there were any fields in here, you could see them if you clicked Highlight Existing Fields, and there are no fields so you are not seeing anything. So what we want to do is create a form. Now there is no like Convert to Form here. What you want to do is choose Create, and it asks you, "Should I use the current document, or is there another document that you want me to browse to? Or do you want to start by hooking up a scanner, and you have a paper form, and it's going to scan it and then OCR it," which is recognizing the text, converting the scan to editable text and then from there it's going to convert it to a form, which is a really slick workflow.
But right now we just want to use the current document. I am going to click Next, and this is the current document. We are now in Form Editing mode, so it switched us to a different, but you can also do it manually. To access more Acrobat tools, choose Close Form Editing in the right-hand pane. So notice that we don't have the Tools and the Comments anymore. We are in Form Editing mode, a special kind of mode. It just reports that yes, I searched through this document-- it doesn't have to be just one page, it could be multiple pages--and it has automatically detected the form fields for us.
Okay, let's see what it did. So here we are still in Form Editing mode, and what it did was it added a form field on those underlines, right next to the labels, and then it gave those fields the same name as the label. So I'm going to preview this and turn off the highlighting of existing fields to give you a couple tips about designing these documents in the first place. When you are creating this in Word or InDesign or whatever program you're using to create your form, you want to put the label next to an underline.
Keep it close but keep it separated by a good amount from the previous label with an underline. You can also put the label underneath the underline, and then it will pick that up automatically. But don't let the label touch the underline; otherwise it will get confused. If you do something like if we put first name on top of the underscore here, it would not be able to recognize the field. There are other rules, like, for example, if you're doing check boxes or radio buttons, to stack them right on top of each other. And if they belong to certain category, like interests or T-shirt, to put that label of the category on top.
We are going to be looking at each kind of form field in detail in another video. But these rules will make it a lot easier for Acrobat to detect where the form fields should be and what kind of form field they should be. There are more guidelines that are very helpful on this web site that I've called up on acrobatusers.com. It was written for Acrobat 9, but it also covers Acrobat 10. Notice that toward the bottom it's got a nice little chart of like the best way to lay these things out, not just for text fields but also for check boxes, radio buttons, digital signatures, credit card fields if you are working with a table, and so on.
So you will see the URL to get to here on your screen. Let's go back to Acrobat, and we are going to go back to Edit mode. So you go to Preview to see what we just saw and then back to Edit mode to continue editing the form. On the right-hand side, it shows you the names of all of the fields that it picked up and then with a little icon that indicates the kind of field it is. This is a text field. These are check boxes. This is a radio button. And it knows that for a radio button that these are all choices for a T-shirt of medium, large, or extra-large.
Let's say that you wanted to edit something in a field. You could just double-click it and go ahead and enter information in the Textfield Properties. Like, for example, instead of the name I am bringing, I would rather the name of this field be Guests. You can also add a tooltip for any of these fields. So, in this one, instead of saying "I am bringing," when the cursor is over this field, I want to say, "Enter the number one or two if you are bringing guests." There are other kinds of things that you can change for each one of these fields that we will be going into a little bit of detail in other videos.
But basically that's the workflow, is that you create the form in an authoring application, you convert it to a PDF by exporting to PDF or choosing Create PDF from file here in Acrobat, then you choose Create Form, and let it run through its little form recognition thing, and then you go ahead and edit these fields as necessary. When you're done, just click the Close Form Editing button over here on the right, under Tasks, and there you go. You now have a form that you can go ahead and send out to people. Let's turn on the Highlight Existing Fields, so we can double-check.
When you're done, you end up with a form that is interactive and ready to send out to people.
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