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When you're creating a PDF form an important consideration is the tab order. Setting a logical tab order will increase the usability of your form and help people fill it out quicker. Tab order is also important as an accessibility feature of your PDFs. Screen readers and other assistive devices can use the tab order to help someone who's visually impaired navigate through the form. To set the tab order you might expect there to be some kind of control in the Buttons and Forms panel. But it's not there. In fact, there are two ways to set tab order.
The traditional way is by choosing Object > Interactive > Set Tab Order. And here you'll quickly see one reason why it's important to give your form objects descriptive names when you create them. There's no feature to navigate to the form object or highlight it in any way in here, and since it's a dialog box, you can't select any objects in the layout to check which items correspond to these. These are also the names of the form objects that will be read by a screen reader. Once you've given your form objects useful names, setting the tab order is fairly easy.
Just select which item you want to move and click the Move Up or Move Down buttons until you have everything in the order that you want it. So I could move City up or down, and so forth. When you're done, click OK. CS6 adds a new way to set tab order that's more flexible than using the dialog box, and that is to use the Articles panel. The Articles panel is often used to determine the structure and order of content in an EPUB exported from InDesign. It also lets you determine the reading order of content in a PDF and the tab order as well.
You can open the Articles panel by choosing Window > Articles. To create tab order for your form object, you drag and drop them one by one into the Articles panel. So I'll just start with first name, and I can give it a name, and I'll select Include When Exporting, I'll drop in last name, date of birth, and Address.
Note that each form field is a separate article. I don't want to include them all in the same article or I won't be able to set the order correctly. Then to change the tab order I just need to drag articles inside the panel. So if I want to move Address above date of birth, I can do that. So now in the tab order it will come after Last Name and before date of birth. When I'm done setting the order, I'll go to the Articles Panel menu and choose Use Reading Order in Tagged PDF. Now let's export this document to interactive PDF and test our tab order.
I'll save it as Tab on the Desktop, and then in the dialog box I'll specify Tagged PDF, Create Tag PDF, Use Structure for Tab Order, and click OK. Now let's test our tab order. I'll put my cursor in First Name, I'll press tab, I go to Last Name, tab to Address, and then tab to Date of Birth. Creating logical tab order is important for making your PDFs usable and accessible and with CS6 setting the tab order is easier than ever thanks to the Articles panel!
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