Join Chad Chelius for an in-depth discussion in this video Adding form fields in Acrobat, part of Advanced Accessible PDFs.
- Adobe Acrobat DC allows you to create fillable PDF forms that allow uses to enter the data interactively and then print out or submit to a server or via email. These forms are commonly referred to as AcroForms. Now AcroForms always begin in another application. They can be Word, Excel, InDesign, essentially any program that can create a PDF file can be used as a starting point for an AcroForm. But to get started creating a form, you need to begin with an existing PDF file.
Now I'm actually in InDesign here and I'm just showing you this because I want to start at the very beginning and begin with another application and we're just going to create a PDF file that we can use as a starting point. I'm going to go to the File menu, choose Export, and I'm going to go ahead and save this as Form.pdf. Go ahead and click Save. And I'm going to use my Accessibility preset, that way my contents is going to be already tagged when we get started. We'll go ahead and Export this. Then you'll see in Acrobat, we do in fact have a PDF that we can begin with.
Just to show you here in the Tags pane, we do in fact have all of our content that has been added in here. So we have our title and then here is all of our other information. So what we're going to do here is, I'm going to go ahead and start adding some form fields. Now over here on the right hand side, you have this option here that says Prepare Form. If for some reason you don't have it over here on the right, you can go to the Tools category and click on Prepare Form there.
Now what you're going to find though, is when you click on Prepare Form, it's going to allow you to choose the open file. You could also select a different file if you wish. But you'll notice that down here, it says Form auto detection is ON and we don't want to do that because we want to tell it where we want to add the form fields. Now, you can experiment with auto detection on your own. What I'm going to do is click on Change, which is going to open up my Preferences and I'm going to un-check Automatically detect Form fields. Go ahead and click Okay.
Now I'm going to click on the Start button. And essentially nothing really happens here because I told it not to detect the form fields. Now we can get started. I'm going to zoom in on my form so I can see this area and I'm just going to show you how to do some basic adding of fields. So I'm going to start up here with the Text Field and I'm going to click on that. You'll notice that it wants to automatically create the size of my field and that's fine. I'm just going to go ahead and click right here and that's going to add a Field in the first area that I clicked.
So I'm going to give this an appropriate Name. I tend to use all lowercase characters and no spaces. That's just my standard naming convention. You are allowed to use spaces when creating an AcroForm. I'm going to call this first_name. Now if you click the All Properties link, it will bring up the dialogue box where you can add additional information. Here's the first Accessibility thing that you need to be aware of. The Tooltip here, not only does this provide a visual indicator to sighted users but it's also the text that gets read by screen reading software when somebody toggles to that field.
So in the Tooltip I'm going to go ahead and type Enter your first name. I've seen some places where people will type please enter you first name. From talking to people, they encourage you not to use the brevity, just kind of type in here whatever you want them to do. Enter first name, that's going to work out just fine and then there's other properties you can change here such as the Appearance and things like that but I'm going to go ahead and close this and then we can just add another text field.
I'll just click there. We can in fact re-size this, so if it's too long or too short, you can change this using these handles and then you'll notice that little pop-up went away but if you double click on this, it will bring up the Properties where you can give it a name. So I'll type in here middle_name and then I'll type in here Enter your middle name. Now I'm going to move on here because you can fill in these other fields on your own. Down here we have an area where we want to add some check boxes.
I'm going to click the check box field and we'll go ahead and come down here. Now in this case I think this particular check box is a little bit big, so what I might do is just kind of click and drag to create the size that I want. There we go and I'm going to type high_school in here and then to save a little bit of time, what you can do, I'm going to zoom in here a little bit more, when you hover over this, if you hold down the ctrl key on your keyboard, you can drag to make a copy.
I'm just going to actually make a couple of copies here for each one of these options that I'm trying to make a copy of and as a little tip here, when I make a copy, I'm holding down ctrl, it would be alt on the Mac, but then I also add the shift key and that constrains the movements so that they line up with one another. And then the important part here is that you have to rename these because right now these are all named the same. They have the same field name and when you do that they'll all take on the same appearance.
If I click on one, they are all going to turn on. So if I double click on this, what I'm going to do is change this one to associates and I'll type for the Tooltip, Click if you have an associates degree. All of these fields should have their own Tooltip. Another tip if you will, is that you don't have to keep closing this dialog box. It's not a modal dialog box, so I can just click on the next one and change it's properties right here.
(clicking keyboard keys) Again, you can finish this on your own. One last thing that I want to show you is adding a radio button. If I click the radio button I can pull one of these down and you can see this is an important thing. With a Radio Button, it wants to create what's called a Radio Button Group. So you give the Group a name. I'll call this one military_member and then you have a choice.
It's easiest to do here in this pop-up window because I can now give this choice a name. So I'm going to call this, I'll say, Yes, and then I'll click to add another Button and I'll call this choice No, Now you can see here that we have two buttons that provide choices for us to choose when somebody clicks on them. The difference here that, the important difference between the check box and a radio button is that where with a check box I can choose multiple options, with a radio button they are mutually exclusive, so I can only choose one or the other.
With this form design you may want to actually put the text in there that says Yes or No because as you can see when I do this inside of Acrobat, it doesn't add a label to it. Now when you're finished, what you can do is, you can click on this x to close the form editing. Now we can see here that inside of this form, I can click in these fields and type the information that I want to type. So remember, start with an existing PDF file and add the form fields using Acrobat to create your own fillable PDF form.
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