Join Claudia McCue for an in-depth discussion in this video Designing forms in InDesign, part of Acrobat X: Creating Forms.
Here is my finished InDesign file; you'll notice the lines are already in place, they're going to become text fields in Acrobat. These little squares are going to become checkboxes and the little circles are going to become radio buttons. One of the cool things about InDesign is that you can actually add some interactive features in InDesign and have them already in place when you create your PDF and they survive the trip to PDF. For example, these little objects look like buttons, and I can turn them into buttons right here InDesign. Although, InDesign doesn't understand Reset From or Submit Form, I can at least have them be buttons, and then I can add those, Reset and Submit actions when I get to Acrobat.
Anytime you see underlined text, you tend to think that's a hyperlink, and it's easy to turn this into a live hyperlink, that again, survives the trip when you export to PDF. So let's see how some of these things are created. In this document, the starting document, I am going down to Type and Show Hidden Characters, so that you can see each one of these lines is actually a separate little paragraph, and I am going to use Tab characters to create those lines. Now I could draw them with the Line tool, but that's sort of the long way around, and the better way to do it is with tabs stops and tab leaders.
If you already know how to use tabs in InDesign this is old hat to you, but I find that a lot of people avoid using tabs, just because they are not clear on how they work. Maybe I can clear up some mysteries for you. I am going to go up to Type and Tabs and this little panel appears floating up above my text, and it's where I can choose Tabs Stop position and where I can include Tab Leaders. If you were just starting out in this document, you might have to do some guess work to figure out the correct value to put in the x field, I am going to cheat and put in 71/2, because I just happen to know that that works.
Notice that you have four different little Tab Stop types, you have Left Align, Center Align, Right Align and something called Align On; usually used that for decimal, but really it can Align On any character. I want these lines to all fall at the same position on the right end, so I am going to use a Right Align Tab Stop, I am going to click in here, notice this cute little troll line it shows up, that gives you an idea of where this is going to fall. I am going to change that value to 7. 5 inches, because I am cheating and I know that that works.
Now I need to include a Leader, I need to create that line, so I have set up the Tab Stop position, now I fill that Leader field with an underscore, and when I hit Enter, well, why don't I have a line? I have the position, but I don't have a tab character in my text yet. So I am going to click after Name, hit my Tab key and there is my line, because I had all these paragraphs selected when I established that Tab Stop and that Leader character, all I have to do is go into each paragraph, hit my Tab key and there is my line, and that's way easier than drawing them and it also ensures that they line up exactly.
But I have some repair work to do here, First Name and Last Name, I need additional lines and down here in CityStateZip. So I am going to click back in this first paragraph and I want to make sure that I create a new Tab Stop instead of modifying the position in my existing tab stop. This is pretty subtle, if you notice where my cursor is, there is sort of a little glow around that Tab Stop character, the stops lives in this little area up here, so I want to establish another tab stop, little about the 41/2 or 41/4 inch mark. So I am going to put 4.25, I am going to add a Leader to that and things look like they've fallen apart.
But now when I come back in and I click my tab, there we go. So I have two tab stops, see there is one here at 41/4, it's sort of hidden over here, because it's underneath the indent marker, but I still have my original one there, at 71/2. Both of them have little Leaders coming up to them. I am going to take the same approach down here in CityStateZip. I'll just click in the paragraph and one of the cool things about paragraph attributes is that you don't have to have the whole paragraph selected, you just have to be clicked in the paragraph and that's sufficient.
So I am going to add two new tabs stops, I am just going to sort of approximate them, there is one there, there is one there and of course things don't look quite right until I press my Tab key. But I am going to place my little Leader in there, to my little underscore for that tab stop, little underscore for that tab stop, again, it looks little crazy now, but when I press my Tab key, there is my line, there is my line, see how nice that is. And one of the advantages of doing it this way is that to change the length of the line, all I have to do is move the position of that tab stop.
So if I need a longer area for City name, which is likely, State isn't going to be very log, Zip is not going to be very long, I can just move that little Tab stop character and everything falls into place. So there you go, and then you can close your little Tab panel. Now, what about the little squares and the little circles? Well, you can draw square, or draw circles, but there are little characters like that in Dingbat Fonts and that's probably the easiest way to do this. So I am going to click before Cooking down here, and I am going to go hunting for a character, and to do that I am going to do use the Glyphs panel.
I go to Type and Glyphs, because this text is Minion Pro, the Glyphs panel thinks I want to search for a character in Minion Pro, but I am going to go for Wingdings. If you are on the Mac you might have Zapf Dingbats. There are number of other Dingbats fonts that you can choose from. And the cool thing about the Glyphs panel is that you can see every character in the font and at the lower right you have these little mountain icons, the big mountain makes them bigger, the little mountain makes them father away, so that you can see more, and there is my little square.
To inset a character from the Glyphs panel, just click with your Type tool to place an insertion point, find the character you want, and then just double-click it. Instead of doing that all over again, I am just going to copy it and then I am going to paste. There we go; there are my little squares that are going to become checkboxes in Acrobat. Now I need little circles for the Yes and No. So I am going to click Next to the Yes, again, because that text is in Minion Pro, it reverts back to Minion Pro, but I am going to go back to Wingdings and scroll until I see some nice little circles.
I have plain circles, they are pretty nice, but I kind of like this one with a little dimension to it. So again, I have my text cursor in there, just double-click and now I am through the Glyphs panel, because for the second instance of that little circle, I am just going to Copy and Paste. So now I have my lines, I have my little squares, I have my little circles. Now let's talk about the interactivity that I said you could add in InDesign. I would like this to really be a clickable hyperlink, so I highlight the text, and if I want to save myself some typing, I can just copy it or and this is even cooler, InDesign can actually understand that this is a URL.
So I am going to go to Window>Interactive >Hyperlinks, and if I say New Hyperlink from URL, watch what it does. It recognizes that as a URL format and automatically that text is a hyperlink. Although, it's not obvious, I think it might be a good idea to at least underline it, so I am going to go up here to my Ctrl panel, and I am going to click the little underline button and anybody who sees underlined text, thinks that that's a URL, and sure enough it is. Now how about turning these guys into buttons? This is just a textframe with a green background and some text in it.
I want to turn it into an interactive button, so I am going to go to Window>Interactive and Buttons, and at the lower right, there is little icon that says, Convert to button. The only difference you see is this dash line around it and that just tells you that it's a button. It's just a way that InDesign tells you the character of it. You could change the name, I think that might be a good idea, I will just name it Reset, there is a lot of interactivity you could add. I mentioned earlier that Reset form isn't one of them, but just so you know, look at that nice long list of fun things InDesign can make a button do. We are going to select this Submit form, make it a button and I will name it submit.
This is not really obvious that these are buttons they just look like little flat things. So let's make them look a little more button like. I am going to go to Window and Effects. At the bottom of Effects, you see the little fx, here is a little dropdown menu, I am going to choose Bevel and Emboss, check Preview, and of course my gigantic dialog box covers up the button. Let's see, now it has a little depth to it. I am going to set it to Chisel Hard, and make it not quite so big, I think that's probably big enough. I didn't get fancy and put drop shadows and so forth but, let's not get carried away.
Click OK, go back to this little guy and give him a little Bevel and Emboss as well. I am going to use the same settings, any time you are creating interactive products; it's nice to give the user a little bit of visual feedback I think. These are buttons now and you will see later on how buttons works in Acrobat, but it's nice to give people some visual feedback as they are dealing with a button or other interactive features. Just kind of keep them engage and lets them know they are on the right trail. So what I am going to do to both of these is give them a different appearance when you move your cursor into the area of the button.
If you want you can kind of think of the button area as sort of a hot spot. So I have this Reset Form button selected, notice in the Buttons panel, I have Normal, Rollover and Click. You can actually have three different appearances to a button and you can really get carried away with this. I am going to choose the rollover state and I am going to open up my Swatches panel and I am going to change the Color of this button just for that state. It's kind of subtle. So here is what it look like before it's interacted with, here is what it will look like when the user moves their cursor on top of it.
It's subtle, but it's kind of a nice feedback. I am going to do the same thing with the Submit form; I am going to activate the Rollover state, I am going to go to my Swatches panel and give it that full strength screen. So the nice thing about that again, is it confirms to the user that this is actually an interactive object. Now that I have everything in place, it's time to make a PDF. In InDesign it's just File> Export and then choose Adobe PDF. Now you have to choose between Interactive and Print.
The obvious choice here of course is Interactive. So when I choose Interactive and I click Save, if I need to replace it, that's fine. Here are your options. View After Exporting is kind of nice; you can see your PDF and make sure everything is okay. This is pretty simplistic, it looks like it doesn't give you a lot of options, but the truth is, it handles everything under the hood. Anything you have here that's interactive is going to be translated into interactive features in Acrobat. You might want to increase the Resolution if you have images in here; actually the artwork that's in place in this document is a vector artwork, so it doesn't really have any resolution, so this has no bearing on it.
When I click OK, it makes a PDF and there we go. Now notice this about my little buttons. See, when I rollover them, they change their appearance. I can click on it, it has no action attached to it, but we can see now that it's a live button. And when I hover my cursor over the hyperlink, you can see that it's recognized as a hyperlink. You can make those buttons and make those hyperlinks in Acrobat or you can do them in InDesign, just kind of depends on where you are more comfortable and where you prefer to do it, it comes out the same either way. So that's how you can add lines, checkboxes, potential checkboxes, radio buttons etcetera in Adobe InDesign, and then finish it off in Acrobat by making these live text fields.
- Designing forms in multiple applications
- Creating and editing fields
- Using auto-recognition
- Adding buttons and check boxes
- Creating and adding artwork
- Performing math in a form
- Creating an order form
- Securing forms with passwords and digital signatures
- Distributing forms via email or Acrobat.com