Create PDF form using InDesign

Today we will look at how to create pdf form using InDesign CC. A lot of people use Microsoft word to create the form and then take the finished word document into Acrobat in order to identify form fields and provide the user a fillable PDF form. By using Adobe InDesign, you can alleviate a number of steps and at the same time create a visually attractive form that is fully functional for your users.

Let’s get started.

First thing we need to do is determine the fields that we would like to have associated with the form. We will create a pretty simple contact form with a request for information, an opt-in newsletter list and an age range check box. Ensuring we stick to the visual identity of an organization we will also be creating paragraph and character styles.

The fields we will require are as follows;

  • First Name (TB)
  • Last Name (TB)
  • House or Apt Number (TB)
  • Street Name (TB)
  • City (TB)
  • Province/State (for this example we will add only a few states) (LB)
  • Comment or request (TB)
  • Opt-in newsletter radio button (RBx2, yes, no)
  • Age range check box (16-24, 25-35, 36-50, 51-65, prefer not to say) (CBx5)

As you can see we will require 6 text boxes (TB), one list box, 2 radio buttons (as one name), and 5 check boxes.

Once InDesign is up and running the very first thing we need to do is change your workspace to ‘Interactive for PDF’ see image below for example.

interactive workspace - Create pdf form using indesign

Now that we have our interactive workspace set up let’s get to creating our form.  We will create a single page 8.5 x 11 portrait with .5 margins, pretty straight forward.

As I mentioned earlier, we will be using styles to ensure the look and feel of the form is consistent. Now we don’t actually have a visual identity to work with so as we go through the tutorial we will be adding the styles to the applicable panel so you can see them. For this example I chose Calibri Regular, 12Pt with auto leading, no other attributes were modified. For the Object Style I simply added the text frame option of vertical justification align center.

adding text -Create pdf form using indesign

style text - Create pdf form using indesign

text options - Create pdf form using indesign

align center - Create pdf form using indesign

We will pay particular attention to the height of the text frames, striving for a height of .5in. We will create an object style called ‘Text Frames’ and within the object style options making sure to associate the ‘Body Text’ paragraph style to it. By doing so it automatically applies the ‘Body Text’ paragraph style whenever the ‘Text Frames’ object style is applied it will eliminate double duty of assigning styles. This is also called style nesting. Once we have this set up, we can work through the process of creating all of the labels for the form fields. For this particular instance we will create the ‘First Name’ label first and then simply copy/paste and ensure the title text for each one is changed as we move down. This procedure will be used in creating all of the text label frames within the document.  Your form may look a little different but to see what I have done, see the screen shot below for an idea as to what the form should look like now.

form labels created - Create pdf form using indesign

Now that we have the basic framework of the labels down, we need to start adding the form fields where our end users can input the information we are seeking to collect from them. We will be using the Rectangle Frame Tool and the Buttons and Forms panel to achieve this. We need to create a frame that people can type into beside each of our text box labels. I created a frame 5 inches wide and .5 inches tall beside the ‘First name’ label. See screen shot for example.

form field creation - Create pdf form using indesign

With the newly created form field frame selected, we will have to use the Buttons and Forms panel in order to add the functionality we require. From the type drop down we will select ‘Text Field’ and just below that we will assign it a name, I chose ‘fname’. The naming convention should have some sort of relation to what the field is and even go as far as identifying the field type. For example, this could have been ‘tbFname’ indicating that it is a Text Box and it is used to collect the first name data. Use this same procedure for the remaining text fields on the form. For the text filed for comments you will have to enable ‘Multiline’ in the PDF options on the Button and Forms panel. This will allow the users to add more than one line of text. See the screen capture for an example.

form capture field created - Create pdf form using indesign

Once you have competed the process of adding all the text box fields, your form should look something like this.

TB Fields complete - Create pdf form using indesign

Now onto the drop down menus that hold the province and state information. It is very similar in procedure as the text boxes. You need to create a frame first of all that will be the size of the field that has the drop down menu items. I would suggest the same size as your text fields. Once your frame is created, ensure it is selected and then on the Buttons an Forms panel, select ‘List Box’ from the available options. You will then name it appropriately, I chose ‘prov-state’. Further down on the Buttons and Forms panel you will find List Items with a text entry box to the right of it. Add ‘Saskatchewan’ and then hit the little plus sign ‘+’ to add it to the list. Go ahead and add as many provinces and states as you wish.

The next step is to add the radio buttons for the opt-in newsletter. You will be using the Ellipse Frame Tool to create a small circle for this field. Once you have created the frame, go to the Buttons and Forms panel and select ‘Radio Button’ and give it the name ‘newsletter’. You then need to set the appearance to [Normal Off], this will ensure that it gives people the choice of selecting one or the other.  Finally, ensure that the button value is ‘Choice’, this will ensure that people can only select on or the other. Once this is all complete, copy/paste it to the left of the ‘No’ text field and you are ready! See screen shot for completed radio buttons.

radio buttons - Create pdf form using indesign

For the next field type we will be using ‘check boxes’. You will use your Rectangle Frame tool’ and create a frame to the left of the 16-24 label we created earlier. With the frame still selected, we will access the Buttons and Forms panel again, this time associating the ‘Check Box’ type to the frame and giving it a name of 16-24. In the appearance section once again select [Normal Off] to give the opportunity to select the age range of choice and under Button Value change it to ’16-24’, this will ensure that once checked the value being reported is 16-24. See screen shot for example.

check boxes - Create pdf form using indesign

Finally we need to add the ‘Submit’ button. On the Buttons and Forms panel, access the options menu and click the ‘Sample Buttons and Forms’ option. See the screen shot below for what you should be seeing now.

sample buttons - Create pdf form using indesign

We will select button 114 and drag it to the bottom of the page. Resize it to suit your needs and give it a name of ‘Submit’. From the ‘Actions’ drop down we will now select the plus ‘+’ and choose ‘Submit Form’, you can delete any other actions that may be there. In the URL field type ‘mailto:your email address here’ for example,

submit button - Create pdf form using indesign

The PDF form is now ready to create!

Choose ‘File>Export’, name it accordingly and from the save as type ensure to choose ‘Adobe PDF (Interactive)’ this will allow the form to be filled and emailed back to you. You should now have a basic working PDF form and a greater understanding about how you can utilize InDesign and all of the amazing design tools within the application to take your form building to the next level!

Did this tutorial help you? Let me know by leaving a comment or by sharing on one of the many social networks.

Til next time!

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