Creating a Fillable Form in Adobe Acrobat

*Adobe Acrobat 9 was used for this article. Particular steps may vary depending on software versions.

1. Create a framework of your form in Word, leaving space where you’d ultimately like the Adobe fields to appear.  (Note: I use the blank lines as space holders in Word, intending for the Adobe fields to line up with them.)
2. Once the form is formatted to allow for the fields, print the document to PDF:
3. Open the PDF.  Click Forms > Start Form Wizard:

Select “An existing electronic document” and click Next:

Select “Use the current document” and click Next:
4. The Wizard is very smart and may very well predict all the fields you need.  If this is the case, and you are satisfied, skip ahead to step 11.  If the Wizard misinterpreted your form, or there are tweaks you’d like to make, continue on with step 5.
5. Naming fields.  The Wizard predicted correctly where I wanted all my fields, but it based the names on what it is used to seeing in forms. I.E. the Signature and Date fields were labeled below the lines and it drew those names in. For the other fields, it pulled in the wording after the commas, so I’d like to change that. Right click on the field you’d like to edit and click Properties:
Image7.png(You can also click Rename Field, which brings up that option alone, but I usually opt to bring up Properties so I can adjust many factors at once.) Change the Name and Tooltip fields to your desired names:

6. Formatting fields.  Another feature in the Properties dialogue box is the ability to dictate the format of what is entered in a field. For example, I am going to change the format of the Date field to be a standard date convention:
7. Moving and resizing fields.  If you are unhappy with the size or placement of the field, changing those features is very easy.  First, click on the appropriate field and it will look like this:
Image11.pngTo move it, simply hover until you see the black arrow, then click and drag to the desired place.
To resize it, hover over the blue dots until you see parallel lines arrow, then click and drag to the desired size.
8. Adding or deleting a field. Deleting a field is simple—right click on the field and click Delete. To add a field, you can click Add New Field, then select the type of field you’d like:
After you select the type of field you’d like you will be given a cursor to draw your field in the size you’d like. You can then type the name of the field or click Show All Properties to adjust other factors. The problem I’ve run into with this route is that there is no uniform field shape or size, as you can see below:
Image13.pngI prefer to use the cheat of copying and pasting an already existing field, then renaming it and changing any other factors I need to.
You can also click View > Grid to see gridlines, which can help you with placing and sizing. (And you can enable Snap to Gridline from the View menu to have your fields line up to the nearest lines.)
9. Review Tab Order.  Adobe will determine the order through which a user can “tab”. Click the Tab Order button to change how the fields are ordered. To manually sort them, simply click the field name and drag it to the position in the list you’d like.
10. Previewing the form. Click the Preview button
Image16.pngYou form will now appear as it should, with fillable/clickable fields. Now is the time to complete the form as though you were a layperson and make sure it does not present any problems. Tab through the fields to ensure the cursor moves in a logical order, and complete the requested data to ensure the data displays properly:
11. Finishing. If the form needs any other adjustments, click the Edit Layout button to escape the Preview mode:
Image18.pngIf you are satisfied with your form, click Close Form Editing:

This is a primer in Adobe forms, using text fields as the example. The form function has many, many options to explore. I will likely do a follow up to this article to dig deeper into the types of fields and the properties therein.

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