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Adobe InDesign CC – Advanced Training

How To Create A PDF Form Using Adobe InDesign CC

Daniel Walter Scott || VIDEO: 64 of 74

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Hi there, in this video we're going to make a Form in InDesign. It's going to be interactive, we open up in Acrobat, and we're going to be able to type our names. If we can spell them. Put in email addresses, look, check boxes. Vegan, Vegetarian, and Gluten-free. We can do Radio Buttons. So I can say 'No' to a catalog, or 'Yes', but I can't do both. Drop down menus. I can pick a date. I can add comments on lots of lines. I can hit 'Print', or I can submit it so it will email me, the form creator, this completed form, ready to go. Let's go do that now in InDesign.

Before we get started we're going to talk about the pros and cons for doing Forms. The pros, are that I can create a print version of this file. So it can be printed off, and left in the office to get pulled out, but I can also make a digital copy at the same time, using InDesign. I can save loads of time, by people filling it in electronically rather than having to print it off, sign it, either scan it back, or send it in the post. So definitely a pro for Interactive Forms.

Now, the cons. If you make an Interactive Form using InDesign the recipient has to fill that out using all the features using Acrobat. Can be the free version, Acrobat Reader, which is the world's most popular reader, but you can't guarantee everybody can. So know that some people might have to print it out and that's what we'll do, add a Print button. Make 'em do it old school, with the print.

The other con is that you assume that they're going to fill it out, and it's going to kind of fill up in a database. That doesn't happen automatically. You need help from a developer to make that happen. It's not just an easy clickety-click thing. It used to be, there was something called Adobe Forms and that was great, but that's no longer around. So the way that these Interactive Forms should be used is, know that they're going to go out, 25% of the people are going to be able to fill them out fine using Acrobat Reader. And instead of some sort of magical database where it all gets collated, you can have this option, where I hit 'Submit' and all it's going to do is email you a copy. Filled in, ready to go, but it's not going to yank out all the data into a spreadsheet. I hate doing that bit at the beginning because you're like, "Ah, ugh, really?" Yes, Forms in InDesign isn't perfect. There is no real perfect way at the moment.

Now, if you are thinking I can't really get into-- I'm getting into Forms, and I'm doing like a big job here, not just like an event registration, or some sort of survey, you want to collect proper data. You might want to jump into something called Adobe Sign. Nothing to do with InDesign. Well, you can do the design in InDesign, but check out this. So go to, and Acrobat Sign is the thing. You might have kind of crossed it already, where people can do digital signatures. Once signed, people get both copies, it goes into databases. It's more of an Enterprise Level type thing though. Give the free trial a go. It's pretty amazing, but outside of the scope of this course. We're going to do InDesign Forms.

Now another thing to consider is that say it's going to be a totally digital form only, it's not going to be printed. What you might consider is using something like Google Forms. Google Forms is super quick, super easy. It's all online, and it does collect it in a database. It's responsive for mobile devices and you can do cool graphs afterwards. So maybe Google Forms might be right for you. I'll stop now with the alternatives. Let’s get into InDesign, and look at what it does really well. Let's jump into InDesign. If you go to 'File', 'Open' and in '10 Forms', there's one called 'Event Registration Form'. Open that up, and I've done some basic work for us. It's nothing much, just text boxes. Just plain old type, with text in it, and I kind of laid it out to look nice to help us out with this document.

The first thing we're going to do is, this is going to be like a dual use form. I want people to be able to fill it out by hand. So if I hit the 'W' key, you'll notice there's no lines in here. You can draw it with the Line tool but that's not fancy, let's do it the fancy way. I'm going to have my cursor flashing in with my name. Anywhere inside of here. I'm going to go out to the Burger menu here, and then I'll go to this one that says 'Paragraph Rules'. Move this the other way. Now, whatever yours is defaulting to, above or below, it doesn't really matter. I'm going to use 'Rule Below', if that sounds right. I can't remember what it is by default. Because I've changed it so many times, it doesn't remember my default. Yours will be. Make sure you turn 'Rule On', and you can see the text there. Let's get it down to a nice weight, I'm going to use '0.25' just so it's not so thick.

Next thing we need to double check is that-- it's the width of the column, not just the Text. Text is just Underline. Not very exciting, we're going to do the whole column, that's what I want. The whole way to the edge of this box here. What I'm going to do is the Offset as well. So I'm going to actually increase the Offset. So it's down a couple of millimeters. Yours might be using inches. Just click up until it looks nice sitting underneath here. Click 'OK'. I could turn that into a Paragraph Style, I'm going to be lazy, copy this, replace this, then type 'Email'. Lazy Dan.

I'm going to get two lines in here if I was doing a big long document. I would turn them into a Style but I've only actually got two lines. So the next thing I want to do is, I want to put in a Text box. I'm going to grab my 'Type tool' and it's literally just a Text box, I'm going to draw a Text box. And this is going to be the space people are going to be able to draw. Watch this, if I start typing in it it's quite high, so I'm going to grab my Black Arrow, and just get it down so it's somewhere close to here. I can't guarantee the font they're going to use so don't spend too long styling the fonts. It will be up to the reader to decide. So I've got a Text box, now I need to turn it into an editable Form Box that people can type into. Go to 'Window', 'Interactive', 'Buttons & Forms'. We've been here before. The difference in this one, we're going to put in 'Type', and I'm going to go to this one called 'Text Field'. And that's it. You got to be an editable text field now. What we should do is give it a name, so we're going to call this one 'Name'. You can go to Description. Now the thing with this Description here is, maybe 'First & Last Name'. If it's a confusing one, you can put in lots of description. People should be able to work out name without a description. I'm going to add it here just to show you what it does.

Next thing I'd like to do is-- you could leave it here now. I want to go through and do things like-- I want the font size to be a little smaller. I want it to be printable? Yes. It doesn't matter because there's nothing in it. That doesn't really matter. In here we can decide you have to do it otherwise you can't submit the form required. And that's going to be it. Now let's make one more line, and then do a preview. So I'm going to copy and paste the Text box because what I wanted to do is an email here as well. I'm going to hit 'W' key, so I can see both lines. So I can get them kind of lined up, or roughly the same. I'll drag the end here to set up the lines up there.

The one thing we will change, what we haven't done, is 'Scrollable'. Scrollable just means, I turn it on for one, and off for the other. Scroll just means, when I type, and get to the end, does it allow me to keep on scrolling and typing so I can type in, like a thousand characters. If your name is longer than this Text box here actually there are long names so leave it as scrollable. Email addresses, you might decide whether you need scrollable or not. We'll test it out and have a look. Let's preview it before we go and do all the rest of it.

To make a Form happen, we're going to go to 'File', 'Export'. And all we need to do is export a PDF. And it needs to be this one that says 'Interactive'. We've done him before, again. Now we click 'Save'. We've got one already, I'm going to replace it. And there's nothing you need to change. Just double check that it does save Forms and Media. 'Include All', in case you've turned it off in the past, but that's the only other thing. Click 'Export'. And it's produced my Form. In here, I've got my fields, so I can click in here, 'Daniel'. I left it a bit low, so we're going to have to play around with that. 'Daniel Walter Scott'. My email address. So this is all working fine.

The difference between scrollable and not scrollable, I can't remember who is what, but if I paste, paste… here it is, my little keyboard said "No more." Whereas this one here, I can put in the world's biggest email address. And it means that, you can see, just scrolls along. And you see here, I didn't pick the font. It's the default one from Acrobat, but I spent ages trying to make it do what I want and you have to open up Acrobat, and try get the fonts to work, and it doesn't work all the time, so I've given up, and just let the default run in whatever PDF program people have got. Let's jump back into InDesign and add the rest of the fields. First of all, this one needs to come up a little bit.

Next thing I'm going to do is 'Multiline'. So 'Comments' down the bottom here, I'm going to grab the 'Type tool'. I'm going to draw a box that's quite big, Multiline box. And it's exactly like it was before. 'Black Arrow', I'm going to go to 'Type', I'm going to say 'Text Field'. The only difference, I'm going to say this is a 'Multiline' one. Allow people to write in kind of a multi-line comment. Make sure you give it a name, this is my 'Comments'. And I'm not going to add a description because, we should be able to work out what that's for.

One thing I didn't show you was where the description appears. So let's jump back into Acrobat. Watch this, if I hover above this, can you see, it says 'First & Last Name'. This could be where-- oops, 'First & Last Name', so I didn't adjust this. You, 'Name 2'. Because I copied and pasted it, it just added the word 'Name 2'. So I'm going to replace that with 'Email'. Down here, I'm going to leave this blank.

Let's look at some of the other options. Let's look at a Check box. So Check box-- I'm going to go to 'W'. Get rid of all the blue lines, they drive me mad a bit. So a Check box is easy to make, you make your own one. Grab the 'Rectangle tool', you pick a Stroke color, 'Black'. I'm going to have a Fill of 'None'. It's going to have-- we'll use the, maybe '0.5', the Stroke. I'm going to zoom out a little bit. And I'm going to draw a rectangle, appropriately sized. Holding 'Shift', so it goes a perfect square. Back to my 'Arrow key', I'm going to get it in the right spot. And that is going to be my little Check box.

To turn it into a Check box, with it selected with my Black Arrow, go to 'Type', 'Check box'. You get a little tick in there. The only thing we might do, is that, by default it's got a tick in it. So we're going to set the default to 'Off'. If you want it to be one of those tick here, if it's okay to send you a lot of spammy mail, you can leave that on. Look, they left it on. That would be a bit weird when it got printed out. Just a tick there, to try and get rid of. So we're going to leave that as 'Normal'. We're going to give it a name, 'Check Box 1'. We're going to say 'Vegetarian'. And with the Check box, there's this option down the bottom here. So what it's going to say is, a Check box is… and you say 'Yes'. So the button there is going to give you the response and say, 'Yes', it is vegetarian.

A Check box is an AND field. So I can be Vegetarian, and Glutten-free, and Vegan. So what I can do with the check boxes, just copy and paste it. Select the box on the outside there, copy, paste it. Just select the edge if you got no Fill, and I got this other option. Then I'm going to drag out another option. I'm going to select all three. I want them all to be evenly spaced, using that option. The only thing I need to do is, I need to go through and click the edge of Vegan, and say, you're not Vegetarian too, you are Vegan. I'm not Vegan, but the guy downstairs, at the Healthy Food Store sells amazing Vegan burritos. And because he's really close, I eat a lot of them. Gluten-Free, I'm not Gluten-Free, but you didn't ask, so I'll stop talking. So let's have a little look. You need to close down the preview here in Acrobat. I'm not going to save it because when I export another one, I'm going to 'Save', 'Export'. Same details as before, 'Interactive', I'm going to 'Replace' it. If it's open it doesn't like to update. Yes, yes, yes, to all of that, and you see, you've got Check boxes. Cool, huh! Got my Multiline comments box.

Now let's look at doing Radio Buttons. I'm going to close this down without saving. Jump back into InDesign. Let's look at Radio Buttons. Just remember, I said Check boxes are AND. I can be Vegetarian, and Vegan, and Gluten-Free. I can't be, would you like a catalog? 'Yes' and 'No'. It's an OR, and those are Radio Buttons. So, Male or Female, or are you attending, Yes or No? It's an OR, you can't be both. You're not allowed to be both, at least in this Form. Same thing with the Radio Button. Like a Check box, we just draw it with an Ellipse. It's really common obviously to have Radio Buttons as ellipses and not squares. Doesn't really matter what you draw, it will work, but let's say we're going to be proper, and do a little circle. So I got a Black Stroke, and no Fill. And in here, under 'Type', I got my Black Arrow, got it selected, I'm going to pick on 'Radio Button'. Now this Radio Button is going to be my Catalog. And this choice is going to be the choice of 'Yes'. I'd like the default to be 'Off'.

Now I want another one of these, and the trick is, I can just copy and paste it like I did before, but because the name hasn't changed, it's still Catalog, unlike, remember the Check boxes, they said, they added, like Vegetarian too. This one keeps the same name. If they have the same name, they are connected, and they need to be connected because if you pick one, it needs to turn the other one off. The only thing we need to do is change the choice. So remember, this first one was a choice of 'Yes'. This one here, the name didn't change it, this one is a choice of 'No'. So the names are the same, but the choices, 'Yes' and 'No'. Let's save this one, let's export, let's have a little look. Of course it's going to work. 'Yes', 'No'. 'Yes', 'No'. Just puts a little dot in there, and that is a Radio Button.

Close this one down, I'm going to save it, back into InDesign. Let's look at 'Choose a Date/City'. So this is called a Combo box. Now we need to be careful with a Combo box. It shows you right at the entry there. It's a little drop down menu. Now the reason you might be a little bit more hesitant with adding the drop down box is that, say somebody has, remember, at the beginning I said that one of the cons is, if you open this up in anything other than Adobe Acrobat this Form system doesn't work. And that's okay, because people can print it out. But you can't print out a drop down menu, it's all kind of tucked up, and hidden. So when it's printed out, you can't obviously interact with it. So you might decide to maybe leave this one out, or if you're happy with interactive stuff, or you might love it. So let's do it anyway, because we want to know the technique.

It starts off with a Text box and I'm going to see where my lines are. I'm going to grab my Type tool, and draw out a Text box. How big? About that big, like before. I'm going to grab my 'Selection tool'. The difference between this one is going to be the Combo box. They call them Combo boxes instead of drop down boxes. That's what they're called. This one here is going to be 'City/Date'. This one's a bit different, right down the bottom here. This says, I would like my 'List Items'. Now how many lists do we need? And all we need to do is put in how many items list we need. Doesn't make sense. Let's just do it. Let's say you want to do the Auckland one. On the 21st of December, hit '+'. I want to add another one, that's going to be the one in London, and that one's on the 23rd of December. Terrible time for it. And this one here is in Vegas. Let's do it properly, Las Vegas. And this one here is on Christmas day, everyone's going to turn up to this one. Hit '+'. So that's going to create the contents for the drop down box.

One other option you should add is 'Choose a City', and hit '+'. You need one of the options to be like the initial option. It's going to appear here to get people to kind of interact with it. And the way to decide who's the first one to appear-- you can drag this around to say, actually I want-- it's actually in alphabetical order there. I’m going to choose here at the top, and you can kind of move him around. That's the way they're going to list. They're not going to automatically list alphabetically, but if you want an initial one, you click on it, it just goes blue. That means that this is the first one that's going to appear. Doesn't matter that it's at the top, it matters that it's blue. I'm going to click a font size of '10', now I'm going to go and test this. Let's save it, I'm going to export it. Same as before, 'Replace', I'm okay. Now hopefully it's going to open up in Acrobat. All right, here it is, there's my combobox/dropdown. There it is, it's got 'Choose a City' first, and I can click on this one. And that's the result that's going to come back in my Form.

Some of the last things we need to do is these two buttons here. Now what you might do is add a little extra bit of text to say, when you're finished, save this and email it to me, or print it off and send it to this address. Because these little buttons here might just not work on some PDF readers. So we want to make this as usable as we can across lots of different people. But we're ignoring them, we're just going to make these buttons work. So close this down, don't save it. Back into InDesign, and let's look at these buttons. That one's easy, click on it. Now, I just made this Button. It's just a rectangle with text in it. I grouped the two together, just because I want it to be a Button. So you can draw this, it can just be text, it could be a printer icon, it can be anything.

With it selected, go to 'Type', 'Button'. And the way to make it a Print Button, go to 'Actions', and hit this '+' button. Down here where it says 'PDF Only', I want the one that says 'Print Form'. And that's it, when it clicks, it's going to start printing. The one thing I might do is actually make it not printable. We've ignored this throughout, is that when it prints out this Button is not going to go through the printer. Doesn't really matter but it could look a little weird having buttons on here that are interactive but don't actually print. You could also do it for this Combo box here, you say, you, do not print. 'Printable'. And it means that it's not going to print that 'Choose a City'. You might have to put a line underneath so people can write their city or date. So you might just change the language in here, that might get you around it. So printing is done, let's look at the Submit button.

We talked about it at the beginning, one of the cons is that there's no real easy way to get a database driven form. You might want to sit down with a developer, a Web Developer, and work out a way of doing that, it can be done. And I'll show you where in a sec. What most people do is they just get them to send them an email with this form attached. We can do that easily enough. So what I need to do, just like the Print, we're going to turn it into a Button. I'm going to go 'Actions', and go to this one, 'Submit Form'. The trick to get this one to work is you need to write in 'mailto'. Has to be spelt like that with the colon, ':'. So 'mailto:', you can read. But that has to go in, and then you can put in your email address. [email protected]. That means, when they click that button, it's going to launch their email client and attach this PDF. I might not make this printable. Let's save it, and let's export it, and see what it does.

So I've got my Form, I've filled it out, and I'm going to click on 'Print'. And magically it's going to load out my printing window. Awesome, huh! So you might get them to print it, and then post it to you. So you might get them to print it out, and post it to you on a dead tree. Let's click on 'Cancel', and let's go the digital way, which kind of works, let's click on 'Submit'. It's going to open up what your default email application is, which is, on my Mac, called 'Mail'. If you're on a PC, it's probably going to open up Outlook, or in this case, I'm going to use my Webmail, because I actually use Gmail. You type in your email address, and that will fill it out and attach the PDF, completed, and send it to you.

The only trouble with that is that if you're sending it out to 10,000 people you're going to get a bunch of emails. You can send out, maybe some sort of email filter to filter out all the ones with PDFs, but if it's a smaller job, it's perfect. Say you're only getting 100 of them, you get to stick them on a folder, or print them all off for yourself, or copy and paste all the data out. Not fun.

One of the other last things I'd like to show you for the Forms is that, we've generated a lot of our forms. If you need existing kind of stuff-- let's check it out. There are Buttons and Forms in this Flyout menu, we've got sample Buttons and Forms, but prepare yourself, these are ugly. These were made definitely in the 90s. So let's say I want a nice glass Button. You might love these glass Buttons. And I shouldn't judge you, but I am. Wow, these are terrible. It's been a long time in Photoshop, trying to work out how to do those glass Mac icons, but that was a long time ago, but there are other things in here, like Radio Buttons, that are diamonds, I've never used those. We've all been taught how to use Check boxes and Radio Buttons that should be circles or squares. But there's all sorts of stuff in here. I'm going to close it down. And that's going to be the end of our Forms in InDesign.

All right, goodbye Glass buttons, get off my beautiful Form. I will see you in the next video. Bye now.