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Editing form fields in a PDF document using Acrobat X

Learn how to create fillable PDF form fields, including how to name PDF form fields, edit forms, create radio buttons, set field properties and more.

By Thom Parker – November 23, 2010


In this tutorial, learn how to create fillable PDF form fields in Acrobat X, including how to name PDF form fields, edit forms, create radio buttons, set field properties and more. This video begins with a PDF form that has been run through the auto-field detection process and then requires PDF form field editing for completion. Tasks such as naming fillable PDF form fields, creating radio buttons, setting field properties, field duplication and setting tab order are discussed.

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Editing form fields in a PDF document using Acrobat X

Thom ParkerNovember 23, 2010

My name is Thom Parker and I’ll be discussing how forms are edited with Acrobat X.

I’ll start off by opening up a file that already has some form fields on it,because it was run through the form field recognition process, at an earlier time.

I stopped working on it then.And now I’ve gotten back to finishing up the changes that need to be made before the form can be distributed.There are two different approaches that can be used to edit form fields.

If the form is already familiar and you’re doing a known task,then there is a Quick Method that can done right here in the standard Acrobat Display mode.

If the Form needs to be analyzed and there is a lot of work to be done, then its best to use Acrobat’s Form Edit Mode, which is where we’ll start.To Switch into Form Edit mode, open the tools panel, and then the Forms Pane, and click on the Edit Button.Acrobat is now in Form Edit mode.

All the fields on form are now highlighted and labeled with the form field names.In the Tools panel there only two panes showing, the Forms pane, which has some new options.

And the Fields pane, which shows a listing of all the form fields.Notice also that the QuickBar has been replaced with a set of form field tools.Since this is the first time that I’ve looked at the form since running form field recognition tool, I need to give the fields a good going over to see ifanything is missing or needs to be changed.

Since I’m going to be renaming several fields it’s convenient for me to do it right here in the fields list.All I need to do is right click and select “Rename”.

Or, for example on this field which is much too long.

All I need to do is press the F2 key.I can also select the field in the design view, right click, and select rename there.

Which displays a nice popup window where I can quickly change the field’s name.

My next task is to fix up these buttons here.

I’ll zoom in so we can get a better look.

On the field list you can that they are check boxes.But they are supposed to be radio buttons.

I’ll need to delete all of them and replace them with Radio Buttons.To do this I’ll select the Radio Button tool from the forms toolbar, and then use the cursor to place the radio button in the right location.As soon as it’s placed a small edit window appears, where the most important properties are entered.The field’s name, which for a radio button is listed as the Group name and then the export value.

Which needs to be changed to small.I need to add 3 more buttons, and to help me out there’s an “add another button” link.

I’ll simply click on it, and place the next button.The new button reuses the other field name, which makes this task much more efficient.

All I need to change is the export value.The default size of the buttons are a bit large, but these other buttons are the right size.

I can use those buttons to resize all of these other buttons at the same time.To do this I’ll select the all the newly added radio button fields,and then use the Control-click, to set the field that’s the right size.It’s this field that I need to right click on to set the sizing information.

From the “Set Fields to Same Size”, “Both” menu option.

To get them all aligned properly I’ll start out by selecting and then aligning just one.Then I’ll select all the buttons.

Right click on the one I want to use for the alignment.

Select “Align, Distribute, or Center”, “Align Top”.The rest of these will need to be aligned manually.

I’ll select them and use the arrow keys to move them into place.

Looks good.To see how all this is going to work I’ll click on the Preview Button.

Here we are in Preview mode, with the same zoom and pan that we had in edit mode.The buttons all seem to be working properly.

But, they don’t look right.

I’ll need to go back to edit mode, by selecting the Edit button, and change some more field properties.

I’ll select all the buttons together so they can be edited all at once.

Then right click and select “Properties”,which displays the Properties dialog for those fields.

Every field type has one of these dialogs.The first two tabs and the Actions tab are the same for all the different field types.

For the fields I’m working on I need to change the appearance properties.There should be no Border and no fill color.

The font size needs to be set to 12.

The font size for a radio button is the size of the mark that appears on thebutton.

The Options tab contains properties that are unique for this field type.For these buttons we want the button style set to square.Let’s take a look at the properties dialog for a text field.

In this case, the telephone number.You’ll notice that it has those three tabs that I said were the same for all form field types.

It has some additional tabs.These are for entering scripts that control the field.

In this case I’m interested in the field’s format, which is a telephone number.So, from the Format Tab.

I’ll select the “Special” Format.

And click on “Phone Number”.

That’s all we need to do.Now, that field will automatically reject the entry of any data.

That does not fit the phone number format.I’ve finished up all the changes that need to be made to this form.

So last thing I need to do is to set the tabbing order.From the Tab order menu, the first thing I’m going to do is Show the Tab Numbers.

Now I can see exactly how the fields will be tabbed.Next, the tab menu has a number of options for automatic tabbing.

But there is also a choice for setting the tab order manually.When this option is selected the tab order is the order of fields as listed.To change the tab order, simply drag and drop a field name to a different location.

Now I’m all done with this form.

We’ll close out of Form Editing Mode, and return to the standard display mode.But after testing this form for a while, I might find out that I need to make some more changes.

For example, formatting was never set for the Mobile number.But rather than go back into edit mode, I can open the Content tool pane, and activate the Select Object Tool.

As soon as it’s activated,all the form fields are highlighted and labeled just like in the form edit mode.Right clicking on a field, displays a menu of all the same options that wereavailable in edit mode.

Alignment, Setting the size, and even adding more form fields.

And of course, displaying the Properties dialog,which is where I need to set the formatting.

And now that I’ve completed that task, to deactivate the Select Object Tool, I just select the hand tool.

Which puts Acrobat back into normal operating mode, and that is how you go about editing fields in Acrobat.

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Acrobat X

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1 comment

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1, 2015-11-12 12, 2015

the filled up form figures got mixed up after clock wise rotaion how do i rectify it

Lori Kassuba

3, 2014-08-12 12, 2014

Hi George,

There hasn’t been an automatic update for Acrobat 8 in a very long time so I’m not sure what’s happening. Have you tried running the Repair command from under the Help menu.
Also, mixing Acrobat 8 and Acrobat 4 isn’t a supported configuration - perhaps this is part of the problem.



7, 2014-08-07 07, 2014

I have been able to create forms with no issue at all. After several automatic updates by Adobe, I can not control the font size that is rather huge, no matter what I specify in field properties.

I am using Acrobat 8 professional and Acrobat 4.

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