If you ever built PDF Forms the old way in Adobe Acrobat, you know how tedious it used to be drawing each form field individually. Happily, Adobe saved us all a lot of time by adding the ability to auto-recognize form fields back in Acrobat Pro 8. That auto-recognition only got better in Acrobat Pro 9.

But what if you are designing a form that doesn’t mesh with Acrobat’s auto-recognition features? Say a layout that does not use dark black lines to define field borders. Are you doomed to return to the dark days of drawing your fields by hand?

Not if you know this trick using InDesign layers!

Step 1: Add a Lines layer to your InDesign document.


Adobe Acrobat requires nice visible lines in your document for the auto-recognition features to work. So to give Acrobat what it wants, create a new layer in InDesign, and add in nice visible lines around your form fields.

Step 2: Export as a PDF, and Recognize Fields in Acrobat.


In Acrobat Pro 9, choose Forms > Start Forms Wizard.

In Acrobat Pro 8, choose Forms > Run Form Field Recognition.

Acrobat will process for a short moment, and (if your document is properly designed) the fields will be automatically recognized and built for you. Tada!

Note: You’ll need to export your PDF with Acrobat 6 compatibility in order to enable to the “Create Acrobat Layers” option.

Step 3: Remove the unsightly Lines layer.


In Acrobat, view the Layers, and turn off the layer with your lines. Flatten the layers for good measure to prevent them from accidentally being made visible again.

In Acrobat Pro, choose View > Navigation Panels > Layers.

Source: This tip comes from last week’s workshop on Designing PDF Forms in InDesign This workshop is one of my favorites so far. And by popular request, we’re offering an encore presentation at a special time this Thursday December 18th. If you missed the first webinar, you have a second chance.

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