Creating a PDF Form in Adobe Acrobat

Go Paperless! IT Training can help!

This is part of a series of articles that will appear over the next few months as part of the Go Paperless initiative at Indiana University.

Does your department make use of forms that people need to fill out and return to you?  If so, one way to reduce the amount of paper used by printing out all those forms is to create a PDF form in Adobe Acrobat.  Not only does it help reduce the amount of paper your office uses, but there are also other benefits to making use of PDF Forms.  In this article, I’ll show you how to create a simple PDF form using Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat XI.

First, I’ll start by opening up Microsoft Word and from there, I’ll begin to build my form.  In Word, building a form is a relatively simple task.  If you have fields where you want someone to write their name, address, or other information, you can simply type in the name of the field and then type a number of underscores to create a line.  Radio buttons can be included too, in order to indicate you want someone to select one option from a list.   You can also indicate where you want check boxes, if you want a user to be able to select multiple options from a list.  For including check boxes and radio buttons, you’ll need to visit the Insert tab on the Ribbon in Word, and click on the Symbols button.  A menu will drop down, and you’ll want to click on More Symbols…

Screenshot from Microsoft Word, indicating the Symbols menu is and how to get to the More Symbols option.


… which will open up the Symbol dialog box.  From there, I looked for the Wingdings font collection, as it has a couple of symbols that will help me add check boxes and radio buttons to our form.  Look for square-shaped symbols for check boxes, and circular ones for radio buttons – based on what symbol I use, Acrobat will make its best guess at what I want to include in our form.  Once I’ve completed my form, I’ll save it – the next step will be bringing it into Acrobat.  Here’s what my form looks like at this point:

Screenshot of a pet adoption form created in Microsoft Word.


Once I’ve saved and closed my file, I’ll want to open up Acrobat.  Acrobat XI has a welcome menu that displays when you first open the program, and one of the options available is to create a form – clicking on that option will start the Form wizard.  (You can also create a new form by going up to the File menu, pointing to Create, and then clicking on Create Form.)  The Form wizard will present you with two options – From Scratch or Template, which will allow you to create a new form from scratch or by using a pre-made template, or From Existing Document, which will allow us to import a Word file, PDF file, or a scan of an existing paper form and turn it into a PDF form.  Since I already made my form in Word, I’m going to choose From Existing Document.  From there, I follow the prompts to indicate what file I want to turn into a PDF form, and Acrobat will convert it for me. The conversion process may take a little bit, depending on how detailed your form is.  When it’s finished, it pops up a dialog box telling me that I’m working in Form Edit mode – once I click okay, I can see my new form:

Screenshot of a form in edit mode in Acrobat.


In the Fields panel to the bottom right of the window, you can see the different types of fields I added, and how Acrobat converted them into fields that can take text and other input.  I’ve got text fields (name, address, etc), radio buttons (the group that’s titled What kind of pet do you want), and check boxes for the different types of pets I might already own.  This looks great to me – I’m going to save it and then get it ready to share with others!  I can do that using the Distribute button, in the top section of the panel on the right side of my Acrobat screen.  That’ll start the Distribute wizard – and Acrobat will give me a choice of how to share my form.  I can use Adobe FormsCentral, where you can easily distribute a form through Adobe’s servers and have them collect the info all in one place.  I could also simply email the form myself and have the results collected on my computer, or I could have the form distributed through a server or shared network folder.  Whichever option I end up choosing, the Distribute wizard will walk me through the process of getting my form ready to share with others, and once it’s done, your form is ready to be shared and Acrobat will help you collect the information you need!

There are a number of benefits to creating forms in Adobe Acrobat as opposed to using paper forms.  First off, you’ll be saving a lot of paper!  It’s also a lot easier and less expensive to distribute a form via email, as opposed to having people pick up a form at an office or sending forms through the mail.  It’ll also eliminate any problems that might pop up if a form is filled out illegibly – since the information is typed in, rather than written in!  There’s far more to creating PDF forms in Acrobat than what I covered here – if you’d like to learn more about creating PDF forms, such as how to make a form using Illustrator or InDesign, and learn more about the powerful form creation features that Acrobat offers, you might want to check out the training Acrobat XI: Creating Forms with Claudia McCue.

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