Acrobat 8 and 9 Professional have a feature that attempts to identify text in your PDF that could field in a form, and then convert it into a functioning form field. This means that you can design a form in QuarkXPress, then let Acrobat convert it to an interactive PDF form.
Here’s an example: when it sees “Name: ______________”, it will add an interactive form field on top of the underline and name it “Name”. You can use an underline tab leader if you like, as so:
In addition, Acrobat will interpret a circle followed by a field name as a radio button that the user can click to make a choice among several options, as so:
To use the feature, choose Forms> Run Form Field Recognition. Acrobat will find and convert the fields, and display a Recognition Report that lists all the fields it detected. Each item in the report is hot linked to the actual field so you can easily find it and use the Form editing tools to add actions to it. You can also click the Highlight Fields button to confirm that your fields were recognized.
If your form design uses fields that are more complicated than a phrase followed by an underline (for example, boxes instead of underlines), you’ll need to create a separate document that has simpler form fields in the same locations. Let Acrobat generate the form fields on the simpler one, then replace the page with a PDF of the complex one. The fields will still work.
To convert a printed form to an interactive form, you can scan it at 1200 dpi, grayscale mode, then in Acrobat, choose Document> OCR Text Recognition> Recognize Text Using OCR. Or, you can scan from within Acrobat by choosing File> Create PDF> From Scanner… By default, Acrobat will run OCR on the scan. After that, choose Forms> Run Form Field Recognition.
Jeff Gamet is a contributing editor for Design Tools Monthly, the executive summary of graphic design news. He is also the morning editor and reviews editor for The Mac Observer and iPodObserver.com, and contributing writer for Layers Magazine and Photoshop User. He writes the InBrief column for InDesign Magazine, and is the author of “The Designer’s Guide to Mac OS X,” from Peachpit Press
When Jeff isn’t writing about the graphic design world, he’s talking about it on the Design Tools Weekly podcast with co-host Jay Nelson. He also talks about Apple and the Mac world every week on The Mac Observer’s Apple Weekly Report.
Jeff studies, tests and reviews new software and technologies for the Macintosh community as well as the design and print industries. He is a former Pre-press specialist, and has nearly 25 years experience with computer technology. Jeff trains, lectures and consults on techniques for more efficiently using Mac OS X in creative environments throughout the country.
In the rare moments when he can get away from his MacBook Pro, Jeff spends his time climbing and biking in the Colorado mountains.