Use Adobe InDesign and Adobe Sign to Streamline Your Forms

It is amazing how much forms exist everywhere. When I go to the doctor, when I sign up for an event, or when I go to the DMV, there are always forms to fill out and sign. When I went to college, Student Services had a dedicated wall for all the different forms you could need. It was a quarterly ritual to see students with a handful of forms running up and down the hallways getting signatures from professors, advisers, etc. Even today, we all have stories like that.

Recently, I was helping a customer turn their static PDFs into interactive forms on their website using Adobe Sign and Adobe Acrobat, both part of Adobe Document Cloud. That way, their users could go right to their website, fill out forms, and submit it automatically. No printers involved.

All of their forms were designed by their creative team in Adobe InDesign. One of the challenges they ran into was when it came time to update these forms, it would take weeks for them to re-tag the documents that came from the designers, which is expensive and very time-consuming.

To make this easier, we thought, what if we built the form fields directly into the design layouts that were being created in Adobe InDesign? That way, any design updates would already have all of the interactivity for Adobe Sign already setup.

Before we start, I have to note this isn’t the only way you can create your forms. You can use Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Word, and all sorts of other tools simply by using text tags. This is helpful, though, when you have a lot of forms created by your designers in Adobe InDesign.

Prerequisites

  • Adobe InDesign
  • Adobe Sign Business or Enterprise*

*You can still use forms created in InDesign with any Adobe Sign subscription, but Widgets (i.e. embedding on website) explained below requires Business or Enterprise licensing.

Step 1: Understanding Text Tags

The first thing you need to learn for setting up Adobe Sign interactivity in your Adobe InDesign files is to learn about Text Tags. Text Tags are specially formatted pieces of text that can be placed anywhere within the content of your document to specifying the location, size, type of fields that are recognized as fields by Adobe Sign. They can be used within file formats like Word, PDF, and other formats supported by Adobe Sign. For PDF and InDesign documents, you can place these as part of your PDF Interactive form fields.

In InDesign, you can actually create interactive PDF fields directly in your layout, whether you are creating a PDF form or wanting to use it with Adobe Sign forms.

When you read the Adobe Sign Text Tags documentation, you’ll see examples like {{Sig_es_:signer1:signature}}. Here is how to interpret that:

Breakdown of Adobe Sign Text Tag

The examples with curly brackets are shown for when you are embedding fields in text documents, like Word documents. When you are using text tags with PDF form fields like we do in this exercise, you can ignore the curly brackets. The important thing you need is the text inside of the curly brackets for your field names.

When using Text Tags with PDF fields, remove the double curly brackets for the form field names.

Step 2: Using interactive forms in Adobe InDesign

As part of this guide, we are going to work with an InDesign form that you can download here.

In this document, we have a variety of different fields that we will walk through including:

  • Name
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Gender
  • Signature
  • Signing date
Steps for adding a Form field to an InDesign layout.

Customer name field

  1. Go to Window > Interactive > Buttons and Forms to open the Buttons and Forms palette.
  2. Using the Rectangle tool, draw a Rectangle within the Customer Name field area.
  3. With the new rectangle selected, in the Buttons and Forms palette, set the following settings:
  • Type: Text Field
  • Name: CustomerName_es_:signer1:fullname
  • Event: On Release or Tap

Now you have created that field, when you export the document as an Interactive PDF, this field will show up on the PDF and when you import it into Adobe Sign.

Next, repeat the process that you went through for the Customer Name field with the other fields on the InDesign layout. Here are the recommended Buttons and Forms settings for each:

Phone field

  • Type: Text Field
  • Name: Phone_es_:signer1:phone
  • Event: On Release or Tap

Email field

  • Type: Text Field
  • Name: Email_es_:signer1:email
  • Event: On Release or Tap

Signature field

  • Type: Text Field
  • Name: Sig_es_:signer1:signature
  • Event: On Release or Tap

Signature date field

  • Type: Text Field
  • Name: Date_es_:signer1:date
  • Event: On Release or Tap

Gender radio button field

The Gender radio button has a slightly different process than the text fields because we are creating options for them to select from.

  1. Using the Ellipse tool and holding shift, create an ellipse for your radio button.
  2. Select the ellipse.
  3. Set the following settings in the Buttons and Forms palette:
  • Type: Radio Button
  • Name: Gender_es_:signer1
  • Event: On Release or Tap
  • Button Value: Male

For any of the the subsequent options, such as Female, Prefer Not to Say, etc., you may copy and paste the ellipse you created. Then, change the Button Value in Buttons and Forms to match the appropriate value.

Step 3: Export your form to PDF

Save dialog for Adobe InDesign with Adobe PDF (Interactive) selected.

Now that you have created all of your fields in your document, you will need to export this file as an Interactive PDF.

  1. Go to File > Export.
  2. Under Format, select Adobe PDF (Interactive).
  3. Click Save.
  4. In the next dialog, click Export.

Step 4: Upload to Adobe Sign as a Widget

Once you have saved your PDF, you are now ready to turn your form into a web form.

  1. Log in to your Adobe Sign Business or Enterprise account.
    Note: For more information about the different subscription levels, see here
    Click links here if you need a
    Trial or Developer account
  2. On your dashboard, select Create Widget.
  3. Upload your PDF file where it asks and give the widget a name.
  4. Click Preview and Position Fields.
  5. Click Next.

Here, you will see that your fields have been recognized by Adobe Sign. You can adjust the fields if needed.

If everything looks good, click Send.

Now you have a URL or embed code you can place on you’re your website, link to it. Now, people can fill the form and not have to worry about finding a paper copy, or download and printing a document.

BONUS: Use Creative Cloud libraries to standardize your form fields

You can add form fields to your CC Libraries for easy re-use.

If you are designing a lot of forms with the same types of fields, or you are working as a team and need to standardize forms and form fields, consider using Creative Cloud libraries. They allow you to create a library of your field elements and share them amongst your team, so that it saves time adding fields to layouts and the form fields are consistent.

  1. Open Adobe InDesign.
  2. Open Window > CC Libraries
  3. Click on the drop-down list and select Create New Library…
  4. Name your new library and click Create. Ex. Form Fields
  5. Select the field and related items (like label, etc.) in your layout.
  6. Click the + Sign and select Graphic.

Your form field is now added to your CC Libraries. Now, if you are creating a new form in InDesign, you don’t have to worry about rebuilding them over and over again. You can just simply drag and drop from CC Libraries. This is also a benefit if you are using reports or merging data in Adobe Sign. This means that across all documents, that field would be the same name.

Resources