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Help: Creating Forms with PDFpenPro

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With PDFpenPro, you can create an interactive fill-in PDF form with the ability to submit the data via web or email. PDFpenPro can even automatically create form fields and checkboxes in a static form. (One form per PDF document is supported.)

Automatically Add Form Fields and Checkboxes to Static PDF Forms

PDFpenPro can scan a static form and add interactive fields for you.

  1. Open a PDF form with static fields. Go to Edit > Create Form Fields…
  2. The Automatically Create Form Fields dialog box appears, click OK.
  3. A progress bar appears while PDFpenPro detects the text fields and check boxes of the form. A chime indicates completion.

You will notice that all of the fields are highlighted in gray to indicate their location. This is turned on automatically when the fields are made active. You can turn this off by choosing View > Highlight Form Fields.

Creating Forms

When creating a form you may want to design the layout in another application for the best layout, then print that document to PDF, and use PDFpenPro to add the interactive form fields.

Adding Form Elements Manually

  1. Open the Form Elements menu by clicking the Form Elements tab text field in the editing bar.
  2. Choose the form element you want to add.
  3. Click in the PDF to add the element. Drag the corner handles of the selected element to create the size and shape you want. For assistance in positioning your elements, go to Inspector > Alignment. (See Inspector).
  4. Choose Inspector > Form Element Properties to set the properties of each form element.

Form Elements

To add any form element, click on the tool to activate it, then click on your document page to add the element. Click and drag to set a custom size for the element.

  • Text Field The area of the form allowing unique data entry. When adding a text field, you can click and drag to get the field size you want.
  • Checkbox Used for a one or more options, any or all of which can be selected. When adding checkboxes, PDFpenPro automatically adds a text label next to the element that can be selected separately and resized, moved or deleted. Choose a display option in Form Element Properties.
  • Radio Button Used for a group of options where only one can be selected. When adding radio buttons, PDFpenPro automatically adds a text label next to the element that can be selected separately and resized, moved or deleted. Choose a display option in Form Element Properties.
  • Choice Field Used to create a drop down menu of selectable options. Add and remove options via Form Elements Properties (below).
  • List Field Used to create a group of selectable options. Add and remove options via the Form Element Properties (see below).
  • Signature Field Add an interactive signature field which aids in the signing of a form. Click and drag to select the size and placement of the field. A “Sign Here” stamp will appear in the upper right corner of the field. For details on how the field acts see Using an interactive signature field.
  • Submit Button Used to add a button to your form to submit form data via email or web. When adding the button, a dialog will open allowing you to enter a destination URL or email address for the data to be sent to.

For more on submitting forms, see PDF Applications and Submitting Forms. For more on collecting submitted form data, see Backend Processing of PDF Forms.

Testing Your Form and Editing Appearance

You will need to switch to the Select Text Tool select tool (Cmd+1) in order to try out your form. Switch back to the Edit Tool (Arrow)edit tool (Cmd+2) in order to edit the appearance of elements you've placed in your form.

Form Element Properties

PDFpenPro lets you edit several properties of the form elements in the Form Element Properties tab of Inspector. The contents of the window varies depending on which form element is selected.

To view, choose Window > Form Element Properties, or click on the Form tab form elements of the Inspector panel if it is already open.

PDFpenPro form elements menu

  • Name
    Every form element has a name to differentiate it from the others.
    Generally you use a different name for each field. A group of radio buttons, however, should each have the same name but a different Checked Value. This allows them to work together (i.e. only one button in a group can be selected) and each yield a different result.
  • Default Value (Text Field)
    Set the text a user sees in the text field before the form is filled out. Once you set the Default Value you will notice it does not appear immediately in the text field. You need to make it visible by choosing Edit > Reset Form.
  • Checked Value (Radio Button, Checkbox, Submit Button)
    This is the value yielded when the associated radio button or checkbox is checked.
  • Character Limit (Text Field)
    Check this option to set the max number of characters that can be entered into a text field.
  • Required
    Check if you require this form field to be filled out by the user. The user will be notified when they try to save the form which fields are required but not yet filled.
  • Size to fit (Text Field)
    The text field can grow or shrink to fit the text that is entered.
  • Multi-line (Text Field)
    The text field can contain more than one line of text.
  • Scroll text (Text Field)
    The text field will scroll horizontally and/or vertically in a fixed size so that more than just the visible text can be entered.
  • Check by default
    Set a checkbox or a radio button to be checked before a user fills out the form. Once you choose this option you will notice it does not appear immediately on the form. You need to make it visible by choosing Edit > Reset Form.
  • Name and Value (Choice Field, List Field)
    When a list of options is available, each individual item requires a name, the value is optional. The name will be used as the value if a value is not chosen.
  • Label, Submission Options (Submit Button)
    Set the submit button title. Access the submission options. For more on form submissions, see PDF Applications and Submitting Forms. For more on collecting the backend data generated by form submissions, see Backend Processing of PDF Forms.

Editing the Tab Order

PDFpenPro lets you change the tab order of form elements added to a page. Select Arrange > Show Tab Order to see the tab order within a page. Using the Arrange > Move options will move the selected form elements back or forward within the tab order. Arrange > Reset Tab Order will force the tab order of items in a page to reading order.

Editing Tab Order Using Sidebar

  1. Click the Sidebar button sidebar button and choose Form Fields form elements.
  2. A list of your fields will appear in the sidebar, drag and drop to reorder. The tab order will match the order of the elements in the list.


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