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Chapter 19. Working with PDF Form > Understanding Form Field Types

Understanding Form Field Types

Before you start filling out Adobe PDF forms, look over the types of fields on the forms and identify the common items you typically see on forms. PDF authors can choose from seven field types.

  • Text fields. Text fields are placeholders for both text and numbers. Text fields can be assigned special formats such as date fields, telephone numbers, social security numbers, and more. When you type text in fields assigned with special formats, you need to enter data that conforms to the format type. For example, typing your name in a field is not acceptable if the field is formatted as a date field. When entering data in text fields and all other field types, use the Hand tool.

  • Check box fields. Check boxes are designed for selecting one or more items in a group. You can check a check box by clicking it with the Hand tool, and remove the checkmark by clicking a checked box. Figure 19.5 shows a series of check boxes designed for a user to choose the type of credit card to use for payment.

    Figure 19.5. Click a check box to place a checkmark inside the box. Clicking a marked box removes the checkmark.

  • Combo box. Combo boxes are like pull-down menus (Figure 19.6). Click a down arrow to open the menu, and select an item from the list. You can make only a single selection from combo box choices.

    Figure 19.6. Click the down arrow to open the menu and select an item from the list.

  • List box. List boxes are similar to combo boxes but the box contains scroll bars and has no pull-down menu. The primary distinction between this field type and combo boxes is that list boxes can be used to make multiple choices—that option is up to the PDF author. Figure 19.7 shows a list box where multiple selections are permitted.

    Figure 19.7. List boxes are scrollable boxes that can be designed for making multiple selections.


    To select multiple items in a list box, press the Ctrl/Command key and click each item you want to select. If you can't select more than a single item in a list box, then the PDF author designed the field to accept only a single response.

  • Radio buttons. Radio buttons can look much like check boxes, and you may not see the difference when using them on a form. A radio button is typically (though not always) shaped like a circle (Figure 19.8), which differs from choices available for check boxes. The main distinction between radio buttons and check boxes is that once you click a radio button, you can't remove the check mark/bullet by clicking on it again. Often Radio buttons are used for either/or conditions or a single choice from within a group. For example, you may be asked to select a gender response (either/or) or a credit card type from among choices for Visa, M/C, AMEX, and so on. Only one choice in either example is an acceptable response.

    Figure 19.8. A radio button's defaul appearance is a circle. When a radio button is selected, you can't deselect the button by clicking it again.

    Why do all check boxes and radio buttons remain on when I check them for items intended for a single response?

    This is a common problem PDF authors make. If you work on a form where a question is meant to elicit a single choice, such as credit card type, and clicking in a box doesn't turn off the other choices, then the PDF author made a mistake in assigning attributes to the fields. The only way to disable the radio buttons or check boxes is to close the form and reopen it, or to click a reset button if one exists to reset the form by clearing the data. Be careful to read the questions and click the button for the choice you want to make. Avoid clicking on a second button or box for the same question.

  • Buttons. Buttons are intended to invoke actions. Quite often, you find buttons designed to reset a form and to submit a form. Reset Form (Figure 19.9) is often used to clear all the data on a form. Be careful when clicking this button, as it often clears all the data on the form. The Submit button action often sends the data to a URL or email address. PDF authors use Submit buttons to collect data electronically. Although you can't save form data from Adobe Reader without special usage rights, you can submit data to PDF authors when the button actions are so designed.

    Figure 19.9. Buttons are designed to invoke actions such as resetting a form, submitting a form, or a host of other different action types.

  • Signature. Signature fields are designed for using a Digital ID and electronically signing a form (Figure 19.10). Unless a form has special usage rights created with the Adobe LiveCycle Reader Extensions, you can't use these fields. When you receive documents that have been signed, you can click the signed field to validate the signature. For more information about using digital signatures, see Chapter 17 “Using Digital Signatures and Security.”

    Figure 19.10. Signature fields can be verified (or validated), but you can only apply a new signature if your PDF file has usage rights assigned via Adobe LiveCycle Reader Extensions.

  • Barcode form fields. Adobe LiveCycle Designer is a separate program that ships with Acrobat 7 Professional. Adobe Designer is used to author Adobe XML-based PDF forms and is available only on Windows. When using Adobe Designer, a PDF author can create barcode fields. Barcodes can be static or interactive. Static barcodes appear similar to barcodes you see on product labels in stores. Interactive barcode fields automatically encode the data that's entered in the respective barcode field(s).



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