Create Master PDF templates using InDesign

Note: The process detailed below is still a valid method of creating eDocBuilder templates in InDesign. However, there is now a convenient InDesign plug-in available for eDocBuilder, which is included for all eDocBuilder subscribers. You can learn more and download the plug-in here: Ch. 036 InDesign Plug-in for eDocBuilder.

eDocBuilder Master PDF Templates From InDesign Instead of Adobe Acrobat

To create PDF files directly from InDesign without using Adobe Acrobat, you must be using in InDesign CS6 or later, earlier versions of InDesign may not support this feature. Following the steps below, you can assign both text and picture boxes as eDoc compliant form fields within an InDesign document:

  1. Open the Buttons and Forms floating palette by going to menu commands Window > Interactive > Buttons and Forms.
  2. Draw a text box on your page, or choose an existing text box.
  3. Select the text box with the Item Tool (the black arrow on the top of toolbar).
  4. On the Buttons and Forms palette, set the Type to be Text Field, and set a Name for it.
  5. Repeat as necessary to layout the document.
  6. Use File > Export > Interactive PDF. Open the file in Acrobat to test, or load into eDocBuilder.

Notes & Cautions

InDesign is a big application with an extensive and detailed feature set -- too detailed to provide a full listing of features that are compatible or not compatible with eDocBuilder. But here are a few items to keep in mind if you use InDesign to produce PDF templates for use with eDocBuilder.

  • Interactive PDF Exports in sRGB format. This is a limitation currently of Adobe InDesign itself. The workaround is to export the document twice, once as Interactive and once as Print in CMYK. Open both files into Acrobat Pro, copy the form fields from the sRGB PDF, and paste them in place into the CMYK PDF.
  • Picture boxes assigned as form field must still be set as an Image field in the eDocBuilder Field Setup interface.
  • Copying and pasting text or picture boxes assigned as form fields within an InDesign document may alter the names you have assigned to them, so you must check the names assigned after any copy and paste operation. Example, if you had assigned a text box with a form field name of Title, after copying and pasting InDesign CS6 will automatically change that name to Title 2. You must rename it and drop the number symbol. Text fields can only be named with letter characters. If you include numbers or symbols, then an error message will be shown when you upload that PDF template file into eDocBuilder.
  • Alignment settings such as center for text do not translate directly to the template, and must be set in the Field Setup area of eDocBuilder.
  • Text on a curve will become a regular text box in the uploaded template, and the dimensions will be equal to the rectangular bounding box of the original curve text object in the document.
  • Do Not Use Check Boxes, Combo Boxes, List Boxes, Buttons, Radio Buttons or Signature Fields These types of form fields will not work, and may cause the exported PDF file to generate an error when uploaded into eDocBuilder. Text or picture boxes must be assigned as Text Fields.
  • Do NOT Set a bleed in the InDesign file.  This will cause your text fields to move position.  Instead use the bleed setting in eDocBuilder
  • Default text in text boxes - Please note that at this time rich text and Unicode plain text is not supported with the InDesign plugin.

Troubleshooting Errors

Check Assigned Field Names

If your exported PDF file is being used for an Interactive Designer template and is showing an error when uploaded into eDocBuilder, check first to ensure that it is not an issue with the names of the text fields assigned in the document. Do this by clicking on each text frame box with the item tool, and looking at its settings on the Buttons and Forms palette.

Reset the Preferences

Some preference settings may cause eDocBuilder to throw an error when you upload and use an Interactive PDF as a template. You can try resetting the preferences on your InDesign application, and then try exporting the PDF again. To reset the preferences, a combination of keys must be held down while InDesign is starting up, and need to be held down until the confirmation prompt message is shown. On Windows hold down CTRL+ALT+SHIFT. On Macintosh, hold down SHIFT-CONTROL-OPTION-COMMAND. You must be holding these keys down when you launch the application, a confirmation will be displayed when it is successful, and then choose to delete the preferences.

Only use Text Fields

Do Not Use Check Boxes, Combo Boxes, List Boxes, Buttons, Radio Buttons or Signature Field form elements in the source InDesign document file. Remove any elements such as these that are present. Only text fields will work with eDocBuilder.

Simplify the Document

If the above suggestions don't resolve the error, then making the document simpler in structure, copying an object or objects into a new document to test the export, or exporting particular pages in a document may help to narrow down the source of the problem settings. You should be able to open a new document, assign a text form field, export to interactive PDF and upload into eDocBuilder without receiving any errors.

Text and Image Boxes

Text and image boxes in the InDesign document will export to fields in the eDocBuilder template to the same size and dimensions as the original text and images boxes on the document page. You will want to adjust any text or image boxes to be the exact size that they should occupy in the template when the document is customized in eDocBuilder. Having text or image boxes larger than the layout calls for will mean that the text or images will take up more space visually on the page in the template, so the layout should be simplified so that all boxes that will be tagged to become fields occupy no more space than is required to display their content on the page.

Organize Text or Image Boxes Depending on If Static or Variable

You may wish to organize the text and images boxes in the document based on if those boxes will be static or variable, by using the Layers feature in InDesign. This is just a point to help make the document more manageable. Any text or image boxes that will be used for input fields in the eDocBuilder template can be moved onto their own layer in the InDesign document. Sometimes there can be a great many text or image boxes in a document, identifying which text or image boxes will be variable in the template and moving those boxes onto their own layer in the InDesign document may help in managing the document and keeping everything organized.

More Help

Here is a video showing how this works: (Remember that you only want to use the "text" form option).