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Designing Forms with InDesign? Acrobat’s Replace Pages Feature is at Your Service.

Along with anyone else who has to design PDF forms, one of my feature requests for InDesign CS5 is the ability to add form fields directly in InDesign. While we live and hope for that to happen, we can take some solace in Acrobat’s automated forms wizard which does an admirable job of automating the task. Of course, the feature is not perfect and usually requires some manual tweaking.

But what happens when you send the form to a client to review and he/she comes back with a couple of minor changes? These would be real easy if the form fields were in InDesign but they’re not. They’ve been added to the PDF in Acrobat and when you change the artwork, you need to start all over again….or do you?

When I first started doing these types of projects I was always afraid that I’d get the project done and then discover a typo or have to make a change. That, I thought, meant redoing work in Acrobat.

And that’s when I got one of those “there has to be a better way” moments. And so, I found out, there was. The secret is in Acrobat’s Document menu and it’s the Replace Pages command. Even if you’ve created buttons or form fields you can still generate a new PDF of the page with a problem and then simply use that command to replace that page.

After selecting the command just browse to the file containing the revised artwork and tell Acrobat which page to replace.

Any interactive or form elements will remain in place, but the InDesign generated page will be replaced. Of course, if you had to move a field on the form, you’ll have to drag that form field into its new position, but that’s a lot less work than having to redo the form from scratch.

Bob Levine

Bob Levine

Bob Levine is a graphic designer and a consultant focused on providing InDesign training and guidance in developing efficient, collaborative workflows to those moving from QuarkXPress or PageMaker. An Adobe Certified Expert in both InDesign and InCopy, Bob has written articles for InDesign Magazine and is an Adobe User to User forums host. He has more than 15 years of industry experience and has been using InDesign since version 1.0. For more background, visit his website, www.theindesignguy.com or his blog, BobLevine.us.
Bob Levine

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32 Comments on “Designing Forms with InDesign? Acrobat’s Replace Pages Feature is at Your Service.

  1. Wow! This is a life changer for me: thank you so much for sharing this tip. You’ve saved me hours of tedious work!

  2. I constantly use this feature for review and final approval of artwork. We use the comment feature for corrections, and I use to save out the comments and re-import them to the new, corrected pages. This ‘Replace Pages…’ method is far easier and faster. When I make the change suggested by the comment, I make and new PDF of that page and use ‘Replace Pages…’ to bring it in. The comments remain but the new, corrected page replaces the old. This is a very fast method of getting approvals and things out on deadline.

  3. Replace pages also retains bookmarks and interactive buttons, which has been a lifesaver for me on many an occasion! Like Mark said, I usually just create a new PDF of the single page(s) that had changes, and then replacee that page.

    Incoming plug alert! ;-)

    I show how this works and include a bunch of tips (such as to save a note in the ID pasteboard reminding yourself of the PDF setting you originally used so future replaced pages will match) in one of my Acrobat 9 Tips and Tricks videos I did for Lynda.com.

    It’s the last video in Chapter 4, “Updating a PDF without Losing Interactivity.”

  4. AWESOMESAUCE!

    I am so happy to see this is possible. This will save me and my group so much time!

    Indesign Secrets, sorry I’m going to have to tell my group about this one! The cat is out of the bag. :)

  5. Your tips are great, and this one is one of the finest – but, how about getting with the program and making only your tip text and pics Printable!! I sure can’t remember all this info, and it’s nice to have a printed page of instructions to refer back to.

    Thanks,
    Phil

  6. No – I’m just thinking about saving some paper, as I get everything on this page. Comments, and all the posts. Just would be nice and tidy. Thanks for the help. Have a Great Day

  7. when the form is in landscape, after I replace the pages, the form fields shift as if it should have been profile. Is there another setting to “lock” the fields in place?

  8. Thanks for the great tip!!

    Hoping you might also have some words of wisdom for this problem:

    I am working on something that requires I put the same form field on each page of a PDF, in the same place. For every PDF I create from InDesign, I have to open it up, and manually go through each PDF page to paste and position the form field – working with about 75 multi-page documents, this is extremely time consuming… any tips for something like that?

  9. Thansk for the tip. I have a question regarding links created in InDesign. Once i convert the indesign files with links to a PDF and then copy the files from the root folder to the desktop the links no longer work. Its there a way to fix this problem? I’m trying to upload the files online and I like to see if I could upload my final PDF file without having to carry all the files that are link to the document. Do you know if I can do this and how?

    Thanks.

  10. In my experience, replacing pages is not as simple as it seems. See my question at http://forums.adobe.com/message/4226964#4226964 (‘replace page: form changes’).
    The edited page with groups of separate form fields is, on replacing the original page with it, changed in a page with single form fields.
    I would very much like to know how I can prevent this, or what is wrong in my reasoning.

  11. Sounds to me (from your description in the forum) that you expect the form fields to go along for the ride. When you use the replace pages command you’re only replacing the artwork.

  12. Yes, that’s beginning to dawn on me. Because I also needed to replace the form fields, I now just copy them from one file to another (see the said forum).

  13. Frits & Bob, I answered on the forum.

    Frits when Bob says “form fields don’t go along for the ride” he means that when you replace pages, you don’t need to replace the form fields. The form fields stay. Only the artwork/text is replaced; the form fields are on an invisible layer above the page content.

    SO I still don’t understand why you’d need to re-do the form wizard or copy form fields from one file to another. There’s something strange happening if you’re losing form fields when you’re replacing a page. Are you sure your’e using the Replace Pages command? (Not extract/insert?)

  14. The thing is, I díd want to replace the form fields on that page, because the form fields themselves were wrong. (The InDesign lay-out was misinterpreted by the form wizard, mainly because the original lay-out wasn’t meant to be used for that, being a reprint that only now will be used for digital publishing.)
    As I understand now, when I replace a page, the form fields stay as they were, just the underlying page is replaced, even if the form fields in the replacement page have changed.

  15. Hello, all!

    This is kind of “sideways related,” but I think it’s appropriate to post here. If not, please don’t throw rotten fruit! (I don’t think it’d make it all the way to me, anyway, and it’s a waste of rotten fruit!)

    I have initiated a feature request from Adobe that Acrobat have its ability to place objects precisely where you want them “upgraded.” This would help in tweaking the form fields after you have done the Replace Pages command.

    If you haven’t already, please vote for this idea at the following Feature Request page:
    http://tinyurl.com/PrecisePlacementOfObjects.
    The more votes, the more likely Adobe is to spend the time and money necessary on this.

    Something I think a lot of users don’t realize is that Acrobat is a *huge, complex* program, and making ANY change is a *mammoth* undertaking. It’s not like you can just change a few lines of code and say “Voila!” When you make a change in even one line of code, you probably will have to make many changes in other lines of code so you don’t “break” anything else in the program/application.

    We, as users, must really make the case, through our votes and our comments—at the linked feature request page, in addition to all the other forum threads—for the need for these features, or they will NOT be implemented.

    So please, read all about it, cast your vote, and direct all interested parties to this page via this link:
    http://tinyurl.com/PrecisePlacementOfObjects
    Thanks so much!

  16. Hi Fellow inDesign experts. So sadly I have twenty forms to prepare that are very similar and due to the limitations of indesign form features have had to further process them in Acrobat DC. The replace pages feature works well enough when transferring the form fields BUT the extremely important reading order is completely scrambled. Is there a way to transfer the reading order I have on the form when replacing pages?

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