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Every once in awhile I make forms (applications and whatnot) in InDesign, and, as it often is with ID, there is more than one way to get it done.

I have a few techniques that I use, but I often float from one to another without being sure which is the best. And, as I often find on sites like these, I don't have all of the answers!

I'm sure people here do form design; what do you find to be the best way? I'm thinking about ease of doing in the first place, ease of aligning lines to each other and to margins, ease of editing later, ease of Acrobat making it fillable, and perhaps semantic considerations?

Some of my techniques are: Drawing a straight line, drawing a line then pasting it inline into the text frame, underscores, underlines (with tabs, non-breaking spaces, alignment tricks), table cells.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I always use tabs with an underline leader.

tabs

The method of creating lines, then anchoring them in text makes for sloppy editing later. And using repeated underscores doesn't allow for proper alignment.

Another option, depending upon desired design, is to use Paragraph Rules:

rules

If I want anything containing more rules than these two methods I move to tables and applying specific rules to table cells to define areas.

In short, I never draw any lines.

The advantage to these methods for me, is that the rules are part of the text itself and not anchored or inline elements such as drawn lines. Since the rules are part of the text, they flow and move correctly while maintaining position during most edits. When you start anchoring a bunch of objects within text boxes you can have trouble with editing later.

In addition, with these methods you can create paragraph styles. So, applying them simply takes a click rather than a few minutes to draw lines and make certain they are aligned correctly, the re-align things after any edits.

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left, right, decimal align? does it matter? –  horatio Oct 25 '12 at 20:42
    
Doesn't really matter. Each form is different. Most often I'll use a right align tab with the underscore leader. So I set [label][space][tab] and the tab is a right align tab with the leader. I don't think I've ever used a decimal aligned tab. Left aligned tabs can be helpful if a form row has two labels - [label][space][left align tab][space][label][space][right align tab] –  Scott Oct 25 '12 at 21:38
    
Yep, this is exactly how I do it as well. –  Lauren Ipsum Oct 25 '12 at 21:48

You should be using I most often see use of the line tool in InDesign for form field lines. Adding lines in-line with text works fine. This method allows you to quickly convert your PDF output file to a fill-in form since Adobe Live Cycle can read these lined areas as fields.

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In addition, one could use Character styles with underline option turned on. For instance "Body" paragraph styled text might be converted with additional "Overline" character style, which has an offset underline and well positioned tabs (see example image). Like in Scott's answer, for simple forms, tables are not necessary needed.

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