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.

3 Answers 3


I always use tabs with an underline leader.


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:


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.

  • left, right, decimal align? does it matter?
    – horatio
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 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
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 21:38
  • Yep, this is exactly how I do it as well. Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 21:48
  • Late comment, but: The trouble with this approach is that it relies on the “_” character being repeated. That works in some fonts, but in others you'll end up with spaces between them, especially on screen at different zoom levels. These days I usually go for Valeria’s solution instead: a character style with an underscore applied automatically as a nested style based on number of tab indents. This also has the advantage that you can add a bit of space between the baseline and the understroke, which I personally prefer. Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 21:26
  • It is possible to adjust kerning and tracking on the tab. In 30+ years I've never run into a spacing issue with any font I use personally.
    – Scott
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 0:13

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.


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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