I've been tackling this for a little while and to no avail. I am doing a letter head template with areas for the user to click on and start typing their letter. I've done it in an interactive PDF format but i want to take a step further to make it more user friendly.

I want to have non-printing instructions to be able to be viewed but not printed but in which the user can still click on the document and add their text and so forth.

I am open to any other suggestions other than interactive pdf

thanks, thelma

  • What type of instructions? Why a PDF form? A Word doc is more user friendly or blank "shells" the client can place in their printer.
    – Scott
    Dec 6, 2014 at 19:11
  • Instructions like "click here to type or paste your message", "Name here", "mm/dd/yyyy". I thought an interactive PDF would be easier for volunteers to easily fill out. If it were to be people that worked in the office for years to come then i wouldn't have run into this problem. Like i said, I'm open to ideas and and it doesn't necessarily need to be an Interactive PDF. I just want it user friendly, for volunteers, for people who will use it for day and then won't for months (unless they volunteer again).
    – Thelma
    Dec 6, 2014 at 19:31
  • @Scott: …and what happens when the user does not have Word? And what happens if the layout of the document is important? And what happens if the filled document has to go into a long-term archive?
    – Max Wyss
    Dec 7, 2014 at 11:12

2 Answers 2


The way I would approach this is to use Sticky Notes. I find the question mark icon is pretty intuitive to users and has the added benefit of not crowding up the document when not in use. Details on sticky notes: http://acrobat.solutions.adobe.com/content/areaderx_ipm1_en

Creating a form element and making it not print is possible by double clicking on the element and selecting the "Visible but doesn't Print" under the common properties box.


The two most likely possibilities have been mentioned.

If it must be done in InDesign, the button approach would be the most likely, although making the button field read-only would improve things even more, because then the user would not be tempted to click it (because the cursor won't change when viewing the document).

Using a sticky note has its advantages as well, however, one of the issues with sticky notes is that they can easily be moved around, and they require a specific setting in the Print dialog (do not print annotations).

If your form is used multiple times by the same user, you may have to be aware of the annoyance factor by showing the (obviously aimed at noobs) instructions. The workaround here would be to add a "Help" or "Info" button near the field, and in the MouseUp event you show the button or text field with the information, and in the MouseExit event you hide it again. This approach also helps you regaining real estate on your document, which otherwise would be used up by your instructions.

This approach has the advantage that it can deal with longer and/or content-rich explanations (you determine how big the field for displaying has to be). For short explanations, PDF fields have two additional possibilities to show such information; however you will need Acrobat to properly insert them:

a) Tooltip: If you open the Field Properties dialog (either in the Form Edit Mode, or using the Select Object tool (the big fat pointer icon), you have the Tooltip field in the General tab. The text entered in this field will display for a short time when you hover the mouse over the field (a behavior very common in webpages etc.). Also note that the Tooltip text is taken into account by assistive devices. This method works for any field type.

b) Default value: This method works for unformatted text fields only. You set the default value to the explanation text. Then you have to add some actions: In the OnFocus event you test whether its value is the default value, and if so clear the field, and in the OnBlur event you test whether the field's contents is blank, and if so set it to its default value. You may also play around with the textColor, for example to set it to a grey value, in order to make a visual hint that this is instructional.

Both methods do not need any real estate on the document.

Note that method b) requires a PDF viewer which understands Acrobat JavaScript (but if it does not, the default value can simply be overwritten (if the PDF viewer understands fields at all (which is a requirement for your form anyways)).

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