I've been tasked with creating a form/report for a client. The client provided a printed example with the fields they require and the start of a layout which I was to amend. The final design was to be used for NCR printing.

I designed this by creating a table in InDesign, and commented on how I wish there was a feature to move columns individually in a row. I get around this issue my merging/splitting rows to gain the desired cell width; however, I was then told I was wasting my time and it would be quicker to just draw lines to create the form and use the Align panel to distribute instead of creating a table.

Which is the best method?

Thanks in advance

Example of form: Example of Table

  • I'm not pro to answer but I've had the best experience with tables in excel. I just copy paste the table into word and then import the file to Indesign.
    – Polisetty
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 13:25

3 Answers 3


Tables are not ideal if you need to adjust column widths everywhere.

This method could be faster than actually drawing the lines, since you will need text boxes anyway, so why not stroke them:

  • set up a page grid of 24 columns with 0 gutter
  • set up each table "cell" as an individual text box with a 0.5pt black stroke (align strokes to center so they don't overlap between the boxes), which is easier to control in this case
  • with the proper inset spacing and text flow (horizontal and vertical) you could achieve this. Try to arrange the boxes so they fit onto the grid you created, so you don't do too much math to check their total width for each row
  • additionally you can use a baseline grid to ensure consistent height for your text boxes (eg. 1x, 2x, 3x)
  • Thank you all for your comments. I agree that Metis's solution using tabs and leaders would be the better option to use, but the use of a box form is vital so for this case Lucian's answer using strokes on text boxes has worked better.
    – Ceres
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 15:30

Quite honestly I much prefer just using tabs (with leader characters) and paragraphs for forms. I would never use a table in InDesign, I find it far too restrictive.

I don't know what all those random empty boxes are supposed to indicate, but sometimes it means you need to redesign the form layout to be more logically human readable.

Using just tabs, leaders and paragraphs allows you to utilize things like space before/after, leading, paragraph rules, etc to adjust individual lines of the form as needed. For example the "Required for delivery" below is merely text with a baseline shift.

I also find, in my work, that forms without a lot of boxes tend to garner more replies. The "box" thing is fine on the web, but in print work, they seem to convey too much "governmental" presence which kind of makes the form seem unfriendly to some.

enter image description here

I never, ever "draw lines". I use tab leaders and paragraph rules. No other lines should be necessary. But then, that may just be my preferences. I don't like "boxy" forms.

  • I was going to suggest this but assumed they needed to keep the "boxed" style. Indeed easier to set up without any lines, also easier to follow by the end user.
    – Lucian
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 18:11

Stretching your "other method" phrase to the maximum (and probably more!) can I suggest you move away from InDesign for forms altogether.

Some years ago I moved from InDesign to embrace the ugly, yet incredibly effective Adobe Livecycle for form design.

Once you are used to it (some time!) it is way faster than InDesign for this task, and it's ability to output fillable, interactive pdf's is incredible. Even with javascript calculations and more. Plus snippets, pre-built form clocks and more.

One day your client might ask you to make one of those InDesign forms fillable, although that's possible too (via Acrobat and some hair pulling) you'll be better of, in my opinion, embracing a true form design tool from the outset.

  • How much does this Livecycle cost and do they offer a free trial? Is it included with the CC plans?
    – Lucian
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 9:14
  • 1
    I use it directly at a clients company, so I am not sure, but I (think) it shipped with Acrobat Pro Commented May 3, 2017 at 9:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.