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About themes in AEM Forms

With Adobe Experience Manager Forms, you can create themes and apply them to your forms. A theme contains styling details for components and panels, and you can reuse a theme on different forms. Styles include properties such as background colors, state colors, transparency, alignment, and size. When you apply the theme to your form, the specified style reflects on corresponding components of your form.

The theme is managed inline with the management of other assets in adaptive form. Theme is an asset which can be managed independently (without a reference to an adaptive form). 

Use forms manager to:

  • Create a theme
  • Edit/Copy an existing theme (edit meta-data/theme definition)
  • Download/upload an existing theme
  • Manage dependency for the theme

AEM Forms ship with form templates that are associated with themes. These themes are available to customers out-of-the-box. Themes available to customers are: Survey Theme, Simple Enrolment Theme, Advanced Enrolment Theme, and Canvas Theme corresponding to the form templates.  You can use them to style components in your forms, and customize the appearance of your form. You cannot edit the out-of-the-box themes. For more information on how to get more themes, see Reference Themes


Forms manager handles the meta-properties for the theme definition, and launches the Theme Editor to let you modify the styling.

Creating, downloading, or uploading a theme

With AEM Forms, you can create, download, or upload themes. A theme is created like other assets such as forms, documents, and letters. The theme is saved as a separate entity, complete with meta-properties like forms. Saving themes as a separate entity enables reuse. You can create a theme, download it, and upload it on a separate instance to reuse it. 

Creating a theme

Perform the following steps to create a theme:

  1. Under Experience Manager, click Forms, and then click Themes.
  2. In the Themes page, click Create > Theme.
    A wizard to create a theme is launched. 
  3. In the Basic tab of the Add Properties section of the Create Theme wizard, provide Title and Name of the theme. The Title and Name fields are required for theme creation.
  4. In the Advanced tab, you get two fields: 
    • Clientlib Location:  Provides a path browser to select a location in the repository which stores the clientlibs corresponding to this new theme.
    • Clientlib Category: Provides a text field to enter desired clientlib category name for the theme. 
  5. Click Create and then click Open to open the theme in Theme Editor, or click Done to return to the themes page. 

Downloading a theme

You can export themes in AEM Forms that you can use in other projects or instances. AEM lets you download theme as a zip file, that you can upload on the instance. 

To download a theme:

  1. In Experience Manager, navigate to Forms > Themes.
  2. In the Themes page, you use the Select option to select a theme.
  3. Click Download.
    The theme is downloaded as a zipped package that you can share. 

Uploading a theme

You can use created themes with styling presets on your project. You can import theme packages that others create by uploading them on your project. 

To upload a theme:

  1. In Experience Manager, navigate to Forms > Themes.
  2. In the Themes page, click Create > File Upload.
  3. In the File Upload prompt, browse and select a theme package on your computer and click Upload.
    The uploaded theme is available in the themes page. 

Metadata of a theme

List of meta-properties of a theme (found in properties page of a theme).




Name Can be edited Property Description
1. Title Yes Display name of the theme.
2. Description Yes Description about the theme.
3. Type No
  • Type of asset.
  • Value is always Theme.
4. Created No Date of the theme creation
5. Author Name Yes Author of the theme. Computed at the time of theme creation.
6. Last Modification Date No Date when the theme is last modified.
7. Status No Status of the theme (Modified/Published).
8. Publish On Time Yes Time to automatically publish the theme.
9. Publish Off Time Yes Time to automatically unpublish the theme.
10. Tags Yes A label attached to the theme for identification used to improve searching.
11. References Links
  • Contains 'Referred by' section. Lists forms that use the theme.
  • Since the theme does not refer to any other asset, there is no 'Refers' section.
12. Clientlib Location Yes
  • The user-defined repository path within '/etc' where the clientlibs corresponding to this theme are stored.
  • Default value - '/etc/clientlibs/fd/themes' + relative path of theme asset.
  • If the location does not exist, the folder hierarchy is auto-generated.
  • When this value is changed, the clientlib node structure is moved to the new location entered.
    Note: If you change the clientlib location, in the CRXDE repository assign crx:replicate, rep:write, jcr:read to forms-users and crx:replicate, jcr:read to fd-service in the new location.
13. Clientlib Category Name Yes
  • The user-defined clientlib category name for this theme.
  • An error is displayed if the name is already in use by some other existing theme.
  • Default value - computed using theme location.
  • When this value is changed, the category name is updated on the corresponding clientlib node. Updating Clientlib Category Name in the jsp files is not required because clientlib category name is used by reference.

About the Theme Editor

AEM Forms ships with Theme Editor. It is a business-user and web-designer/developer friendly interface that provides functionalities required to specify the styling of various adaptive form elements easily. When you create a theme, it is stored as a separate entity like forms, documents, letters, document fragments, and data dictionaries.

When you navigate to Experience Manager > Forms and Documents > Themes, you see all the themes in the author mode that you can use. When you select and open a theme, it is opened in the Theme Editor.

The Theme Editor lets you customize styles of the components styled in a theme. You can customize how a form looks on a device. 

The Theme Editor is divided in two panels: 

  • Canvas - Appears on the right side. It shows a sample adaptive form in which all styling changes reflect instantly. You can also select objects directly from the canvas to look up styles associated with them, and to edit these styles. A device resolution ruler on the top governs the Canvas. Selecting a resolution breakpoint from the ruler shows the preview of the sample form for the respective resolution. Canvas is discussed in detail below.
  • Sidebar- Appears on the left side. It has the following items:
    • Selector: Shows the component selected for styling, and its properties that you can style. The selector represents all the components of a type. If you select a text box component in a theme for styling, all the text boxes in your form inherit the style.
      Selectors let you select a generic component or a specific component for styling. For example, a field component is a generic component, and a text box is a specific component. 

      Styling generic component:
      A field can be a numeric box field, such as age, or a text box field, such as address.
      When you style a field, all the fields such as age, name, address are styled. 

      Styling specific component:
      A specific component impacts objects of the specific category. When you style the numeric box component in the theme, only the numeric box objects in your form inherit the style.

      For example, a text box field such as address is longer in length and a numeric box field such as age is shorter in length. You can select a numeric box field, reduce its length and apply to your form. Width of all numeric box fields is reduced in your form. 

      In your form, when you customize all the field components with a specific background color, all the fields such as age, name, and address inherit the background color. When you select a numeric box, such as age, and reduce its width, width of all the numeric boxes such as age, number of people in a family is reduced. Width of text boxes is not changed. 

    • State: Lets you customize styles of an object in a specific state. For example, you can specify how an object looks when it is in default, focus, disabled, hover, or error state.
    • Property Categories: Styling properties are divided in various categories.  For example Dimension & Position, Text, Background, Border, and Effects. Under each category, you provide styling information. For example, under Background, you can provide Background Color, and Image & Gradient. 
    • Advanced: Lets you add custom CSS to an object, which overrides the properties visual controls define if there is an overlap. 
    • View CSS: Lets you view CSS of the selected component

    Also, in Sidebar, at the bottom an arrow is present. When you click the arrow, you get two more options: Simulate Success and Simulate Error. These options, along with the options described above are discussed in detail below.

A. Sidebar B. Canvas 

Styling form components

You can use a theme in multiple forms, which imports the form component formatting that you have specified in the theme. You can style various components in a form such as titles, description, panels, fields, icons, and text boxes. Use widgets to configure form component properties in a theme. Prior knowledge of CSS or LESS is not required, though the CSS Overrides section lets you write CSS code or provide custom selectors. The CSS Overrides section appears when you select a component in the sidebar.

Stylable components in the sidebar
Options in sidebar that let you select and style different components of your form.

Clicking edit button against a component in the sidebar selects the component in Canvas, and lets you style the component using options in the sidebar.

Certain components like text box, numeric box, radio button, and check box are categorized under generic components like Field. For example, you want to customize styling of radio buttons in your form. To select radio buttons for styling, select Field > Widget > Radio Button.

Click EXPAND ALL in the sidebar to view, select, and style categorized components that are not visible upfront.

Styling panel layouts

Themes in AEM Forms support styling of elements in the layout of panels in your forms. Styling of elements in out-of-the-box layouts and custom layouts is supported.

Out-of-the-box panels include:

  • Tabs on left
  • Tabs on top
  • Accordion
  • Responsive
  • Wizard
  • Mobile layout
    • Panel titles in header
    • Without panel titles in header

Selectors vary for each layout.
Styling custom layouts from the Theme Editor involves:

  • Defining the components for a layout that can be styled, and CSS selectors for uniquely identifying these components
  • Defining the CSS properties that can be applied on these components
  • Define the styling for these components interactively from the user interface

Different styles for different screen sizes

Desktop and mobile layouts can have slightly or entirely different styles. For mobile devices, tablet and phone share similar layouts except for component sizes.

Use Theme Editor breakpoints to define alternate styling for different screen sizes. You can select a base device or resolution on which you start building the theme, and the styling variations for other resolutions are automatically generated. You can explicitly modify the styling for all the resolutions. 


The theme is first created using a form, and then applied on different forms. The breakpoints on the form used in theme creation can be different from the form on which the theme is applied. The CSS media queries are based on the form used in theme creation, and not the form on which the theme is applied.

Styling properties context changes in sidebar on selecting objects

When you select a component in the Canvas, its styling properties are listed in the sidebar. Select the object type and its state, and then provide its styling. 

Live preview, save, and discard changes

Modifications made in the styling are instantly reflected in the form loaded in the Canvas. Live preview lets you interactively define and see the impact of the styling. When you change the styling of a component, the Done button is enabled in the sidebar. To retain changes, use the Done button.

Theme with another form

When you create a theme, it is created with a form that is shipped with the Theme Editor. You provide styling for components in this form. Instead of the form that is shipped with the Theme Editor, you can select a form of your choice to provide styling and preview its results. 

To replace the current form in Theme Editor Canvas:

  1. In the THEME EDITOR panel, click Theme Options > Configure
  2. In the Edit Configuration dialog, click Browse .
  3. In the Select Path screen, select your form and click Confirm .


You can undo or redo the undesired changes that occur accidentally. Use the redo/undo buttons in the Canvas. 

Undo/Redo buttons in Theme Editor
Undo/redo buttons in Canvas

Redo/undo buttons appear when you style a component in the Theme Editor. 

Using the Theme Editor

The Theme Editor lets you edit a theme you created or uploaded. Navigate to Forms & Documents > Themes, and select a theme and open it. The theme opens in the Theme Editor. 

As discussed above, the Theme Editor has two panels: Sidebar and Canvas.

Component properties in Theme Editor
Customizing the success state styling of Text Box Widget component in Theme Editor. Component is selected in Canvas, and its state is selected in the sidebar. Styling options available in the sidebar are used to customize the look of a component.

Using Canvas

The theme is either created using the out-of-the-box form, or using a form of your choice. The Canvas shows the preview of the form used for creating the theme with customizations specified in theme. The ruler above the form is used for determining the layout according to the size of the display of your device.

In the Canvas toolbar, you see:

  • Toggle Side Panel : Lets you show or hide sidebar.
  • Theme Options : Provides three options
    • Configure: Lets you select the preview form and base clientlib.
    • View Theme CSS: Lets you view the CSS generated by the Theme Editor, for the selected theme.
    • Help: Runs an image guided tour of the Theme Editor. 
  • Emulator : Lets you emulate and specify the look of your theme for different display sizes. A display size is treated as a breakpoint in the emulator. You can select a breakpoint and specify a style for it. For example, Desktop and Tablet are two breakpoints. You can specify different styles for each breakpoint.  

When you select a component in the Canvas, you see the component toolbar on top of it. The component toolbar lets you select components, or switch to generic components. For example, you select a numeric text box in a panel. You see the following options in the component toolbar:

  • Numeric Box Widget: Lets you select the component to customize its look in sidebar.
  • Field Widget: Lets you select the generic component for styling. In this example, all text input components (text box/numeric box/numeric stepper/date input) are selected for styling. 
  • : Lets you switch to generic component for styling. If you select numeric box and tap this icon, field component is selected. If you select field component and tap this icon, panel is selected. If you keep tapping this icon for selection, you end up selecting the form layout for styling. 


The options available in the component toolbar vary based on the component you select. 

Component toolbar
Component toolbar on the numeric box in Canvas

Using Sidebar

The sidebar in theme editor provides options to customize styles for components in a theme, and use selectors. Selectors let you select a group of components or individual components, and you can search for selectors in the sidebar. You can write selectors for custom components. 

When you select a component from the Canvas or selectors in sidebar, the sidebar shows all the options that let you customize styles for it.
Below are the options you see in the sidebar when you select a component: 

  • State
  • Property sheet
  • Simulate Error/Success


A state is an indicator of user interaction with a component. For example, when a user enters erroneus data in a text box, the state of the text box changes to an error state. Theme editor lets you specify styling for a particular state.  

Options for customizing state styles vary for different components.

Property sheet

Property Use

Dimensions & Position

Lets you style alignment, size, positioning, and placing of components in the theme. 

Your options are display setting, padding, margin, width, height, and Z index.  


Lets you customize the text styles in the component of the theme.

For example, you want to change how the text entered in the text box looks.

Your options are font family, weight, color, size, line height, text align, letterspacing, text indent, underline, italics, text transform, vertical align, baseline, and direction. 


Lets you fill the background of the component with an image or a color. 


Lets you choose how the border your component looks. For example, you want the text box to have a deep red, thick border with a dotted line. 

Your options are width, style, radius, and color of the border.


Lets you add special effects to the components such as opacity, blend mode, and shadows. 


Lets you add:

  • Properties for ::before and ::after pseudo elements to add content after or before default content in the selector, and style it.
    See CSS Pseudo-elements.
  • Custom CSS code inline to a component and write custom selectors. 

When you add a custom CSS code, it overrides the customization you added using the options in the sidebar. 

Simulate Error/Success

Simulate Error and Success options are available at the bottom of the sidebar. You can see them using a show/hide arrow visible at the bottom of the sidebar. Using Theme Editor, you can style various states of a component.

For example, you add a numeric field in your form, and you specify its styling in theme editor. When a user types an alphanumeric value in the field, you want the background color of the text box to change. You select the numeric field in the theme, and use the state option in the sidebar. You select the Error state in the sidebar, and change the background color to red. To preview the behavior, you can use the Simulate Error option available in the sidebar. Simulate Error and Success options are described in detail below:

  • Simulate Success:
    Lets you see how a component looks if you specify its styling for success state. For example, in a form, customers set password. Users can set password according to guidelines you provide. When a user types a password following all the guidelines you provide, the text box turns green. When the text box turns green, it is in success state. You can specify styling for a component in success state, and simulate its appearance using the Simulate Success option.
  • Simulate Error:
    Lets you see how a component looks if you specify its styling for error state. For example, in a form, customers set password. Users can set password according to guidelines you provide. When a user types a password which does not follow all the guidelines you provide, the text box turns red. When the text box turns red, it is in error state. You can specify styling for a component in error state, and simulate its appearance using the Simulate Error option.

Styling a component

For example, in your form, you have two types of text boxes: one that accepts numeric values only, and other that accepts alphanumeric values. You can customize styling for the text box that accepts numeric values only (a numeric box).

Perform the following steps to customize styling for a particular component (a numeric box in this example):

  1. In the Theme Editor, select the numeric box in the Canvas.
  2. When you select the numeric box, you can see the component toolbar with three options: 
    • Numeric Box Widget
    • Field Widget
  3. Select Numeric Box Widget.
  4. Sidebar title changes to Numeric Box Widget, and shows options to customize its look.
    Use Dimension & Position option in the sidebar to customize size of the component. Ensure that the State is Default

Instead of selecting Numeric Box Widget, select Field Widget in the component toolbar, and perform the steps above. When you select dimensions for Field Widget option, all the text boxes except the numeric box in your form have the same size. 

Styling fields for a given state

With component toolbar, you can also specify styling of components for its different states. For example, if a component is disabled, then it is in a disabled state. Commonly used states of a component that you can style in theme editor are: Default, Focus, Disabled, Error, Success, and Hover. You can select a component in the Canvas and use the State option in sidebar to customize its look. 

Perform the following steps to customize styling for a component in a specific state:

  1. Select a component in the Canvas, and select appropriate option from the component toolbar.
    Sidebar shows options to customize styling for the component. 
  2. Select a state in the sidebar. For example, Error state. 
  3. Use options such as Border, Background in the sidebar to customize how the component looks.
  4. Use the Simulate Error option at the bottom of the sidebar to see how the styling looks in editing. 

When you customize the styling of a component after specifying its state, the customization appears for the component only for the specified state. For example, if you customize styling for the component when hover state is selected. The customization appears for the component when you move your pointer over the component in the rendered form to which you apply the theme.

To simulate behavior of states other than error and success, use Preview mode. To use Preview mode, click Preview in the page toolbar. 

Styling layouts for smaller displays

Use ruler in Canvas to select breakpoints for devices with smaller displays. Click emulator  in Canvas to view ruler and breakpoints. The breakpoints let you preview a form for display sizes pertaining to different devices such as phones and tablets. Multiple display sizes are supported in Theme Editor. 

To style components for different breakpoints:

  1. In the Canvas, select a breakpoint above the ruler. 
    A breakpoint represents a mobile device and its display size.
  2. Use sidebar to customize styling of form components in the theme for the selected display size.
  3. Ensure that the customization is saved.

You can style form components for multiple devices. Form components for desktops and mobile devices can have entirely different styles. 

Integrating web-fonts in theme editor

You can now use fonts available in a web-service. Out-of-the-box, Typekit is available as a configuration and you can use fonts added in your kit in the theme editor. To use Typekit, ensure that you have created a kit, and added fonts in it.

Also, ensure that you have the kit ID handy before you configure Typekit with AEM Forms.

Perform the following steps to configure Typekit in AEM:

  1. In the author instance, click Adobe Experience Manager > Tools > Deployment > Cloud Services.

  2. In the Cloud Services page, under Third Party Services, click Configure Now under Typekit.
    If configurations are already created in your instance, click the + button to create a new instance. 

  3. In the Create Configuration dialog, provide a title for the configuration and click Create.

    You are navigated to the configuration page.

  4. In the Edit Component dialog that appears, provide your Kit ID and click OK.

Perform the following steps to configure a theme to use the TypeKit configuration:

  1. Step text
  2. Step text
  3. Step text
  4. Step text
  5. Step text

Applying a theme to a form

To apply a theme to an adaptive form: 

  1. Open your form in edit mode. 
    To open a form in edit mode, select a form and click Open.
  2. In the edit mode, select a component, then click > Adaptive Form Container, and then click .
    You can edit properties of your form in the sidebar.
  3. In the sidebar, click Styling.
  4. Select your theme from the Adaptive Form Theme drop-down and click Done .

Getting specific Adaptive Form appearance using Themes

With AEM Forms, along with default out-of-the-box canvas theme, there are other themes: Simple Enrolment theme, Advanced Enrolment theme, and Survey theme. If you want to design your form using other themes, along with additional changes, copy the theme from Theme Library folder. Paste the copied themes outside the Theme Library folder, and edit the copied theme according to the changes you want.

To copy a theme, perform the following steps:

  1. In authoring instance, navigate to Adobe Experience Manager > Forms > Themes
  2. Open the Theme Library folder. 
  3. In the Theme Library folder, hover pointer over the corresponding out-of-the-box theme and tap Copy.
  4. Paste the copied theme outside the Theme Library folder. 
  5. Customize the copied theme.

After you customize the theme, apply it to your form. 

Impact on other adaptive form use cases

  • Publish/unpublish a form: On publishing a form, theme applied to is also published (if it is not already published)
  • Import/Export a form: On importing or exporting a form, its associated theme is also automatically imported or exported.
  • References of a form: The Refers section in form references contains an extra entry for the theme.
  • Last Modification time of a form: Updated when the associated theme is changed.
  • A/B Testing: You can apply a different theme to two versions of the form in A/B testing. The information of the two themes is individually stored on the two guide containers. 

CSS generation sequence

When you select view CSS, Theme Editor collects all the styling information, and builds a CSS. It collects information in the following order:

  1. Styling defined in the theme's base client library.
  2. User defined styling, specified using the properties in the sidebar.
  3. CSS style provided using CSS Override option. 

For example, background color of a textbox is blue in the base client library. You change it to pink using the properties in the sidebar. When you generate CSS, you see background color of the text box as pink. After changing the background color using the properties, another author uses CSS override option to change the background color text box as white. When you generate CSS, you see background color as white in the generated CSS.   

Debugging styles

When you specify styles for components in Theme Editor, a CSS is generated. When you style a generic component, multiple components included in it are also styled. For example, when you style a field, the tex box and label in it are also styled. When you style the text box within the field, it gets its own CSS. If you want to debug the CSS generated for the field and the component, Theme Editor provides options that let you view CSS.  

You can see the generated CSS using the following options:

  • View CSS option in the sidebar: When you select a component in the Theme, you can see the VIEW CSS option in the sidebar. It shows the generated CSS, including CSS for ::before and ::after pseudo elements.
  • View Theme CSS option in the canvas toolbar: In the Canvas Toolbar, click  > View Theme CSS. You can see the entire theme CSS generated from the properties you define in the Theme Editor. 

Troubleshooting, recommendations, and best practices

  • Avoiding assets from another Theme
    When you edit a theme, you can browse and add assets (such as images) from other themes. For example, you are editing the background of a page. For example, when you select Page > Background > Add > Image, you see a dialog that lets you browse and add images in other theme. 
  • You can face issues with your current theme if an asset is added from another theme, and the other theme is moved or deleted. It is recommended that you avoid browsing and adding assets from other themes.
  • Using base clientlib, theme editor, and inline styling
    • Base clientlib:
      Base client library contains styling information. To use styling information in client-side libraries in themes.
      1. Navigate to Experience Manager > Forms > Themes
      2. In the Themes page, select a theme and click View Properties.
      3. In the Properties page that opens, click Advanced.
      4. In the Advanced tab, in the Clientlib Location field, browse and select the client-library you want to use. 
      5. Click Save
      The styling you specify in client library is imported in the theme that uses it. For example, you specify styling for text box, numeric box, and switch in the client library. When you import your client library in the theme, styling for text box, numeric box, and switch is imported. You can then style other components using theme editor. 
      You can also create a theme, create copies of it, and then modify the styling provided in the copied themes for similar use-cases.
      See Getting specific Adaptive Form appearance using Themes
    • Theme Editor:
      The Theme Editor lets you create themes to style your form. You can specify styling of components in a theme, that enable consistency in look and feel among multiple forms you develop. Specifying styling information in a theme, and then applying the theme to a form is recommended. 
    • Inline styling:
      You can style components using the Style mode in form editor when you work with a form. Using style mode to change form component styling overrides the styling specified in the theme. If you want to change styling for certain components of a particular form, see Inline styling of adaptive form components.
  • Using client-side libraries
    If you want to create client libraries to import styling information, see Using Client Side Libraries. After you create a client library, you can import it in your theme using the steps mentioned above. 
  • Changing container panel layout width
    Changing container panel layout width is not recommended. When you specify width of a container panel, it becomes static and does not adapt to different displays.
  • When to use form editor or theme editor for working with header and footer
    Use theme editor if you want to style header and footer using styling options such as font style, background, and transparency. 
    If you want to provide information such as a logo image, company name in header, and copyright information in the footer, use the form editor options.