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PDF form field properties

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This document explains the PDF form field properties in Acrobat. (If you are looking for more information on form fields properties, click the appropriate link above)


About form field properties

How a form field behaves is determined by settings in the Properties dialog box for that individual field. You can set properties that apply formatting, determine how the form field information relates to other form fields, impose limitations on what the user can enter in the form field, trigger custom scripts, and so on.

You can set various properties for an Acrobat form field, depending on the form field type. The properties for each type of form field are selected on a series of tabs. When you change a property, it is applied as soon as you select another property or press Enter.

All types of form fields have a General tab and an Actions tab. Other tabs appear only in specific types of form fields. The Options tab appears for most form field types but the options available are unique to each type of form field.

Two items are available on every tab. If you select one on any tab, a check mark will appear, and the option will be checked on all tabs. These are:


When selected, prevents any further changes to any form field properties.


Closes the form field Properties dialog box. If you are changing the properties of multiple fields, you can leave the Properties dialog box open. Click each field to change its properties.


If you select Locked on any tab, it locks all options for the field, not just the options on that tab.

Modify form field properties

You can access form field properties only when you are in editing mode. You can change the properties for multiple form fields at a time.

  1. If you are not in form editing mode, choose Tools > Prepare Form.

  2. Open the Properties dialog box using one of the following methods:
    • To edit a single form field, double-click it or right-click it and choose Properties.

    • To edit multiple form fields, select the fields that you want to edit, right-click one of the selected fields, and choose Properties.

  3. Change the properties on each of the available tabs, as needed.

    The property is changed as soon as you select another property or press Enter.

  4. Click Close.

If you select form fields that have different property values, some options in the Properties dialog box are not available. Otherwise, changes to the available options are applied to all selected form fields.


To avoid accidental changes to the form field, select Locked in the lower-left corner of the Properties dialog box before you close it. To unlock, click the option again.

General tab for form field properties

The General tab appears for all types of form fields and includes the following options:


Specifies the unique name of the selected form field.


Displays text that the hesitant user may find helpful in filling in the form field. Tooltips appear when the pointer hovers briefly over the form field.

Form Field

Specifies whether the form field can be seen, either on screen or in print. The choices are: Visible, Hidden, Visible But Doesn’t Print, and Hidden But Printable.


Rotates the form field by 0, 90, 180, or 270 Degrees

Read Only

Prevents the user from changing the form field content.


Forces the user to fill in the selected form field. If the user attempts to submit the form while a required field is blank, an error message appears and the empty required form field is highlighted.

Appearance tab for form field properties

Appearance properties determine how the form field looks on the page. The Appearance tab appears for all types of form fields except barcodes, and includes the following options:

Border Color

Opens a color picker in which you can select a color swatch for the frame surrounding the field. To leave the field without a frame, select No Color.

Line Thickness

Specifies the width of the frame surrounding the form field: Thin, Medium, or Thick.

Fill Color

Opens a color picker in which you can select a color swatch for the background behind the field. To leave the field uncolored, select No Color.

note: A Fill Color choice other than No Color will block any images on the PDF page that are behind the form field.

Line Style

Alters the appearance of the frame. Select Solid, Dashed, Beveled, Inset, or Underline.

Font Size

Sets the size of user-entered text or of the selection marker for radio buttons and check boxes. The choices include Auto, various preset values, and typing in a different value. If you select Auto for a text field, as the user types, the font size changes to fit the text in the box.

Text Color

Opens a color picker in which you can select a color swatch for the text or selection marker.


Lists the fonts available on your computer. This option is not available for form fields that do not display text.


The Enable Right-To-Left Language Options in the Language panel of the Preferences dialog box affects what appears in the Appearance tab of the Properties dialog box. When that preference is selected, the Appearance tab includes options for changing the digit style and text direction for text fields, drop-down list boxes, and list boxes.

Position tab for form field properties

The Position tab lets you position or size the currently selected field or fields to an accuracy of up to 10,000th of an inch. You can move fields to the location you specify on the page. Use the Height and Width options to change only the size of fields. To move fields without resizing them, choose Do Not Change Height And Width When Changing The Position.

Form field accuracy upto 10,000th of an inch

Options tab for form field properties

The options available on this tab change according to the type of form field selected. The Options tab appears for all form field types except digital signatures.


The Options tab for barcode field properties contains the following:


Includes the PDF417, QR Code, and Data Matrix barcode types.

note: If your organization processes forms by multiple methods, select the method that accommodates the lowest quality barcode images. For example, if forms will be returned by fax and mail, choose Fax Server as the decode condition to ensure high read rates on all forms.

Compress Data Before Encoding To Barcode

Specifies that data will be compressed before it is encoded. Data is compressed with the Flat compression method. Compressed data usually requires less storage space in the barcode, allowing more data to be stored. In general, select this option if you will use the Acrobat barcode forms decoder to interpret the returned data. Do not select this option if you will use a handheld barcode scanner, because most of these cannot decode compressed data.

Decode Condition

The preset decode conditions represent recommended starting points that you can adjust by clicking the Custom button.


Opens a dialog box in which you can select custom processing parameters that are best for your specific scanning and faxing hardware. (The available options vary according to barcode types.)

X Dimension

Width, in mils (1 mil = 0.001 inch or 0.0254mm), of the cell.

Y/X Ratio

Height/width ratio of the cell. For example, for a data cell that is twice as high as it is wide, enter 2. (Available only for PDF417 barcodes.)

note: If you are planning to decode the barcode using a handheld laser scanner, avoid creating barcodes wider than 4 inches (10.2 cm). Taller and narrower barcodes generally work better with handheld scanners. Barcode height and width will not be an issue if you are using an Adobe barcode decoder (available separately).

Error Correction Level

Corresponds to the level of data redundancy that is added to the barcode to correct any potential decoding errors. Higher levels provide more redundancy and a more robust barcode that will generate more successful decode results. However, higher levels will also result in a larger barcode and a reduced ability to encode user-supplied or form structure data into the barcode. A more robust barcode can reduce problems created by pen marks, poor print quality, degradation caused by fax transmission, or folds in the document. This option is available for PDF417 and QR Code barcodes.

Manage Barcode Parameters

Enables you to save your custom barcode selections in a file. You can then export the file and make it available to other form authors in your organization.

Check boxes

Check Box Style

Specifies the shape of the marker that appears inside the check box when the user selects it: Check (the default), Circle, Cross, Diamond, Square, or Star. This property does not alter the shape of the check box itself.

Note: The size of the marker inside the check box is determined by the size of the font you specify in the Appearance tab.

Export Value

Specifies a value to represent the item if the data will be exported. If left blank, the entry for Name in the General tab is used as the export value.

Check Box Is Checked By Default

Shows the check box selected unless the user deselects it.

For either dropdown boxes or list boxes, you use the Options tab to create a list of items from which the user selects.

Although most of the properties on this tab are common to both these types of form fields, a few are exclusive to one type or the other.


Accepts the text that you type for options that you want to appear in the menu for the field.


Moves the current entry in Item to the Item List.

Export Value

Where you type in a value to represent the item if the data will be exported. If left blank, the entry for Name in the General tab is used as the export value.

Item List

Displays the choices that will be available in the list.

note: The highlighted item in the Item List box appears as the default selected item in the dropdown box or list box field. To change the default item, highlight another item from the list.

Up and Down buttons

Change the order in which the items are listed in the drop-down list. These buttons are not available if Sort Items is selected.


Removes the selected item from the list.

Sort Items

Arranges the listed items numerically and alphabetically. A numerical sort (if applicable) is performed before an alphabetical sort.

Allow User To Enter Custom Text

(Dropdown only) Enables users to enter a value other than the ones in the list.

Check Spelling

(Dropdown only) Checks the spelling of user-entered text. This option is applicable only if Allow User To Enter Custom Text is selected.

Multiple Selection

(List boxes only) Enables users to choose more than one item in the list.

Commit Selected Value Immediately

Saves the value as soon as the user selects it. If this option is not selected, the value is saved only when the user tabs out of the current field or clicks another form field. For list boxes only, this option is not available if Multiple Selection is selected.

Radio buttons

Create a group of radio buttons if you want the user to select only one choice among a set of choices. All the radio buttons in a group have the same Name, but each button has a different Button Value.

Button Style

Specifies the shape of the marker that appears inside the button when the user selects it: Check, Circle (the default), Cross, Diamond, Square, or Star. This property does not alter the shape of the radio button itself.

Radio Button Choice

Identifies the radio button and differentiates it from other radio buttons that have the same Name value.

Button Is Checked By Default

Sets the selection state of the button when the user first opens the form.

Buttons With The Same Name And Content Are Selected In Unison

Allows single-click selection of multiple related radio buttons. For example, if the user selects a radio button that has the same field name and selected content as another, both radio buttons are selected.

Text Fields

Text fields accept user input, which can be alphabetic characters, numbers, or both.


Aligns the text left, right, or center within the field.

Default Value

Specifies the text that appears until the user overwrites it by typing in the field. Enter the default value by typing in this option.


Allows more than a single-line entry in the text field.

Scroll Long Text

Compensates for text that extends beyond the boundaries of the text field.

Allow Rich Text Formatting

Allows users to apply styling information to the text, such as bold or italic. This might be useful in certain text fields where such styling information is important to the meaning of the text, such as an essay.

Limit Of Characters

Allows entries of up to the number of characters you specify.


If you entered a default value, that value is clipped to this limit.


Displays the user-entered text as a series of asterisks (*). This option is available only if Check Spelling is deselected.

Field Is Used For File Selection

Allows the user to enter a file path as the field’s value when a file is submitted along with the form. This option is available only when Scroll Long Text is the only selected option in the Options tab.

Check Spelling

Checks the spelling of user-entered text.

Comb Of Characters

Spreads the user-entered text evenly across the width of the text field. If a border color is specified in the Appearance tab, each character entered in the field is separated by lines of that color. This option is available only when no other check box is selected.

Text fields in Acrobat
Text fields with and without the Comb property

A. Four text fields with a border color, using the Comb property B. Text field without the Comb property 

Actions tab for form field properties

Actions properties specify any actions that you want to associate with the form field, such as jumping to a specific page or playing a media clip. The Actions tab appears for all types of form fields and includes the following options:

Select Trigger

Specifies the user action that initiates an action: Mouse Up, Mouse Down, Mouse Enter, Mouse Exit, On Focus, or On Blur.

Select Action

Specifies the event that occurs when the user triggers the action: Execute A Menu Item, Go To A 3D/Multimedia View, Go To A Page View; Import Form Data, Multimedia Operation (Acrobat 9 and later), Open A File, Open A Web Link, Play A Sound, Play Media (Acrobat 5 Compatible), Play Media (Acrobat 6 And Later Compatible), Read An Article, Reset A Form, Run A JavaScript, Set Layer Visibility, Show/Hide A Field, and Submit A Form.


Opens a window for the selected action.


Displays the list of triggers and actions that you’ve defined.

Up and down buttons

Change the order in which the selected action appears listed under the trigger. (Available only when you have defined multiple actions for the same trigger.)


Opens a dialog box with specific options for the selected action.


Removes the selected action or trigger-action pair.

Calculate tab for form field properties

The Calculate tab appears in the Properties dialog boxes for only text fields and dropdown boxes. Use these options to perform mathematical operations on existing form field entries and display the result.

Value Is Not Calculated

Select this if you want the user to type.

Value Is The

Select this to make further options available:

Pop-up menu

Lists the mathematical functions to apply to the selected fields. Choose Sum to add the values entered in the selected fields, Product to multiply them, Average, Minimum, or Maximum.


Opens a dialog box with a list of the available fields in the form that you select to add or deselect to remove from the calculation.

Simplified Field Notation

Uses JavaScript with field names and simple arithmetic signs. The Edit button opens a dialog box in which you can write, edit, and add scripts.


Field names are case-sensitive.

Custom Calculation Script

Displays any custom scripts you have added for calculations. The Edit button opens a dialog box in which you can write and add new JavaScripts.

Set the calculation order of form fields

When you define two or more calculations in a form, the order in which they are carried out is the order in which you defined the calculations. In some cases, you may need to modify the calculation order to obtain correct results.

For example, if you wanted to use the result obtained from calculating two form fields to calculate the value of a third form field, the first two form fields must be calculated together first to obtain the correct final results.

  1. In the right hand pane, choose More > Set Field Calculation Order.

    The Calculate Fields dialog box displays all calculable fields in your form and the order in which the calculations are performed.

  2. To change the field calculation order, select the field from the list, and then click the Up or Down button as needed.

Acrobat automatically performs all assigned field calculations when you are creating and testing your form fields. For convenience, while you work, you can turn off automatic calculation in the forms preferences.

Signed tab for form field properties

The Signed tab is available only in the Digital Signature Properties dialog box. Selections made here determine what happens when the user applies a digital signature to the form.

Nothing Happens When Signed

This is the default.

Mark As Read-Only

Prevents further changes to the digitally signed form, according to the selection in the pop-up menu:

All Fields

Prevents any changes to any form field.

All Fields Except These

Allows changes only to the form fields you select by clicking the Pick button and selecting check boxes for the fields that you want the user to be able to edit after signing.

Just These Fields

Prevents changes in only the form fields you pick.

This Script Executes When Field Is Signed

Activates a custom JavaScript when the user digitally signs the form. Use the Edit button to change or create a new JavaScript action.

Format tab for form field properties

The Format tab appears in the Properties dialog box for only text form fields or dropdown form fields. The options that are available depend on your selection in the Select Format Category pop-up menu.

The Example of Current Format field displays a live preview of the settings.


No additional options are available. The input in a text or dropdown box with this property does not require any specific formatting.


Automatically imposes the selected formatting options on numeric data entries.

Decimal Places

Sets the number of digits that appear to the right of the decimal point.

Separator Style

Sets the placement of commas and periods.

Currency Symbol

Sets the type of currency, such as Euros, Dollars, or Yen.

Symbol Location

Sets the location of the currency symbol in relation to the number. This field is enabled if a currency symbol is selected.

Negative Number Style

Sets how negative numbers are displayed. You can choose Show Parentheses, Use Red Text, neither, or both.


Automatically imposes the selected formatting options on numeric data expressed as a percentage.

Decimal Places

Sets the number of digits that appear to the right of the decimal point

Separator Style

Sets the placement of commas and periods.


List includes one-, two-, and four-digit variations where d stands for the day, m stands for month, and y stands for year.


List includes display variations where h stands for the hour on a 12-hour clock, H stands for the hour on a 24-hour clock, MM stands for minutes, ss stands for the seconds, and tt stands for AM or PM.


Zip Code

For a five-digit U.S. postal code.

Zip Code + 4

For a nine-digit U.S. postal code.

Phone Number

For a ten-digit telephone number.

Social Security Number

For a nine-digit U.S. Social Security Number. Hyphens are inserted automatically after the third and fifth digits.

Arbitrary Mask

Changes the format category to Custom and makes another text field available, in which you can type a custom format. Use this option to specify which types of characters the user can enter in any given position, and how the data displays in the field.


Accepts only letters (A–Z, a-z).


Accepts spaces and most printable characters, including all characters available on a standard keyboard and ANSI characters in the ranges of 32–126 and 128–255.


The letter “O” accepts alphanumeric characters (A–Z, a-z, and 0–9).


Accepts only numeric characters (0–9).

For example, a mask setting of AAA--p#999 accepts the input BOE--p#767. A mask setting of OOOOO@XXX accepts the input vad12@3Up.

Arbitrary Mask entry in Acrobat
Example of an Arbitrary Mask entry


Makes additional options available to form designers who want to write their own JavaScripts for formatting and keystrokes. For example, a custom script could define a new currency format or limit the user entry to specific keystroke characters.

Custom Format Script

Displays any custom scripts you have added for formats. The Edit button opens a dialog box in which you can write and add new scripts.

Custom Keystroke Script

Displays any custom scripts you have added to validate keystrokes. The Edit button opens a dialog box in which you can write and add new scripts.

To get the JavaScript for Acrobat API Reference, see the Acrobat Developer Center at (PDF, English only).

Validation tab for form field properties

The Validation tab appears only in the Text Field Properties and Dropdown box Properties dialog boxes. Validation properties restrict entries to specified ranges, values, or characters, ensuring that users enter the appropriate data for a specified form field.

Field Value Is Not Validated

Turns off validation.

Field Value Is In Range

Sets a numeric range for form fields using values you enter in either as a number or a percentage.

Run Custom Validation Script

Validates by a JavaScript that you create or provide.

Value tab for form field properties

The Value tab appears for barcode form fields only.

Encode Using

Activates these options:


Encodes the data into the barcode in standard XFDF format. JavaScript script is automatically generated.

Tab Delimited

Encodes the fields into the barcode as tab-delimited values. JavaScript script is automatically generated. If the form is configured to output the data in individual XFDF or XDP files, the data must be in a tab-delimited format with the field names in the first line. This option is also useful if you want to fit more data into a barcode or if you intend to copy the data into database or spreadsheet tables.


Opens a dialog box in which you select which user data fields will be encoded in the barcode for you to retrieve.

Include Field Names

(Available only when Tab Delimited encoding is selected.) Encodes field names as the first line of the barcode contents. The values are encoded under them.

Custom Calculation Script

Displays the default script. Click the Edit button to open the JavaScript Editor dialog box, in which you can write custom calculation scripts for your barcode.

Reference To published Form

Shows the path to the PDF form. You can edit this by typing in the URL to the published form. Later, you can re-create a digital version of the completed form by merging the form template with an instance of user-supplied data. You can also maintain the relationship between a specific form template and its related barcode data files. When you encode a barcode using XML values, the URL reference is encoded into the barcode and is displayed on the form, below the barcode.

A type of barcode, with the URL reference below
A type of barcode, with the URL reference below

Manage custom barcode settings

You can save, reuse, and share a set of custom settings for barcode parameters, to apply them when you create new barcode form fields. You can make further adjustments to your custom parameter sets after you define them.

All of these processes begin by opening the barcode form field properties dialog box. To open the properties dialog box, double-click the barcode field.

Create a new barcode parameters set

  1. In the Barcode Field Properties dialog box, click the Options tab, and then click Manage Barcode Parameters.

  2. Select the existing parameter set that you want to use as the basis of the new set, and click New.

  3. Type a name in the Name box and a description in the Description box.

  4. Select options for Symbology, X Dimension, Y/X Ratio, and Error Correction Level, and then click OK.

The newly defined parameter set appears in the list in the Manage Barcode Parameters dialog box, and all the buttons on the right side of the dialog box become available. The new definition also appears in the Decode Condition menu in the Options tab of the Barcode Field Properties dialog box.

Edit or delete a set of custom barcode parameters

  1. In the Barcode Field Properties dialog box, click the Options tab, and then click Manage Barcode Parameters.

  2. Select a custom parameter set from the list.
  3. Choose the appropriate action:
    • Click Edit and make the changes to the settings; then click OK.

    • Click Delete. Confirm the deletion in the message that appears by clicking OK.

Export or import a set of custom barcode parameters

  1. In the Barcode Field Properties dialog box, click the Options tab, and then click Manage Barcode Parameters.

  2. Choose the appropriate action:
    • Select a barcode parameter set from the list and click Export. Select a location and file name for the file that has the file name extension .bps.

    • Click Import, and navigate to and select the BPS file that you want to import.

Redefine form field property defaults

After you change properties for a specific type of form field, you can set those properties as the default set for that type. For example, you can create a checkbox, change its properties, and then save the properties as the default values. The default values can be only for Appearance and Size related attributes of the field. Properties for format related attributes like Date cannot be set as default.

  1. If necessary, choose Tools > Prepare Form to go to form-editing mode.

  2. Right-click the form field for which you have already changed properties, and choose Use Current Properties As New Defaults.


Changing the default properties does not change the settings for existing form fields of that type. The new defaults apply only to new fields that you create.

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