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Understanding Form Field Types

For help you may press the F1 key while viewing a form. Please be advised that you must have version 8 of the FREE Adobe Click here to download Adobe Reader 8Reader 8® in order to save PDF documents.

Before you start filling out Adobe® PDF forms, look over the types of fields on the forms and identify the common items you typically see on forms.


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  • Text fields.   Text fields are placeholders for both text and numbers. Text fields can be assigned special formats such as date fields, telephone numbers, social security numbers, and more. When you type text in fields assigned with special formats, you need to enter data that conforms to the format type. For example, typing your name in a field is not acceptable if the field is formatted as a date field. When entering data in text fields and all other field types, use the Hand tool.
  • Check box fields.  Check boxes are designed for selecting one or more items in a group. You can check a check box by clicking it with the Hand tool, and remove the checkmark by clicking a checked box.
  • Combo box.  Combo boxes are like pull-down menus. Click a down arrow to open the menu, and select an item from the list. You can make only a single selection from combo box choices.
  • List box.  List boxes are similar to combo boxes but the box contains scroll bars and has no pull-down menu. The primary distinction between this field type and combo boxes is that list boxes can be used to make multiple choices that option is up to the PDF author.
    TIP - To select multiple items in a list box, press the Ctrl/Command key and click each item you want to select. If you can't select more than a single item in a list box, then the PDF author designed the field to accept only a single response. 
  • Radio buttons. Radio buttons can look much like check boxes, and you may not see the difference when using them on a form. A radio button is typically (though not always) shaped like a circle, which differs from choices available for check boxes. The main distinction between radio buttons and check boxes is that once you click a radio button, you can't remove the check mark/bullet by clicking on it again. Often Radio buttons are used for either/or conditions or a single choice from within a group.
You can use the following keyboard shortcuts to navigate and edit fields:
  • Tab.  Press the Tab key to move from one field to another. If the PDF author set the proper tab order, the cursor jumps to the next logical field when you press the Tab key. If the cursor jumps around the page when you press Tab, use the Hand tool and click on fields you want to edit.
  • Shift+Tab.  Moves the cursor to the previous field.
  • Esc/Return/Enter.  Ends text entry.
  • Up/down arrow keys.  For combo boxes and list boxes, press the up and down arrow keys to move up and down the lists. Press Tab after making a selection.
  • Up arrow key in text fields.  Moves to the beginning of the text line.
  • Down arrow key in text fields.  Moves to the end of the line of text.
  • Select All. With the cursor inside a Text field, press Ctrl/Command+A to select all existing text. Press any key, and the selected text is deleted and replaced by the character you type.
  • Double-click.  Double-click a word in a text field to select it.
  • Triple-click.  Triple-click inside a text box and all text is selected. This keyboard shortcut is the same as using Select All.

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