Creating a Fillable PDF Template on InDesign


I’m hoping someone here can help me out.

The goal is to create a PDF template for others in my organization to be able to edit themselves. This will be a guidebook that is expected to be anywhere between 50 and 100 pages long that I will create on Indesign.

Any suggestions on best practice on how to execute something like this? The template will have title pages and different sections that I believe would be built in to the PDF template - but the rest of the copy would be typed in by others, more than likely in adobe acrobat.

Any help, advice, and suggestions would be greatly appreciated! (Also if more clarification is needed, please let me know and I will try my best to explain further).

I’d advise against it. An editable PDF template will not allow for text that crosses multiple pages and “expands” to add pages. This is an age old request where people want a nice design, but they want it to be like word where they can modify and update.

How often will they be modifying or updating? How many versions are you talking about? What I mean is where there be 25 separate guidebooks that people are maintaining? 4? 100?

I had a somewhat similar situation at work on a smaller scale, where I had a weekly newsletter where there were 4 or 5 groups responsible for their sections. I then defined paragraph and character styles in InDesign to design the overall look of the newsletter. I then created an MS Word file where I created (and this is key) identically named paragraph and character styles and showed the submitters how to use the styles in Word and provided a basic MS Word template with the various heads, subheads, body copy, etc.

Once they were trained, and once they had the MS Word template. They would write their copy. I would then use File/Place and select their word doc but check the “show import options” checkbox and then make sure the “import styles automatically” was selected and boom, the text came in all pre-formatted using my designed styles.

I had done this because they keep submitting and changing things last minute, and this way instead of me having to track and figure out the multiple changes, I just had to place their updated Word Doc

If that won’t work for you, you could look into Adobe InCopy, but that requires additional licensing since your writers would need to have Adobe InCopy.

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I had a feeling that was the case. I designed an interactive workbook to go along with some course material and ever since then the project managers have been like, MAKE MORE MAKE MORE - DO IT FOR THIS! (Even if it’s not the most practical option).

They do tend to revise the copy, a lot… so I do like your idea of using the word doc to make life a little easier and I will make sure to bring that up with them as they are preparing the document to have everything as it should be for when I transfer it to indesign.

Thanks CraigB!

Well, my thought was, even if it is 50-100 pages, if the content is relatively straightforward (i.e. no embedded charts and graphs) they can control the word doc and then just send to you when it gets updated. You place the MS Word doc with it’s defined styles into your template and for the most part the hard work is done.

I feel your pain though. If you are an in house designer this sort of thing comes up a lot. They want the look of a well executed and branded design, but they want to do what they always do which is mess with things in Word (or PowerPoint).

I actually recently created a PDF form for a one page bio of sorts for some of our employees and it works well, but that is because it is a single page and not a multi-page piece. IMO PDF forms work best for simple one (or maybe two) page documents or (surprise, surprise) for actual forms (such as the sort of form you might fill out at a doctor’s office for example.)

“InDesign simplifies creating fillable PDF templates. Design your layout, add form fields using buttons, text boxes, and dropdowns. Utilize the ‘Export to Interactive PDF’ feature for a user-friendly experience.”