Tab Order -- not maintaining order

Community Beginner ,
Jun 25, 2021 Jun 25, 2021

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I create detailed medical forms for my company, which require frequent updates. I name all form fields, checkboxes, and radio buttons and set the tab order. After making updates to a form, however, the tab order always re-shuffles. In particular, any radio buttons (and sometimes checkboxes and signature fields) drop to the bottom of the tab order list. Fixing the tab order after each form revision is a tediousness time suck.

 

Does anyone have a suggestion / plug-in to avoid this going forward? I appreciate the help!

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Adobe Community Professional , Jun 28, 2021 Jun 28, 2021
If I were to setup the form within Acrobat, wouldn't I need to redo that work (adding form fields and/or specifying tab order) after each time I generate an updated PDF from InDesign? By @Meredith0404
That's correct, @Meredith0404. You'd have to rebuild the form parts each time you edited the PDF Form file. There are some tricks to make it a tad easier, but it's still a lousy, time-consuming workflow. In your InDesign layout, are you controlling your reading orders? If so, which tools and ...

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jun 25, 2021 Jun 25, 2021

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Just wanted to confirm that all this is done in InDesign? Does Acrobat play a role in your process at all?

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Community Beginner ,
Jun 28, 2021 Jun 28, 2021

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That's correct Michael. I set up all form fields and the tab order within InDesign. The final output is an interactive PDF.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jun 25, 2021 Jun 25, 2021

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Once you complete the form in InDesign, it would be easier to set the tab order in Acrobat. Acrobat has much more robust forms features than InDesign has.

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Community Beginner ,
Jun 28, 2021 Jun 28, 2021

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Hi Barbara -- Thanks for your response. If I were to setup the form within Acrobat, wouldn't I need to redo that work (adding form fields and/or specifying tab order) after each time I generate an updated PDF from InDesign?

(Sorry, I don't think I made the current workflow clear in my initial post: My working file is an InDesign document. All edits are made within that file. I currently setup all form fields/functions within InDesign as well. Then the final output is an exported interactive PDF.)

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jun 28, 2021 Jun 28, 2021

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quote

If I were to setup the form within Acrobat, wouldn't I need to redo that work (adding form fields and/or specifying tab order) after each time I generate an updated PDF from InDesign?

By @Meredith0404

 

That's correct, @Meredith0404. You'd have to rebuild the form parts each time you edited the PDF Form file. There are some tricks to make it a tad easier, but it's still a lousy, time-consuming workflow.

 

In your InDesign layout, are you controlling your reading orders? If so, which tools and techniques are you using to do that?

  • Threaded text threads for the visible skeleton portion of the form
  • Anchoring the form fields into the threaded text frames
  • Controlling the stacking order in the layers panel (bottom up: bottommost item is read first).

 

Bevi Chagnon | Designer & Technologist for Accessible InDesign + PDFs |
Books & Classes | PubCom

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Community Beginner ,
Jun 28, 2021 Jun 28, 2021

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Ah, I think you may be on to something here. I have been anchoring checkboxes and radio buttons but not form fields. Therefore, the form fields are getting stacked on top in the layers panel order. That (I believe) explains why those get read first and the radio + checkboxes move to the bottom of the tab order after I make changes to the file. (To answer your other question, the text frames are threaded.)

It just so happens, I have a few forms that require editing this week. I'll see if anchoring the form fields nips the issue and let you know the result.

Thank you all for your input!

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jun 28, 2021 Jun 28, 2021

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@Meredith0404 Let us know how they come out. Improved? Perfect? No change at all?

Helps us share the knowledge.

 

Good luck!

 

Bevi Chagnon | Designer & Technologist for Accessible InDesign + PDFs |
Books & Classes | PubCom

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jun 29, 2021 Jun 29, 2021

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I'm not suggesting to set up the form in Acrobat. Once the InDesign file is saved as PDF, the form field order can be set in Acrobat. These are the choices in Acrobat

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jun 28, 2021 Jun 28, 2021

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Once you complete the form in InDesign, it would be easier to set the tab order in Acrobat. Acrobat has much more robust forms features than InDesign has.

By @Barbara Ash

 

Nah. Disagree 100% with that!

I'm a professional forms designer and teach forms classes in all sorts of programs. I'm also an InDesign expert and designer, as well as an accessibililty expert.

Right now, InDesign has the easiest and most succefful form design tools.

But, to each his/her own tools! So use what you have and know.

 

 

Bevi Chagnon | Designer & Technologist for Accessible InDesign + PDFs |
Books & Classes | PubCom

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Community Beginner ,
Jun 28, 2021 Jun 28, 2021

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Thank you for weighing in Bevi. Given your heavy experience with forms via InDesign, have you experienced the same issue I've described? Any suggestions for a rememdy to form fields reshuffling?

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Community Beginner ,
Jun 28, 2021 Jun 28, 2021

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Ha, we must have been typing at the same time Bevi. You can ignore this post. I just saw your other response.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jun 28, 2021 Jun 28, 2021

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@Meredith0404 wrote above: I create detailed medical forms for my company, which require frequent updates. I name all form fields, checkboxes, and radio buttons and set the tab order. After making updates to a form, however, the tab order always re-shuffles.

 

Yes. It has to do with how the InDesign form was created. Every time you export, you're back to what InDesign has as the various reading orders (RO) for the PDF.

 

Keep in mind that a PDF has 4 ROs:

  1. Tag RO,
  2. TAB RO(or keyboard input is a better description),
  3. architectural/construction RO (what you see in the Order panel...why does this one RO get named "THE Order" is beyond me),
  4. and the form field RO.

The more you control in InDesign, the better. (See previous post) Stacking order in the Layers panel is a big factor.

 

One more item that controls the RO is the Articles Panel. It's not required to control any of the ROs, but it can affect the tag and architectural ROs. So try using the Aticles Panel at the end of your workflow, just before exporting the PDF.

 

Also, make sure you're selecting the option to use the Tag tree for the TAB RO: it's a checkbox in InDesign's export dialogue.

 

Bevi Chagnon | Designer & Technologist for Accessible InDesign + PDFs |
Books & Classes | PubCom

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Community Beginner ,
Jun 28, 2021 Jun 28, 2021

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So much good info -- thanks Bevi!

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