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How to Insert Simple Instructions into Acrobat PDF Form Fields

Adding form features in Acrobat is simple. Just pick the type of form feature —whether a single line of text, a scrolling window, a checkbox, etc. — and draw it to fit the area or spot desired. Then style it by selecting font, font size, and many other options.

Adding a Message or Instructions in an Acrobat Text Field

A nice feature to add to Acrobat forms is a message or instruction on what to put in the text field created. This not only helps the user know what should be entered in a form field, but it can also ensure that the form’s recipient gets the information he really wants.

For example, a phone number might be requested in a form but someone might not enter the area code, which could likely render the information useless. An instructional message could be placed in the form field that says “Enter Area Code with Phone Number.” When the user clicks on that field, the message disappears and allows the user to enter the phone number.

Entering a Custom Message Using JavaScript Editor

After creating a text field, simply double-click on the field to call up the “Text Field Properties” dialog box. This is where to enter the information for the custom message. (This dialog box is also where one can alter the appearance of the text.) Click on the “Format” tab and from the pop-up menu choose “Custom.” The area below shows the “Custom Format Script” information. Click “Edit…” and a JavaScript Editor appears.

The JavaScript is very simple and easy to add. It only entails entering a simple script (which may be copied from the example below). This is the script:


// If field is blank, display this text

if (!event.value) event.value = “Subject”;

Copy and paste this into the Javascript Editor. Where it says “Subject”, type in the custom message in between the quotation marks. Then click “OK”. The script with the custom message is now shown in the “Custom Format Script” area, and the message should also be visible in the field on the Acrobat form.

Test the field by using Acrobat’s selection tool. The message will disappear and one’s own text can be entered.

Different Kinds of Messages

Here are some ideas for custom messages that could be used in an Acrobat form:

  • Name: “First, Middle Initial, Last Name”
  • ZIP: “Or Postal Code”
  • Parent: “Or Legal Guardian”
  • Previous Employer: “Name, Address, Phone (with Area Code)”

Acrobat’s form features are great for transforming any designed form into an interactive document that anyone can use with Adobe Reader. Using custom messages are a great tool to aid users in entering correct information, and making sure the recipient gets the content they need.


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