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Set Tab Order of Form Fields

Set Tab Order of Form Fields

If you’ve ever filled out a web form or a PDF form, you probably know that when the cursor is in a field, you can press the Tab key to go to the next field or Shift+Tab to go to the previous field. But how is the order determined? It’s called the tab order and it’s based on the PDF document structure (by default), but you are going to change that next.

Looking in the Fields area of the Forms task pane, you can see the order of the fields. First, you will test out the tab order and see how it works.

  1. With the PDF form open, click the Preview button in the toolbars and insert the cursor in one of the top fields. Make sure that the Highlight Existing Fields button is selected so that all of the fields are highlighted.
  2. Press the Tab key a bunch of times to see how the cursor makes its way from field to field (see Figure 14).
  3. Click the Edit button in the toolbars to edit the form again.
  4. Figure 14 Test the tab order of the form

  5. To see the tab order in the form, choose Show Tab Numbers from the Tab Order menu in the Fields task pane. Click OK in the dialog that appears (see Figure 15). You will see numbers on all of the fields in the PDF indicating their order in tabbing.
  6. Figure 15 Show the tab numbers on the form

  7. Click the Sort By option in the Fields task pane and choose Tab Order to see the tab order in the Fields area of the Forms task pane (see Figure 16).
  8. Figure 16 Reorder the fields in the Forms task pane

  9. Drag the fields in order from top to bottom to set the tabbing order of the fields (see Figure 17).
  10. Figure 17 Drag to set the tab order of the fields

  11. To hide the tab order in the form, right–click (Windows) or Ctrl–click (Mac OS) on any field and choose Show Tab Numbers.
  12. Test out the PDF by clicking the Preview button in the toolbar and marvel at the progress you’ve made!
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