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Growing (Rich) Text Fields in Adobe Interactive Forms

Growing (Rich) Text Fields in Adobe Interactive Forms

I was asked a lot about growing text fields and how to use rich text fields so I put together this blog. A growing text field adjusts its size according to the amount of the text provided by data or text that is entered into a text field. This means that the whole text is visible all the time. For the rest of this blog I will discuss things you need to know to use growing text fields and rich text fields when designing Adobe Interactive Forms (or print forms).

Using rich text

Two types of text are currently supported in Adobe forms: Plain text and rich text. Plain text is unformatted text. Rich text is formatted text that uses for example bold styling or italic styling. Rich text is based on XHTML.

When you want to display editable rich text you have to use a text field. The text field has three important properties in the object window to look at.

    1. Field tab – Field Format: Used to specify the format of a field (Rich text or plain text)
    2. Field tab – Allow Multiple Lines: Used to specify if a text field should show multiple lines
    3. Binding tab – Data Format: Sets the data format of the data a field is bound to (plain text or XHTML)

For the XML data you have to specify a name space for the HTML markup. It is important that the XHTML data fragment has exactly one outer element (the body tag in the sample). The contents of a data file could look like the following:
    Sara Lea

Katrina Lisa


If you forgot how the data format should look like you can do the following. Format a caption in Designer (e.g. make it italics), make sure that the field is selected and then switch to the XML Source. Search for the

Editable text fields

In the value tab of the object window you can specify if the text field is read-only or editable. When a form with an editable rich text field is opened in the Reader plug-in, Reader or Acrobat, a window to format the rich text can be opened with ctrl-e. Please keep in mind that this is not a full-featured word processing application.

A growing text field

A growing text field is a text field whose size is adjusted accordingly to the amount of text contained in the data set or text that was entered. This means that the width or the height of a field can be automatically adjusted. Because the layout of the forms changes the template has to be rendered as a dynamic PDF form. During editing in the text field there is a scroll bar when the text can’t be displayed in the current field. After you have finished editing the field’s content, the layout of the whole form is adjusted to the amount of the entered text. Therefore it is important that you properly used flowed content for subforms in your form design.

To make the text field of the sample a growing text field you have to follow these steps:

  • Make the content of page 1 flowed (select body page 1 and then go to the subform tab in the object window and set content to “Flowed”). Add a second field to the form to see how it is moved when the rich text field is resized.
  • Select the text field and go to the layout window and check “Expand to fit” for the height.
  • Your form has to be a dynamic PDF form to work. You can check this by opening the Form properties dialog and looking at the Defaults tab. XDP Preview Format should be “dynamic PDF”. If you have saved your template as a static PDF you can use “save as” to save it as a dynamic PDF. The “save as” dialog also shows you if it’s a static or a dynamic PDF.
  • Go to the PDF Preview and enter text into the text field. During editing there is a scroll bar to the right of the text field. If not enter more text (use also the enter key). When you exit the text field, the layout of the PDF is adjusted so that all entered text is visible. In this case the height of the text field is increased to show all entered text.
  • Try to add enough text that the text field spans more than one page.


If you encounter an issue with repeated text when printing a PDF that contains a text field spanning multiple pages then you should upgrade Reader to version 7.0.7.

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  • Thanks for the explanation.
    I do not yet see how the fill a rich text from ABAP. I defined a Text Field, I set Allow multiple line and I unchecked Allow plain text only. Then in the binding tab I set XHTML as Data format.
    Filling the ABAP field with XHTML data (like you explained with the namespace), I just get the whole field content. It is not formatted, just printed…
    Could you provide an example of what the ABAP field should contain?
    Thanks a lot,
    • Hi Sergio,

      when you write “the whole field” content, do you mean the mark-up? If yes please check the binding of the text field to the text data node in the form. It might point to the wrong node. An other issue might be that your name space is on the wrong node.


    • Hi Sergio,
      did you succeed in filling dynamically the rich text field? I have apparently the same problem…
      Any help will be greatly appreciated!


  • Hi,

    I am using Netweaver Developer studio’s Adobe designer. I do not see the field “XDP Preview” form properties under default tab.

    I am using Adobe Reader 8.

    can you tell me how to fix this issue. This has been the show stopper for us.

    Appreciate your help.


    • The “PDF Preview” is just another tab beside the “Body Pages” or “Master Pages” tab in Designer. To enable it you have to right click in the area of the tabs and enable the “PDF Preview” option by checking it.
  • Hi,mein italic oder kursiver Text

    mein dicker Bold Text

    In the Template is a textfield “TESTTEXT” with the binding “$record.TESTTEXT” and this field is a Richtext field with XHTML binding.

    While executing the Report there is only this xml code shown in the textfield and not any formated text, how can I force the designer to show some formated rich text ?

    thanks and best regards,

    Matthias Maier

    • Hi,

      Hard to say without the form template. Usually the field format is not correct if you can see the html markup.

      Not sure where you’ve the xml from. It is invalid since it is missing a “>” for the closing body tag. This might be another reason for the behavior you described.


  • Hi Juergen,

    my XML Code is like your example, I just forgott to format it as CODE (because of this there are some tags missing)


        mein italic oder kursiver Text

        mein dicker Bold Text



    In SAP Gui I’m using the Designer 7.1 but I have also the Designer 8.0 installed.

    In my databinding is a field called “MESSAGE” which is filled by an ABAP program.

    The textfield “message” in my template
    – is bound
    – multiple lines ar allowed
    – hight is “expand to fit”
    – the field format is Rich text
    – on Binding tab the data format is “XHTML”


    If you want to, I can send you this template by mail.

    thanks for your help, regards,

      • Hi Matthias,

        Your XML code is fine. It took me two minutes to build a form in Designer that showed that your text is formatted as rich text.

        You can use both versions of the Designer.

        The hierarchy of your form also looks strange: There is no body page and look where the text field is in the hierarchy.

        Here are my suggestions:
        * Redo the form
        * Use standalone Designer if you want to do some verification
        * Post your question in the IFbA forum, which is the better approach since the community is looking into the forum and might be able to help out as well
        * You can reach out to me if this doesn’t help but today is my last day in the office this year

        Best regards,

  • Hi Juergen,

    I’ve solved this problem, I just forgott to define the xmf file in the form properties
    (file – properties – default).

    Thanks for your advise.
    Best regards,

  • Yhank you for this example, it’s was very helpfull for me.
    But I have a problem with tag – text marked this text don’t display.
    Where can I see full set of possible tags?
    • Only a subset of HTML is supported. You can find this information in the XFA Specification. I wrote a blog on available documentation. This blogs tells you where to get the spec.