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Formatting a Text Box

The Text Box Tool, part of the drawing comments on the Comment and Markup Tools toolbar, allows you to draw, well, a box with text in it. At first glance it’s not immediately obvious that you have full control over the formatting of the text in it, as well as the box it’s in. But you do, actually. This applies to Acrobat 8 and earlier.

To format the text, select what you want changed, then press Ctrl+E (Windows) or Cmd+E (Mac). That will open Acrobat’s Properties Bar. From here you can choose font, weight, color, size, alignment, underline, strikethrough and super-/subscript attributes.


To format the box itself, click on the border to select the box (you’ll see the corner grab handles) then right-/ctrl-click and choose Properties… Or you can use the Properties Bar again: it’s context sensitive, and clicking on the box border will now give you the options to set fill and border color, line style, and opacity.


The Properties Bar comes to life during other tasks in Acrobat. I’ll let you discover those on your own.


    Googling through help, I discovered this site. I very much appreciate your blog as font and color were significant issues to me.

    Q: How to set the default setting for the Text Box? Changing the font size as above mentioned only works on one Text Box!

    A: Just as would any other annotation! Set up a Text Box just the way you want. Then with the Hand Tool selected, right-click on the Text Box and choose “Make Current Properties Default”.

    This is driving me crazy – I’m now using acrobat 8 and no longer have formating for the text box tool – and the text is way too big. This is one of the primary reasons I have acrobat and they took away text box tool text formating…why?

    A: No, it’s definitely there – I wrote this article and took the screenshots using Acrobat 8. You may need to contact support or post to the Adobe online forums if you’re still having problems. – Ali

    Q: “Text Box Text Properties” bar – “This applies to Acrobat 8 and earlier” – What about Acrobat “9”? I ‘select’ text to format, but my ‘new’ ‘improved’ “Properties Bar” ‘says’ “No current selection” – Thx

    A: It works the same in Acrobat 9! Make sure you have the cursor in the Text Box itself, then open the Properties Bar (Ctrl/Cmd + E). – Ali

    I believe that the last Q&A missed the point—the question relates to what is (I think) an actual bug in Acrobat. I found, in Acrobat 8, that no matter what I selected, the properties bar said “no current selection.”
    I solved this by closing all instances of Acrobat, including an instance embedded in a browser window, and reopening the document. The bug disappeared. I am guessing that Acrobat gets confused when it’s simultaneously open in a browser window (where the functionality is limited) and a program window.
    This is a common problem that I’ve seen asked, but never solved, on several websites. I hope this helps.

    [From Ali: This may have been a bug, and it may have been addressed with the latest v8 updates or with v9, so I’ll have to get back to you on this one. It should be noted that the Properties Toolbar doesn’t work in the browser, and the conflict could be there. Separately, sometimes you need make sure the border of the comment is selected, not the text within it.]

    Answer to the “No Current Selection” bug: Close all instances of Acrobat, particularly any embedded in a browser which have limited functionality. THEN open the file you want to edit with your full Adobe version and it should work normally. There appears to be a bug that opens subsequent sessions with the some of the limitations carried over from browser embeds to the full version.

    I have a project management system where I use HTML to browse and view my project files, and edit them with Word and Acrobat when necessary. If I am currently viewing any PDF’s in a Firefox tab I forgot to close, I have this problem.

    I hope this cures some frustrations out there!

    [From Ali: Thanks for the additional information Rob.]

    OK, OK. I get how to change the text in the Review & Comment textbox. HOWEVER, the problem is the properties default. On your comment dated April 9, 2008, you say “Make Current Properties Default,” but that only works for fill color and border color and thickness. It does not allow you to change the font default from red to black! In fact, whenever I click black for a font color on the Properties Bar, the bar essentially shuts down.

    I take it back, sort of. I’ve just managed to change the font default to black. But, still, why would Adobe make its own default red?

    [FROM ALI: It’s good practice to make any comments or markup standout from the main content. Black text on a white page is what most people use, hence the default of red. And I distinctly remember all my high school teachers using a red pen when correcting my homework!]

    Here’s what I think is going on with the ‘default properties’ problem (on a Mac anyway):
    – you can set the TEXT properties by first selecting text, as expected.
    – you can set the TEXT BOX properties by first selecting the border, as expected.
    – the right click to set current properties as default ONLY appears for Text Boxes (not as expected)

    But……. that single action WILL also remember any new properties you had set for TEXT as new defaults (as well as the actual box properties) !

    Rather unintuitive, but it worked for me !

    PS I forgot to add that this seems to work for Text Box comments but not for the Typewriter tool – I have never found out how to change that from Courier…….

    I have managed to adjust the font size following the tips set out on this page (much appreciated), but how do you resize the text box to fit the text?

    You will need to click away from the text box first, then click on its border and use the corner grab handles to resize the box.

    I’ve browsed the forums hoping to find help on Adobe fillable forms. I still have not found how to underline words in a properties box, by properties I mean the area that is the fillable section for “others” to fill out, not the original form itself. I’ve tried the explanations above but still cannot use underline. What am I doing wrong? I realize the fault may be self imposed and not the program, so be patient. Thank you in advance.

    If I understand your question correctly, Linda, you need to make sure the PDF form field properties include the option for “Rich text formatting”. For example, in Acrobat this is under the Options tab for the Field Properties. In LiveCycle Designer, you will find this under the Field tab of the Objects palette. Those people filling in forms can then underline text by right-clicking in the field, or opening the Properties Bar from the View menu or by pressing Ctrl/Cmd+E. – Ali

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU! I was hoping it was a simple command that wouldn’t require a brain transplant on my part. You have saved my day!

    Happy to help! – Ali

    Thank you so much! I thought I’d always have to use the default large-size red font. I just wish that Adobe had instructions like you provided. I always have to Google and find answers from real people instead of the people who design the software. Thanks again!!!

    In reference to:
    > Posted by: Brian Hagerty | August 15, 2008 9:43 PM
    > Answer to the “No Current Selection” bug: Close all
    > instances of Acrobat,

    This worked.

    on 13-Oct-2010, I went to HELP > Check for updates
    – It updated to Adobe Standard 8.2.5
    – I tried again and it said “no updates available”

    The bug still exists after the updates!
    When will Adobe repair this bug? (its been over a year!)

    WinXP SP3, IE 8.0.6001

    Q: I use the rectangle tool to “white out” text or images but when when I scroll through the doc, the whited out image shows until I stop scrolling. Is there a fix for this?

      Hi Veronica,

      To be honest, the rectangle markup tool is not the ideal way to “white out” text and images. You should use the redaction tools in Acrobat Pro to do that, which will permanently remove the content underneath the redaction marks from the PDF file. And you can set those redaction properties properties to have a white fill. When you use the drawing markup tools you aren’t removing the content underneath, which is why you might see the content when you scroll as Acrobat and Adobe Reader draw the contents on-screen. Check acrobatusers.com for tutorials on how to use the redaction tools.


    Thanks Ali!

    Bug still not fixed. Using in Acrobat 8, latest updates. When I click on test in text box, the properties bar comes up “no current selection.” Have to shut down Acrobat and reopen to get text properties to work. No copies of browser open (however, one that used web-version of acrobat, may have been open and closed eariler in day).

    I have found that the properties bug will occur if you open a document by double clicking on a file through windows explorer. If you first open Adobe Acrobat, and use ‘open’ under the file toolbar to open your document properties works. This really should be fixed so that it works properly using either opening method.

    I am trying to pdf a word document and I can add all the editable fields i need. however I cannot get rid of the scrolling text bar and still be able to type in the box. I want the text box to be limited to a certain size. When I untick scrolling text in the properties tab, I can no longer type anything.

      Hi Catherine, thanks for the comment. I think you are referring to a text form field, not the text box markup type. I suggest checking the online forums on Acrobat forms for help at http://www.adobeforums.com. Good luck!

    The usefulness of this post goes on and on. Here it is, nearly three years later, and it’s still hugely useful. I use Acrobat Pro 8 and have not seen any reason to change. But periodically the toolbar for text boxes disappears for no known reason. And, periodically, I go hunting desperately for a way to get it back. This time around, I googled upon this nifty site and have made a PDF print of the post. Hopefully I’ll remember where I put it next time it happens. 🙂

    Thank you *so* much for the post and for the excellent clarity and display of it.

    Sending you gratitude from Maine.

      Thanks for the comment, Mary. Glad to hear this old post is still useful! 🙂

    Help – I’m running Adobe Acrobat 9, and when I try to change the color or font size in a Comment Text Box, I can highlight the text in the box, right click and go to text style, but the only styles offered are bold, italic, underlined, super- and sub-script and clear formatting. There are no options for font style or color. When I back out and click the whole text box, I get the blue outline with the size handles and when I right click on that and go to properties, it only offers to change the color of the box outline, the opacity, and the fill color. Again, no font color or size options. What am I missing?

    Never mind – I finally got the properties box to appear with Ctrl E – strange that it isn’t accessible with a right click. Anyway – problem solved, I just had to read this whole page rather than just snippits. Thanks Ali

    Thanks Ali, you rock!
    A tip to you all, at least those who are using Acrobat X. When you’ve chosen your desired format and want to make it as default [ as stated above: Ctrl+E to get the format bar opened, click with the handtoo/Selection tool onto the border of the box, right clicking and choosing the format as default] be aware that you actually had to write something in the box first to make the change happen.
    I bit my lip until I worked out that.

    Try using control E to bring the text box up on the screen – then you can move it back into the tool bars at the top of the screen.

    The bug persists in 9.4.3 – does anyone know if this was resolved in X?

    Scrolling, cursing, searching, clicking … wait … I saw something about “context sensitive” … Yes!!! CTRL-E but then I must SELECT (or make active) the text _inside_ the text box or callout to bring up the text properties toolbar. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This was a hard-earned and hopefully forever-learned lesson.

    The problem is with the properties box. when using ControlE, one installation of acrobat 9 displays fonts,and all the desired options. When ControlE is used on another version a box with no fonts is displayed. Fonts are installed on both versions.I cannot find any options that enable/disable display of fonts when properties is turned on for a text box. Do you have any idea what is happening here and how I can fix it?

    How do I get an edit text box to keep the blank lines I have put in between date and address, and not revert to single spacing!

      Hi Heather. Good question.

      The text box comment tool doesn’t provide line spacing options. However, the Typewriter Tool (now known as a Text Box in Acrobat X in the Content panel of the Tools pane on the right) does provide these options. See if that will work for you.



    One additional note, for those who don’t like memorizing keyboard shortcuts (even those as immediately intuitive at Ctrl-E for the Properies Bar): You can right click on the tool bar, and Properties Bar is one of the options that will appear (along with a reminder of the Ctrl-E keyboard shortcut).

    THANKS SO MUCH! Yes, I needed to shout. This has been driving me crazy and I finally got my text the right size.

    Thanks a lot i have spent a lot of time to change the text size, colour and font etc. thanks a lot once again

    Is it possible to limit a multi row test box to a number of lines (like 5)?


      Not a text box, no. I think you are referring to a form in this case: you should refer to the forms forums on acrobatusers.com or adobeforums.com, as this would require some scripting. You can limit the number of characters in a form field, which may be a better option.


    What can I say but Thank you. I spent ages trying to work out how to format a text box. I’m so glad it’s not just me. Why on earth don’t Adobe get their act in gear. So many bugs and so many annoyed users.

    Thanks for the helpful info here. Is there is setting in Acrobat 9 that will cause a new text box to get wider as one types? In our old version, it behaved that way, but in 9.0, the new box seems to have a fixed width, and the text automatically wraps when the line reaches that too narrow width. It’s necessary to stretch the box manually to get it to become wider. Do any of you know of a way to change this?


      You can use Adobe LiveCycle Designer to make a form field grow/shrink vertically. But horizontally you should set the form field to the maximum horizontal space available and keep it that way.


    Help! I created a text box and figured out how to change the font style, color, size, etc. The only options for font size are 1-12pt. It’s so tiny that I can’t read it (almost looks as if it’s 1pt even when 12pt is selected). Any suggestions?


      Hmmm, you should be seeing more type sizes than that. Try choosing a different typeface and see what happens. Maybe it’s a limitation of the font?


    Really helpful site – thanks a bunch!

    grrrr….what about changing the text color in a text box for Acrobat X????


      Select the text first. Then you can change the color from the Properties Bar (Ctrl+E).


    OK, I’m using 10.1.1, I can ctrl-E to get the Text Box Text Properties toolbar, but how do I get it to stay visible when I re-open a new file? Is there no way to dock it like I did with 7?

    I am trying to find out if you can change the font size on all the fillable boxes all at once.

    I am using Adobe Acrobat 9 Standard.

    I had a form, made it fillable, and now I want all the fillable boxes to have the same font type, size, color and center. Other than go field by field is there a way to select all and do it all at once?

    When I do select all and right click I do not get all the options.

    Any and all help/suggestions will be greatly appreciated.




      This is more of a forms question (whereas this thread is about the markup tool called text box), but I’ll answer your question. You should be able to select all the fields when in edit more, right click and choose properties. From there you can change the font size. Keep in mind, you might need to select form fields of the same type in order to do this. With some form fields, the font size doesn’t apply.

      Hope that helps.


    When I type CTRL + E the Properties box show up with “No Current selection”. Help!

    Found “stand in the box” when Ctrl + E – that helped!!

    How can I set the size of the text box. I clicked the “Make Current Properties Default” checkbox and also tried right-click while the box is selected. All the other properties are correct but it still makes a large text box.


      Default properties don’t apply to the size – that’s arbitrarily determined when the text box is drawn on the page. You can of course copy and paste.


    Adobe 9 Pro: Text Box tool question

    Does anyone know if there is a way to stop the text box from getting bigger when it becomes full of text? I need it to just stay the same size and not allow any more text, otherwise it ruins the look of the document.



      The text box referenced in this article is the text box used for commenting and mark up, and it will expand as the text fills it in (you can adjust the size of the text box markup by clicking on its borders until you see the grab handles in the corners and sides) . If you want a box for others to fill out in a set space, use a text form field on the page instead.


    Thanks – Much Appreciated

    In our old versions of Acrobat 6.0 and 7.0 Pro, when you single clicked a location for a new textbox instead of drawing the box, you could type your text and then when you single clicked a new location for another box, the previous box automatically re-sized to the text you had typed. This was very useful to us in meetings where we were projecting and marking up a document where speed was important.
    Due to an issue with another software, we had to upgrade to new PC’s with Windows 7 which is not compatible with Acrobat 6.0 or 7.0, so we had to upgrade to Acrobat Pro X. (Microsoft, the PC and 3rd party software companies are all in cahoots together, I think.) In this new Acrobat Pro X version, the automatic resizing of the text boxes seems to have disappeared. Now when you single click, a long box appears and you have to go back and select the box handle and manually re-size it. Is there a setting somewhere to get this function back? I’ve looked through all the options settings and can’t find anything. It’s non-productive to have to go back and resize the boxes.

    I just noticed something else besides the texbox resizing in my previous post…In our older versions of Acrobat, the cloud tool used to automatically adjust to a soft, curved revision cloud when the polyline was completed. In Pro X, the cloud now stays in an angular polygon shape which looks terrible. It appears to me that Adobe spent so much time and effort playing with User Interface toys that they screwed up some good things that were in the older versions. I’m all for progress, but how about an update(soon)to fix these problems?

    Thank you for listing the Ctrl E function, it really helps.

    When cutting and pasting into a text box you will often times find your paragraph spacing will not transfer over. By simply hitting Shift Enter after the last entry in a paragraph your spacing will separate those paragraphs and give you hard returns.

    Love this site.

    Adobe 9 Pro – Form Field Question

    Recipients of my document with form fields are unable to save copies with their comments. It tells them they are unable to save copies, that they can only print it. Is there a setting to allow them to save it – Make it interactive?


    First of all great post, still going from 2008 and has obviously helped a lot of people out.

    Now to my question, is there anyway to change the shape of a text box eg. circle or triangle? Or am I stuck with writing the text and drawing a shape around it?

      Thanks! No, text box comments are always a “box”. There are other types of shapes you can draw as you already see, but if you double-click them, you can add a sticky note associated with that so your additional text in that note stays in context.

    I am having a horrible time. I was just upgraded from Adobe 7 Standard to Pro 9 and am completely lost. I only use a few things in Adobe. My main problem is that when I create a text box and type a single number into it, the box still stays too large. I just need it to wrap around the number and nothing else. I have tried making the box then dragging the corner of the box to fit just the text and then make current properties default. But it doesn’t hold it for the next one. I make each one fit every time will make my job 10 times longer.

      This is how text box comments work, and I’m sorry that it’s not the way you would like it to behave. Have you tried copy-and-pasting the one text box comment you do like the size of?

    Thank you so much for publishing this tip on how to format and customize text in a text box in Acrobat. I have been searching for a long time on how to accomplish that task. I discovered the text box formatting feature but had no idea that Ctrl E or Cmd E was the way to open the dialogue box to format the actual text within the box. I couldn’t find it in Adobe’ s menus or anything.

    Thank you very much!

    Thank you – I can’t believe there was nothing about this under the help tab in Acrobat. It is so simple!

    I need to change font, size and sometime add info to the text IN the text box. the only thing that comes up after the text box is done is the “test box properties”. How do I get hold of the “test box TEXT properties” bar later to format the text?!

      Make sure the text is selected when the Properties Bar is open. The Properties bar will then show you the text formatting settings.

    I’m using adobe acrobat standard 9.5.0. I am having issues with the commenting and markup tools (mainly w/ the stamp tool, textbox tool and rectangle tool). When I click on the stamp tool and try to put a stamp on the document, it slightly offsets it from where I initially clicked to stamp it. I can then go back and drag it to where it was suppose to be. Also, for the rectangle tool, I am wanting to put a box around certain objects or text, but it only gives me specific dimensions when I initially try to use the tool. The dimensions are set at specific sizes for the initial use of the tool. Then I can go back and click on it and make it whatever size I want. Any ideas on what is causing this?

    Found it. I had “snap to grid” checked under the view menu.

    I have a question regarding formatting text within a text box in Adobe Acrobat X Standard. I just made the jump from version 6 (which I loved but I can’t run it on Windows 7) so it’s quite different from what I was using. It is standard practice for myself to create a text box, add my text to it, change it to bold and adjust the background color to white to cover the text I am placing this new text box over. There only seems to be this Typewriter Tool in Adobe X and it doesn’t give me formatting options such as Bold/Italics, background color, ect. How can I get this done?

      Thanks for the question. In Acrobat X, the Text Box markup tool can be found in the Drawing Markups pane of the Comments panel. If you don’t see that, go to View > Comment > Drawing Markups to display it.

    I am using the Text Box tool in the Drawing Markups pane of the Comments panel. I need the text in the Text Box to be black, but I cannot seem to edit this at all, as there is nothing in the Properties that changes font color, and the text can only be red. The good thing about using the Text Box tool for me is that I can adjust the opacity of the background. But I need black text, not red. How can I do this?

    Just poked around further in the blog and found my answer–I need to highlight the text, and press Ctrl E and I’ll get a Text Box Text Properties dialog box and can change the font color there. Whew!

    I am adding answers to blackline masters to make teacher editions using the typewriter tool. I need to underline the book titles. I cannot find a way to do that. Control E only gives my name as the author.

    Hooray – found out from Ali’s Jan. 24 post. It didn’t make sense the first time read – rest and time helped.

    Dear All,
    Is there any possibility to change the text box shape?
    It is always come in rectangle shape but i need it in circle shape.

      Sorry, no. Rectangle only. You can add a pop-up note to the drawing markup tools as a workaround, but it won’t show the text unless you double-click the markup or look in the Comments list.

    I am trying to format a text box so that the characters will shrink in size if needed to fit the text box. Can you explain how to do this?

      If you are talking about a text form field, set the properties for the text to be size of 0 (zero). I am not aware of a way to do this for a text box markup: fixed font sizes only I’m afraid.

    Great tip, and it saved heaps of time. It is possible to center text horizontally in the text box using ctrl-E, but how do you center it vertically?

      Thanks Dave! Sorry, that can’t be done with a text box markup type.

    Thanks so much!! Been struggling with these issues for over 3 years…..was able to resolve it in seconds with this tip. I am so grateful to you!

      Thanks Martha! Wish I could have been there for you 3 years ago! 🙂

    Is there a way to ‘auto-grow’ a text field in a ‘fillable form’? I am working on creating a form, but I need the text field to ‘grow’ depending on how many characters the person that is filling out the form needs. I know that I can set the text size to ‘Auto’ and it will force the text to fit in the box, but it could get small and hard to read. I was wondering if there was another way to do this?


      Hi Katie. Yes, there is. But you need to create a dynamic form in LiveCycle Designer, which is included with Acrobat Pro. An online search should pull up many tutorials and guides that can help you create these, or check out the book “PDF Forms Bible” by Padova and Okamoto.

    I am using Adobe Acrobat X with Windows 7 on a netbook computer. When I use the “crop” command I can’t see the bottom of the “Set Page Box” so, I can’t actually do the cropping. Nothing I have done has allowed me to see the bottom of the “Set Page Box.” I have moved the task bar and that doesn’t work. I have tried to resize the “Set Page Box” itself but I can’t do that either. Where are the resize handles?

    In reading through other postings it seems that this problem is a bug in Acrobat. Any suggestions??


      Sorry Bill, but please post the bug to the Adobe forums (forums.adobe.com) which are being tracked by the support team.

    I am using Acrobat Pro 8 with Win7 at work and the properties for the text box are frozen. No matter what I do, they will not change/let me select. This is the first time encountering this problem.

    If I highlight the text in the text box and try to change the font or font size, I can’t change the properties. If I open a new PDF and create a new text box and try to change the properties, I cannot. If I remove the properties from my menu and then Ctrl+E to get them to reappear, it still stays locked at Helvetica 12 (FWIW, the “12” is highlighted in blue as if it is stuck with this selection). All of a sudden, none of those properties will activate the drop-down selections. I’ve closed Acrobat, reopened it, etc. and still nothing.

    What is causing the Text Box Properties to essentially freeze and how do I fix it?

    I was able to fix the problem by selecting Help, Repair Acrobat Installation. The font properties toolbar is no longer “frozen.”

      Glad that worked out for you. Something must have corrupted on your machine that Repaie Acrobat cleaned up.

    I have hundreds of text box comments already input using the default Acrobat color, size and text, but I need to change them to a larger size and color now. “Make default” doesn’t change any of the text already input, simply all of the new ones. Will I really have to go and manually edit every single text box? With any other logical program in the world, (Word for instance) all I have to do is highly what I want to change and voila.

    Please help! Adobe can’t really be that silly can they?

      I must ask: why would you have hundreds of text box comments on a single PDF file? Or is this across multiple PDF files? Remember, Acrobat is not a document authoring tool like Word or InDesign are.

      You are correct in that “Make Default” is for new comments of that type.

      You can change the existing text box properties en masse, but only the box itself, not the text within. In the Comments pane, select all the Text Boxes in the Comments List (you can sort or show/hide by Type), then right-click and choose Properties.

      Otherwise, JavaScript can be used to go into the PDF file and change comments. I would check on pdfscripting.com or the forums for help with that.

    There was a post by J Barbour way back on October 10, 2010 about the very issue I am having: what happened to the auto-sizing capability of a text box? Has anyone found a way to make this work again?

      Please refer to my reply to J Barbour’s post. Text Box Comments and Text Fields are two different things.

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