Stefan Cameron on Forms
Building intelligent forms using Adobe LiveCycle Designer

Where did that border come from?

Have you ever wondered to yourself, "where did that border come from?", when you simply wanted to set a field’s fill color? I know I did for a while until I learned about how the quirkiness of borders in XFA.

For example, if I wanted to set a field’s background (fill) color to green in a button’s Click event, the first thing I would do is:

this.fillColor = "0,255,0";


this.border.fill.color.value = "0,255,0";

Both methods amount to the same result which is the following:

Notice the black edge that appears around the perimeter of the field. What is that doing there? All I wanted to do was set the background color to highlight the field!

What I really wanted was this:

Is that too much to ask? All I did was set the fill color; I never messed with the edge, honestly!

In order to understand where that black edge came from and how to make it go away, we’ll need a better understanding of how borders are specified in XFA.

XFA Borders

First of all, the term "border" signifies all elements that compose the rectangular area that surrounds the entire field or the field’s value (two distinct borders). That means it’s made-up of corner, edge and fill properties, amongst others. In Designer, the field’s border is edited via the Border palette and the field value’s border is edited via the Appearance property on the Object palette’s Field tab.

Next is the fact that unlike most other XFA elements, the mere presence of the <border> element, and of some of its child elements such a <fill>, determine what the field’s border will look like. For instance, if no <border> element is specified, the field does not have a border even if the <border> element has a presence attribute with a default value of "visible". Likewise, if the <fill> element isn’t specified, the border has a transparent fill (i.e. no fill) even though it, too, has a presence attribute with a default value of "visible".

For example, the following field definition has no border:


If the <border> element is specified, then you also get the default <edge> element which is a thin black line and since specifying only a single <edge> element affects all sides of the border, you end-up with a black edge surrounding the border — just like in the first image above (without the green fill).

In this case, the field’s definition is simply this:


When you use the script I proposed earlier for setting a field’s background (fill) color to green, this is what you get in the XFA syntax which describes the field:

            <color value="0,255,0"/>

As you can see, the <border> element has been specified and therefore the border gets the default thin black edge (even though an <edge> element wasn’t explicitly specified since an edge is implied when not explicitly specified).

Finally, edges and corners are a little tricky because there can be as little as none or as many as 4 <edge> and <corner> elements specified. What you need to remember is that they’re defined in clockwise order:

  • No <edge> element is the same as a single <edge> element which defines all edges at once (all 4 edges are identical).
  • Two <edge> elements define the top/bottom (edge 0) and left/right (edge 1) edges.
  • Three <edge> elements define the top (edge 0), left/right (edge 1) and bottom (edge 2) edges.
  • Four <edge> elements define the top (edge 0), right (edge 1), bottom (edge 2) and left (edge 3) edges.

The same goes for the <corner> element.

The Solution

So just how is it that we get rid of that edge? Well, given that the edge is implied (as mentioned earlier), all we have to do is hide it! It’s quite simple, in the end, yet quite frustrating if you don’t understand how borders work in XFA.

The <edge> element has a presence property which you can set to "hidden" in order to hide it. Therefore, the following script would set the field’s background (fill) color to green and ensure that the default black edge doesn’t appear along with it:

this.fillColor = "0,255,0";
border.edge.presence = "hidden";

That JavaScript, on a button’s Click event, will yield the border as I intended it to be (in the second image mentioned earlier).

Fun With Borders

In order to demonstrate a few things that can be done with borders using script (you may use similar scripts to show/hide borders on fields or field values for all kinds of purposes), I’ve provided this sample form. I encourage you to open it up in Designer and look at the script in order to get an idea for how you might implement your own border solution.

Download Sample [pdf]

Minimum Requirements: Designer 7.1, Acrobat 7.0.5.

Posted by Stefan Cameron on March 24th, 2007
Filed under Scripting,Tutorials
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6 Responses to “Where did that border come from?”

  1. Stipe Pavicic on April 17th, 2007

    this sample PDF is really nice! thank you!

  2. Khoa on June 26th, 2008

    Hi Cameron,

    I have a very similar problem regarding to the object border. For instance, i have a mandatory field which will get red border if there is no data in the field. When the object hightlighted with red border, it also has a black line surrounding the object. It is like two borders (inner one with black color and outer one with red color). Is there anyway that i can remove the black one?

    This is my code:

    if (mandatoryField.rawValue == null || mandatoryField.rawValue == “”)
    mandatoryField.border.edge.presence = “visible”;
    mandatoryField.border.edge.color.value = “255,0,0” ; // Red border
    mandatoryField.borderWidth = “0.02”;
    mandatoryField.fillColor = “255,255,255”; // White border : remove red border
    mandatoryField.borderWidth = “0”;

  3. Stefan Cameron on June 29th, 2008


    I do recall seeing what you’re explaining but I haven’t seen it recently so my guess is that this issue was addressed in a later version of Acrobat than the one you’re currently using. You could try changing the handedness of the border to see if that makes a difference: setting it to “left” will cause the border to be painted to the left hand side of the vector that defines the nominal extent of the field and setting it to “right” will cause it to be painted to the right hand side. The default is “even” which draws it directly on the vector. Perhaps by setting the handedness to “left”, it might paint over that black border you’re seeing but I’m not certain. You can set the handedness like this:

    mandatoryField.border.hand = "left";
  4. Khoa on June 29th, 2008


    That doesnt work.

    There are so wierd behaviors when working with form in adobe livecycle designer 8. Initially, when the form start up, i executed app.alert() to print out the properties of a textbox before any modifcation . It comes up with the following property:

    1. outer border ( the border that automatically set as you mention above) = hidden
    2. outer border color = red

    3. inner border ( ui.#textEdit.border.edge.color) = black (0,0,0);
    4. inner border stroke = “lowered”;

    so Basically it’s just like any other text box. When i clicked on the validate button which highlight the textbox border in red ( i set the ui.#textEdit.border.edge.color = (0,0,0) and its stroke to “lowered”). it works fine. However when i enter some data in the field and wrote some code to change the textEdit border back to oringial property (3,4) and expect it to go back to original appearance. But it displays some wierd edges. For example 3 edges in red and 1 in black.

    Sorry if my descripotion doesnt make any sense. Do you have any idea?

  5. Khoa on July 1st, 2008

    I have solved the problem. Here is the solution for those who have the same problem:

    When you want to hightlight textbox with red :

    Set the automatically border as describe by Cameron to “VISIBLE” also set it color to red ( or any color) you want . You also need to set the inner border (textbox border ) to “HIDDEN” so it only use the outer border.

    Once the mandatory fields have data in it , reverse the process. Set the outerborder to Hidden and set inner border to visible ALSO set it stroke to “lowered”. That will do the trick. If anyone have problem. Please let me know.

  6. Boonadsf on May 17th, 2010


    I have the same problem.
    How do I set the inner border to hidden? (and outerboder)