How to create editable PDF form fields

Learn how to create PDF forms in Acrobat X that allow recipients using the free Adobe Reader to easily enter data into the PDF form.

By February 28, 2012

 



Creating fillable PDF forms in Acrobat XI Std. or Pro. that allow recipients using the free Adobe Reader to enter data is easy. All you need to do is open the Tools pane, Forms panel, and select the Create command. You can start with an existing PDF document, a Word or Excel file, or any other type of document. You can even scan an existing paper form. This tip looks at how to create a fillable PDF form using an existing Word form. The Create process automatically converts the Word file to a PDF form and looks for characteristics that indicate form fields, such as underlines or text boxes. These objects will automatically be converted to interactive form fields within Acrobat.

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How to create editable PDF form fields

Lori KassubaFebruary 28, 2012

Creating a fillable PDF form that allows recipients using the free Adobe Reader to enter data is easy if you have Acrobat X Standard or Acrobat X Pro. All you need to do is open the Tools pane, Forms panel, and select the Create command. You can start with an existing PDF file, a Word or Excel file, or any other type of document. You can even scan an existing paper form. I’ll begin with an existing Word form, and the Create process will automatically convert the Word file to a PDF file and look for characteristics that indicate form fields, things such as underlines or text boxes. These objects will automatically be converted to interactive form fields within Acrobat.

Now once the process is complete, Acrobat will open the document in Form Editing Mode. And the commands available in the Tasks panel, will allow you to make further edits and refinements to your form. When you have finished editing your form, recipients using the free Adobe Reader will be able to fill in and print your new interactive form. If you would like to allow recipients using the free Adobe Reader to fill in, print, and save the form data. You’ll need to perform one final step. Close out of Form Editing Mode, and then from the File menu, select Save As > Reader Extended PDF > Enable Additional Features. This will allow recipients using the free Adobe Reader to also save the form data. However, this feature is subject to some license limitations so be sure to read the Acrobat End User License Agreement for specific details.


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Products covered:

Acrobat X ProAcrobat X StandardAcrobat X Suite

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Create and analyze forms

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41 comments

Lori Kassuba

10, 2014-03-20 20, 2014

Hi Peter,

You can do this by using the Distribute command under the Forms panel in Acrobat XI Std. or Pro. What you can do is initiate the command and then select the option to “save a local copy and manually send it later”. Then either post this local copy or email to whomever asks for the form. Recipients will see a submit button at the top of the form, and when they select this it submits the form back to you.

Thanks,
Lori

Peter

2, 2014-03-18 18, 2014

Is there a way that once the form is filled in I can then have people email it back to me?

Lori Kassuba

11, 2014-02-11 11, 2014

Hi Super Ninja,

Check out this on-demand session on forms:
http://acrobatusers.com/tutorials/working-form-data-december-2011
At about the 10:00 minute mark, Dave Merchant talks about using FDF and server-side scripts to collect the data, which you might find useful.

Thanks,
Lori

Super Ninja

2, 2014-02-06 06, 2014

I am wondering if there is a way for a pdf file to have information placed into it automatically from a php action. I would like an html form to send the information into a pdf template file and then save into a folder on my server. If I could do this, the reader wouldn’t have to use pdf software at all, and could therefore work on non-pdf enabled computers that have access to internet.

Lori Kassuba

10, 2013-12-13 13, 2013

Hi Josh,

If you use the same field names throughout your form, then the data in those form fields will automatically populate other pages of your form.

Thanks,
Lori

Josh

10, 2013-12-11 11, 2013

What if I wanted to make a PDF with multiple pages, and I wanted one pages info to populate throughout the entire PDF?

Lori Kassuba

12, 2013-12-04 04, 2013

Hi pradnya,

The ability to fill in existing form fields in Adobe Reader XI (without needing the Reader extend the form) does not work for forms designed using Adobe LiveCycle Designer.

Thanks,
Lori

pradnya

2, 2013-12-04 04, 2013

Hi
I like your this video. but please let me know which version of Adobe reader you are using . i am using Adobe Reader XI but not getting forms field adding features.

Lori Kassuba

1, 2013-11-25 25, 2013

Hi Jenn,

Here are a few discussions on how to do this for your form field:
http://answers.acrobatusers.com/I-default-entry-form-field-I-default-entry-clear-I-select-field-q23271.aspx

Thanks,
Lori

Lori Kassuba

1, 2013-11-25 25, 2013

Hi Oliver,

You can flatten the form fields in Acrobat but not in the free Reader. Here is a tutorial that explains how to do this:
http://acrobatusers.com/tutorials/how-to-flatten-form-fields

Thanks,
Lori

Jenn

5, 2013-11-20 20, 2013

Hi all,

Does anybody know how to set a text form field in the PDF so that when the user places their cursor in the field and starts to type, the existing text in the field is deleted? I think this is also known as overtype?

Thanks anyone!

Jenn

Oliver

10, 2013-10-28 28, 2013

Once the form is filled out, can I then export it back to a non editable PDF that contains the new information?

Basically, I want my client to amend the form fields and then send on an uneditable PDF.

Thanks.

Lori Kassuba

2, 2013-09-27 27, 2013

Hi woon foong,

All you need to do to allow users to save the form data in Reader X is the run the following command in Acrobat X: File > Save As > Reader Extended PDF > Enable Additional Features.
You won’t need to do this for Reader XI.

Thanks,
Lori

woon foong

5, 2013-09-26 26, 2013

I created some form fields in my current PDF document using Acrobat X Pro. No security settings applied. When I opened the document again with Adobe Reader X. I can fill the fields. But it tells me that “Please fill out the following form. You cannot save data typed into this form. Please print your completed form if you like a copy for your records”? Why is that so? How can I save the completed form?

recaphilline

11, 2013-09-11 11, 2013

This is so helpful. THanks a lot!

Lori Kassuba

10, 2013-05-16 16, 2013

Hi SusanZ,

You’ll need to use the Save A Copy command first (so you have a PDF file that is not reader-enabled) before you can go back and add or remove form fields in Acrobat.

Thanks,
Lori

Lori Kassuba

10, 2013-05-09 09, 2013

Hi Lauren,

What version of Word are you using? If you’re using an older version of Acrobat it’s very possible newer versions of Word aren’t compatible simply because they were released years later (i.e., Office 2013 is not compatible with Acrobat X).

Thanks,

Lauren Cooper

2, 2013-05-06 06, 2013

so it turns out that option does not work to upload a file because my version of Adobe doesn’t recognize microsoft word???  Crazy.  I spent a few hours on the tech support to just find out that a fundamental property of adobe pro no longer works.  why did I buy this???!

Lori Kassuba

2, 2013-05-06 06, 2013

Hi Carolyn,
Required fields were designed to use with the submission of forms to a web server script page and then throwing an error. Here are a few suggestions to consider:
http://answers.acrobatusers.com/Required-fields-q12171.aspx

Thanks,
Lori

SusanZ

12, 2013-05-06 06, 2013

Once a form has been saved as Reader Enabled, can I go back and add or delete fields?

SusanZ

12, 2013-05-06 06, 2013

Once I save a fillable form as a Reader Extended PDF, how can I open it back up and add/change/delete fields?

Carolyn

12, 2013-04-26 26, 2013

I’ve set a field property to “required”, but it’s still possible to leave it blank. How do I ensure the field gets filled before users saves the file?  Thank you!

Lori Kassuba

1, 2013-04-25 25, 2013

Hi Lauren,

In the Forms panel if you click on the Create command (no file open), you should be able to select the Browse button to open any type of document that Acrobat can convert to PDF including a Word file and it will convert the file to PDF and add form fields.

Thanks,
Lori

Cristina

10, 2013-04-25 25, 2013

I tried to do the steps shown on video, but I couldn’t. When I open the Acrobat and go to create a form from existing documents… the program says: “No new form field annotations were detected”. What am I doing wrong?

Lauren Cooper

10, 2013-04-24 24, 2013

Please help!  I am trying to do this from a Word document so it will read my radio buttons, etc. but it only allows me to choose from PDFs.  When I do this, it locks the radio buttons and forces me to put them all manually but it looks all wobbly.  I’d prefer from the word doc.  When I try, it says “Use the current document or browse to a PDF file”.  No mention of Word or other docs.  help!!

Lori Kassuba

9, 2013-04-15 15, 2013

Hi Abdul,

Here is a link to the free 30-day trial of Acrobat XI Pro.:
http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/tdrc/index.cfm?product=acrobat_pro&loc=en

Thanks,
Lori

Stacie

8, 2013-04-11 11, 2013

Abdul-
Try Adobe Acrobat XI Pro.  You can download a free trial from Adobe’s website befor you buy.

Stacie

Abdul Qoddus

3, 2013-04-06 06, 2013

I want software to create editable pdf.

Lori Kassuba

12, 2013-03-26 26, 2013

Hi Bernadette,

You’ll need to set a different export value for the fields in order to do this. Here is a tutorial with more detail:
http://acrobatusers.com/tutorials/creating-radio-checkboxes

Thanks,
Lori

Bernadette

12, 2013-03-22 22, 2013

I have an Interactive PDF created with Yes and no buttons. Once one or the other is checked we cannot turn them off. Yes and no are not checked at the same time and that is what I want, but I cannot turn them off even after closing the program and re opening.

Lori Kassuba

9, 2013-03-11 11, 2013

Hi Stacie,

When you create a text form field, in the Properties menu under the Options tab you can select Rich Text Formatting. This will allow others to change the font in the form field by bring up the toolbar using the keyboard command Ctrl+e.

Thanks,
Lori

yianni

9, 2013-03-03 03, 2013

I want to create an interactive PDF with multiple submit buttons.

E.g I have a form with 10 questions. I want the form completed and emailed to me with all 10 questions. However, i want question 5 (and 5 only) emailed to someone else. Can i put a submit button in question 5 for it to submit to that person with only that info?

Hi yianni,

You can create multiple submit buttons on your form manually to do this but you will not be able to use the distribute feature in Acrobat if you do this. Simply create a new button form field and under the Properties Actions tab select Submit a form from the Select Action: dropdown. When you click on the Add… button, use the mailto: command for the URL an then pick and choose which form fields you could like to include.

Another way to to this would be to use FormsCentral to analyze the form data and then share it with others.

Lori

Stacie

9, 2013-03-02 02, 2013

I am trying to create a set of labels and save the “blank” template with editable text fields in adobe acrobat pro.  I want to be able to open the pdf file in adobe reader (or allow others to) and type in any text I want and also be able to change the font/color/size, etc.  However, when I save the document and open it in reader I cannot get the typewriter tool in which to be able to change the fonts, etc.  Any ideas what I could be doing wrong?

Jerry

5, 2013-02-26 26, 2013

Great tutorial
thank you…

Lori Kassuba

10, 2013-02-26 26, 2013

Hi am,

Sounds like the form fields are not set up to see all the content. Make sure that when you’re creating texgt form fields, that they’re large enough to display all the content; otherwise you won’t be able to see the entire entry when printing your form.

Thanks,
Lori

am

3, 2013-02-20 20, 2013

How to create editable PDF form fields
I need to print the whole containters in the fields that I typed. I did not get the text.

Sylvia

2, 2013-02-04 04, 2013

I created a form in Acrobat Pro and need Acrobat Reader users to be able to fill out the form, save it as a new document and email to me. Right now Reader is telling me it cannot save the filled out document… it can only print it. Is there any way around this? This form is useless to me if people that don’t have the Pro version can’t save the forms they fill out.

Please help.

Thank you,
Sylvia

Hi Sylvia,

If your form recipients are using Reader XI, they will be able to save the form data. For earlier versions of Reader you’ll need to Reader-enable the form. Here is a link with more detail:
http://answers.acrobatusers.com/Acrobat-X-How-enable-Acrobat-Reader-complete-save-form-q37218.aspx

Lori

Roger Dupuis

11, 2013-01-21 21, 2013

great tutorial. I was wondering if you know how to create stamps that have fields. We need to insert stamps on pdf drawings and have check boxes and fields such as date, project number and reviewer’s name.

Hi Roger,
Unfortunately you cannot have interactive elements in a custom stamp after it is placed on the PDF. You may however, be able to build something based on user input. Here is a tutorial from Thom Parker that explains this in more detail:
http://acrobatusers.com/tutorials/dynamic_stamp_secrets

Thanks,
Lori

Amanda

12, 2013-01-16 16, 2013

I have about 400 7 pages docs that I would like to convert to fillable/savable PDF files. Do I have to convert all 400 individualy or is there a way to convert 1 and use it as a template somehow? All of the word docs are in the same format but some of what would be “locked” from editing are different. (i.e. Name, address)Any help would be appreciated. (Also I have Pro version, and possibly CS3 for use)

Hi Amanda,

You might consider using an Action to help to create the fillable form fields from your Word files. However, you’ll still need to perform some cleanup/verification of the form fields. Here is a link to a tutorial on How to Create an Action (you’ll need Acrobat Pro. to do this):
http://acrobatusers.com/tutorials/how-do-i-create-a-new-action

Lori

Chadi

11, 2013-01-10 10, 2013

Thank you! That was very helpful.

Caleb Harrison

8, 2013-01-07 07, 2013

At 1:11 when you mouse over the “Save as” option, there is a drop down menu. I have CS 3, and while everything works fine, I do not have this option. How do I make this form so my students can edit AND SAVE without this option?

Hi Caleb,

I’m assuming you have Acrobat 9 Pro. and if so, you can find this command under the Advanced > Extend Features In Adobe Reader menu.

Thanks,
Lori

Jessie

4, 2012-12-20 20, 2012

I don’t have this option in the free XI I just downloaded. All I see when I click on “Tools,” is “Export PDF,” “Create PDF,” “Send Files,” and “Store Files” - which would be okay if I knew if only came with the paid version. But the summary of the video says I can do this with the free Adobe Reader in the first sentence.

Hi Jessie,

It is not possible to create form fields using the free Adobe Reader. We’ve clarified the description to eliminate any more possible confusion.

Lori

PGala

9, 2012-12-05 05, 2012

The audio is incoherent - because of the speed or the accent or a combination of the two. I don’t mean to be rude, but you have to consider listeners when you record and post content in public. Only 20secs in did I realise it was English being spoken.!

PGala,

Yes, this audio is a bit fast especially if English isn’t your first language. We’ll slow it down in future tutorials.

Lori

Bolla

9, 2012-11-10 10, 2012

I would like to ask for help:
I make an editable pdf form (for example a test in the school). The children filled the test in the pdf, and send to me by email. Then I have a lot of filled pdf from all children. I would like to correct them by computer (any programme, or something else) and grade them. So I need the results, who give 1,2,3,4,5 grade.

Please fix it my problem.

Thx, and sorry my bad english.

Hi Bolla - can you post your question here so we can help you interactively?
http://answers.acrobatusers.com/AskQuestion.aspx

Thanks,
Lori

Melinda70

11, 2012-03-01 01, 2012

Is there a quick and easy way to set the font size/style for all form fields? I love being able to make forms easily but always have to go through the fields one by one to change the font sizes.
Thanks.

Hi Melinda,

I’ve found the easiest way to do this is to select the fields in the Fields panel (use Ctrl to select multiple fields) and then bring up the Properties dialog and change your font size and style.

Lori

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