Is the form fillable?

Not all forms are fillable. Sometimes form creators don’t convert their PDFs to interactive fillable forms. Or, they intentionally design a form that you can fill in only by hand or with the Add Text tool. These non-interactive forms are called flat forms.

Fillable forms in Reader XI
Fillable forms in Reader XI

A. Interactive forms highlight where you should type B. Forms with the Add Text Comment tool let you add text anywhere on the form 

Fill in interactive forms

An interactive form contains fields that you can select or fill in.

Interactive fillable form
Interactive fillable form

A. Purple message bar indicates presence of fillable fields. B. When clicked, shows where fillable fields exist. 
  1. If necessary, right-click the document, and select either the Hand Tool or the Select Tool from the pop-up menu.

    The pointer changes to a different icon as you move it over a field. For example, the Hand  tool changes to an I-beam  when you can type text into the form field. Some text fields are dynamic, meaning that they automatically resize to accommodate the amount of data you enter and can span across pages.

  2. (Optional) To make form fields easier to identify, click the Highlight Fields button  on the document message bar. Form fields appear with a colored background (light blue by default), and all required form fields are outlined in another color (red by default).

  3. Click to select options, such as radio buttons. Click inside a text field to type.
  4. Press Tab to move forward or Shift+Tab to move backward.
  5. When finished, click the submit button to either send the data to a server or create an email to send the data. The submit button can appear in the purple message bar at the top of the form or in the form content.

For troubleshooting tips on completing forms, see Troubleshooting forms.

Fill in flat forms with the Add Text tool

A flat form does not have interactive fields. However, you can use the Add Text tool to type information over blank form fields. Acrobat and Reader XI include the Add Text tool. In Reader X or earlier, you can add text only if the creator of the form enabled the Add Text (or Typewriter tool).

Note:

The text you add with the Add Text tool is a type of commenting, and appears in the Comments List (Comment > Comments List).

Flat fillable forms (three variations) with Add Text tool
Flat fillable forms (three variations). The Add Text tool lets you type in flat forms.

A. Add Text tool in the floating toolbar in browser. B. Add Text tool in purple message bar. C. Add Text tool selected in Sign panel, which then displays floating toolbar. 
  1. Do one of the following, depending on how the form appears in your window:

    • In either the purple message bar or floating toolbar, click the Add Text button.

    • In the Acrobat application (not in a browser), choose Sign > Add Text.

    Select Add Text and type on the form
    Select Add Text and type on the form.

    If the form appears in a browser window, roll your cursor near the bottom of the form and click the Save icon  in the semi-transparent floating toolbar. Open the PDF form in Acrobat, and choose Sign > Add Text.

    Open in Acrobat and select Sign > Add Text.
    Add Text toolbar not displayed. Save form, then open in Acrobat and select Sign > Add Text.

  2. Click a blank form field and type.

  3. (Optional) Adjust options in the purple message bar or floating toolbar to change the text size, position, or font. For more information about the Add Text tool and toolbar, see Add text using Add Text tool.

  4. When finished, print a copy of the completed form.

    Note:

    You cannot electronically submit a form filled out using the Add Text tool. You must print the completed form. Be sure you select Document And Markups in the Print dialog box.

Fill in flat forms in a browser

A common way to view a PDF form is in a web browser, for example, when you click a link on a website. If the form does not contain interactive fields, you can use the Add Text tool to fill out the form. Some forms open with the Add Text toolbar displayed. But with others, you must first save the form, then open it directly in Acrobat. Reader XI includes the Add Text tool. In earlier versions of Reader, it is available only if the creator of the form enabled it.

If the Add Text toolbar is displayed, click Add Text. Then click the page and start typing. For more information, see Fill in flat forms with the Add Text tool.

Add Text tool available in floating toolbar
Add Text tool available in floating toolbar

If you don’t see the Add Text toolbar and you can’t select or type in the fields, save the PDF to your computer. (Roll your cursor near the bottom of the form and click the Save icon  in the semi-transparent floating toolbar.) Open the PDF form in Acrobat, and choose Sign > Add Text. Then click the page and start typing.

Save form, then open in Acrobat and select Sign > Add Text.
Add Text toolbar not displayed. Save form, then open in Acrobat and select Sign > Add Text.

Note:

If you close the Add Text toolbar, roll your cursor near the bottom of the form and click the Acrobat icon  in the semi-transparent floating toolbar. The Add Text toolbar reappears. If you close the Add Text toolbar again, roll down to the floating toolbar and click the Read Mode button . Then click the Acrobat icon again.

Options for working in forms

Key

Result

Tab or Shift+Tab

Accepts typing and moves to next field

Up/Left Arrow

Selects previous radio button in a group

Down/Right Arrow

Selects next radio button

Esc

Reject and deselect form field.

Esc (press twice)

Exits Full Screen mode

Enter or Return (single-line text field)

Accepts typing and deselects field

Enter or Return (multiline text field)

Creates paragraph return in same form field

Enter or Return (check box)

Turns check box on or off

Enter (keypad)

Accepts typing and deselects current form field

(Windows) Ctrl+Tab Inserts tab into text field
(Mac) Alt+Tab Inserts tab into text field

Auto-Complete forms (interactive forms only)

The Auto-Complete feature stores any entries that you type in an interactive form field. Auto-Complete then suggests or even automatically enters responses that match your typing in other form fields. The suggestions appear in a pop-up menu, from which you can select a match. The Auto-Complete feature is off by default, so you must enable it in the forms preferences if you want to use it.

To remove an entry from the Auto-Complete memory, such as a misspelled entry that you found and corrected later, edit the list in the preferences.

How to enable Auto-Complete option in Acrobat | lynda.com (video 2:43)

Note:

The forms preferences apply to the way the application handles open forms as you work. The preferences aren’t saved with the PDF forms themselves.

Enable the Auto-Complete option

  1. Choose Edit > Preferences (Windows) or Acrobat/Adobe Reader > Preferences (Mac OS).

  2. Select Forms on the left.

  3. Under Auto-Complete, choose Basic or Advanced from the menu.

  4. Select Remember Numerical Data if you want the Auto-Complete memory to store numbers that you type into forms.

Note:

When you select an option in the Auto-Complete menu, a description of how it affects the Auto-Complete behavior appears in the text area below.

Delete an entry from the Auto-Complete memory

  1. Open the Preferences dialog box.

  2. Select Forms on the left.

  3. Click Edit Entry List.

  4. In the Auto-Complete Entry List dialog box, do one of the following, and then click Yes in the confirmation dialog box:

    • To remove all of the entries, click Remove All.
    • To remove some of the entries, select the entries and click Remove. (Shift-click to select multiple adjacent entries; Ctrl-click to select multiple nonadjacent entries.)

Change flat forms to fillable (Acrobat Pro)

You can change a flat form to fillable by either using the Form wizard or by simply enabling the Add Text tool. Acrobat and Reader XI users can use the Add Text tool to fill in flat forms.  However, earlier versions of Reader do not include the Add Text tool (or Typewriter tool) unless you explicitly enable it in the PDF.

Interactive form

To create an interactive form, use the Form wizard. See Create forms using Acrobat.

Flat form

To enable the Add Text tool, choose File > Save As Other  > Reader Extended PDF > Enable Adding Text In Documents (That Are Not Fillable Forms). This option displays the Add Text tool in a purple message bar when the form is opened in either Acrobat or Reader. If the form is opened in a browser, the Add Text toolbar appears instead.

The Add Text tool is enabled for the current form only. When you create a different form, redo this task to enable Reader users to use the Add Text tool.

Save forms

  • To save the completed form, choose File > Save As and rename the file.

  • To remove extended Reader features, choose File > Save A Copy.

  • To allow Reader users to save the data they typed, choose File > Save As Other > Reader Extended PDF > Enable More Tools (Includes Form Fill-in & Save).

  1. Click the Print button , or choose File > Print.

  2. Choose a printer from the menu at the top of the Print dialog box.

  3. In the Comments And Forms menu in the upper-right area of the Print dialog box, choose one of the following, and then click OK:

    • (Interactive or flat form) To print the form and the typed entries, choose Document. This option prints text you’ve typed using the Add Text tool.

    • (Interactive or flat form) To print the form, the typed entries, and any comments on the form, choose Document And Markups. This option prints text you’ve typed using the Add Text tool.

    • (Interactive form only) To print only the typed entries and not the form itself, choose Form Fields Only.

Clear forms

Clear a form in a browser

  1. Do either of the following:
    • Select the Reset Form Button, if one exists. You cannot undo this action.
    • Quit the browser, and start again.

    Note:

    Clicking the web browser’s Reload or Refresh button, the Back or Go Back button, or following a link to another page may not completely clear the form.

Clear unsaved form entries

  1. Choose Tools > Forms > More Form Options > Clear Form.

Sample forms

Patti Sokol, of Sokol Consulting, created two sample forms to show the differences between a flat form and an interactive form. Click here to see a flat form. Notice that you cannot type in the fields of a flat form. Click here to see an interactive form. You can highlight the fields and type in them.

Be sure to read the information in the top text box of each sample form. Then move your cursor over the fields to see what actions are available. You can also print and save the forms to your computer.

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