This document provides instructions for Acrobat XI. If you're using Acrobat DC, see Acrobat DC Help.

Create a form from an existing document

You can convert an existing electronic document (for example, a Word, Excel, or PDF document) or scan a paper document to a PDF form. Acrobat automatically adds interactive form fields to the form. You can then edit the form to add specialized form fields, such as a drop-down list, list box, or buttons.

Types of form fields you can add to a PDF
Types of form fields you can add to a PDF

A. Certificate-based signature field B. Drop-down list box C. Text fields D. Automatic message bar E. Check boxes F. Radio buttons G. List box H. Buttons 
  1. From the Create menu on the toolbar, choose Create Form.

  2. Select From Existing Document, and click Next.

  3. Select one of the following options:

    Use The Current Document

    Converts the currently open PDF to an interactive form.

    Choose Another File

    Converts an existing electronic document (for example, Word, Excel, or PDF) to an interactive PDF form. Click Browse to locate the file.

    Scan A Paper Form

    Scans a paper form and converts it to an interactive PDF form.

  4. Click Continue, and follow the onscreen instructions.

    Acrobat creates the form and opens it in the Form Editing mode. The Forms task pane displays options for editing the form. The toolbar contains form field tools for adding additional fields.

  5. Review the form fields Acrobat created. Add fields using the form field tools in the taskbar. Delete, resize, or arrange the fields as needed. You can add any of the following types of form fields:


    Encode the input from selected fields and display it as a visual pattern that can be interpreted by decoding software or hardware (available separately).


    Initiate a change on the user’s computer, such as opening a file, playing a sound, or submitting data to a web server. These buttons can be customized with images, text, and visual changes triggered by mouse actions.

    Check boxes

    Present yes-or-no choices for individual items. If the form contains multiple check boxes, the user can typically select as many or few of these as wanted.

    Digital signature field

    Lets the user electronically sign a PDF document with a digital signature.

    Drop-down list

    Let the user either choose an item from a pop-up menu or type a value. You can set a form field property that enables the user to enter a custom value.

    List boxes

    Display a list of options the user can select. You can set a form field property that enables the user to Shift-click to select multiple items on the list.

    Radio buttons

    Present a group of choices from which the user can select only one item. All radio buttons with the same name work together as a group.

    Text fields

    Let the user type text, such as name, address, or phone number.

    For more information, see Form field basics.

  6. When you are satisfied with the form, click Close Form Editing.

For a video tutorial on creating forms, watch How to create PDF forms from existing documents:

Create forms for Adobe Sign

You can convert an existing form into an Adobe Sign form or easily drag-and-drop Adobe Sign fields onto a PDF. You can send the form out to be filled in and signed using the Adobe Sign service. Not all fields convert to Adobe Sign fields, such as List Box, Dropdown, or Button fields. You can add additional Adobe Sign fields from the toolbar.

  1. Open the PDF you want to convert to an Adobe Sign form.

  2. Choose Tools > Forms > Edit

  3. If asked whether you want Acrobat to detect form fields for you, click Yes.

  4. When alerted that you are entering the Form Editing Mode, click OK.

  5. In the Forms pane that opens, choose Tasks > Convert To Adobe Sign Form.

  6. When alerted that Acrobat removes form fields that Adobe Sign doesn't support, click Next, and then in the subsequent alert, click OK.

  7. To add a field to the form, select its icon in the taskbar. Position the pointer where you want to place the field, and click to insert it.

  8. Name the field and designate who is to fill it in or sign it. To set its properties, such as the border color, fill, font, and typeface size, double-click the field.

    Form field properties
    When you first place an Adobe Sign field, you can name it and specify who is to sign or fill in the field.

  9. When the form is complete, click Close Form Editing on the taskbar.

  10. To upload the form to Adobe Sign, choose Sign > Get Others To Sign > Send For Signatures.

  11. When the message “The document has been uploaded to Adobe Sign” appears, click Proceed To Adobe Sign To Continue. When the Adobe Sign website opens, follow the onscreen instructions.

Adding specialized Adobe Sign fields

You can create specialized Adobe Sign fields, such as dropdown lists or fields that validate or limit data to specific values. You name the field using a special text tag. The syntax of the tag includes all the information required to create the field. You do not see the features of the field in Acrobat. Adobe Sign uses the text tag to build the field after you upload the form to the Adobe Sign website.

You enter the text tag in the Name field when you first place the field. Optionally you can edit its name on the General tab of the Properties dialog box (double-click the field to open its properties). For a list of Adobe Sign text tags, see Creating Adobe Sign Forms with Text Tags. When you insert a text tag in Acrobat, omit the brackets that enclose the tag: {{tag}}.

Enable Reader users to save form data

Ordinarily, users of Reader X and earlier can’t save filled-in copies of forms that they complete. However, you can extend the rights of a PDF to allow these users to save form data. If you have Acrobat Pro, you can include additional capabilities for Reader users, such as adding text to non-interactive forms.


Unlike earlier versions of Reader, Reader XI includes both the Add Text tool and the ability to save form data. Acrobat users can type in non-fillable forms, add comments, and digitally sign PDFs without extending special rights.

  1. Open a single PDF, or preview a component PDF in a PDF Portfolio.

  2. If you are editing the form, click Close Form Editing in Forms task pane.

  3. Choose File > Save As Other > Reader Extended PDF, and choose one of the following options:

    Enable Adding Text In PDFs (that are not PDF forms)

    (Acrobat Pro) Lets users add text to PDFs or flat, non-fillable forms (for earlier versions of Reader).

    Commenting & Measuring

    (Acrobat Pro) Allows users to add comments or access the Object Data, Measuring, and Geospatial tools.

    Enable More Tools (includes form fill-in & save)

    Lets users save data they’ve entered in interactive or fillable forms.

Limitations on saving filled-in forms locally

Acrobat Standard and Acrobat Pro, each allow Adobe Reader 8 or later users to fill in and save PDF forms locally. The use of the Reader Extensions capability for local saving of PDF forms (called extended documents) is limited in two ways:

Number of deployed extended documents

An Acrobat Standard or Acrobat Pro customer can send an extended document to an unlimited number of recipients for them to fill in. For example, an Acrobat customer can post an empty form template on a web page that allows users to fill in and save PDF forms locally. An unlimited number of people can access the template. However, the Acrobat customer can collect only 500 responses from the filled-in form. This limitation includes both hardcopy (paper form submission) and electronic representations of the filled-in form.

Number of recipients of the extended document

An Acrobat Standard or Acrobat Pro customer can send an extended document to no more than 500 unique recipients. For example, an Acrobat customer belongs to an organization with 500 people or less. The Acrobat customer can send an unlimited number of copies of the extended document to those 500 recipients and collect unlimited responses from the filled-in form.

Both limitations apply per entity/company, and multiple users in an entity cannot abuse this feature. Obtaining additional licenses to use Acrobat does not increase the above restrictions. For example, five Acrobat Standard 9 users in a company cannot send out the same extended document to receive and extract data collectively more than 500 times.

Acrobat Standard and Acrobat Pro include technology that can enable PDF documents with certain features by using a digital credential. This credential is located within the Software (“Key”). You agree not to access, attempt to access, control, disable, remove, distribute the Key for any purpose.

Adding JavaScript to forms

The JavaScript language lets you create interactive web pages. Adobe has enhanced JavaScript so that you can easily integrate interactivity into PDF forms. The most common uses for JavaScript in Acrobat forms are formatting, calculating, validating data, and assigning an action. In Windows, you can also configure Adobe PDF forms to connect directly to databases using Open Database Connection (ODBC).


If you’re creating dynamic forms, keep in mind that Reader doesn’t support some custom JavaScripts. The form may not function properly when viewed in Reader unless additional usage rights are added to the PDF.

Additional resources

For more information on Acrobat JavaScript, see these resources:

Distribute (send) forms to recipients

Distribute PDF or web forms

After you create a form, you choose a method for sending it to recipients.

  1. Choose Tools > Forms > Distribute.

  2. A series of messages might appear, depending on the conditions Acrobat detects in your form. Respond to the onscreen instructions as needed, and save the form.
  3. Choose a distribution and collection method:


    Collect responses in your email inbox.

    Internal Server

    Distribute and collect responses on an internal server such as SharePoint or Network Folder. For more information, see Specify a server.

  4. Click Continue and follow the onscreen instructions for distributing the form.

  5. If you choose to collect responses in your email inbox, do one of the following:


If you don’t know the email addresses of your recipients, enter your own email address. The system sends you a link to the form, which you can email to recipients as desired.

Distribute Adobe Sign forms

After you create an Adobe Sign form, you can use the Adobe Sign service for sending it to recipients for filling in and signing.

  1. If the form is in the Form Editing mode, click Close Form Editing on the taskbar.

  2. Save the form if you haven't already.

  3. To upload the form to Adobe Sign, choose Sign > Get Others To Sign > Send For Signatures.

  4. When the message “The document has been uploaded to Adobe Sign” appears, click Proceed To Adobe Sign To Continue.

  5. When the Adobe Sign website opens, follow the onscreen instructions.

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