Fill in forms

This document explains how to fill PDF forms using Acrobat or Reader desktop application.

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 Fill & Sign tool. These non-interactive forms are called flat forms.

Interactive forms in Acrobat Reader
Interactive fillable form in Acrobat Reader: Highlight where you should type

Flat form in Acrobat Reader
Non-interactive flat form in Acrobat Reader: Use the Fill & Sign tools to add text and other symbols anywhere on the form

Fill in interactive forms

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

Interactive form in Acrobat
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 Existing 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.
    Press Tab to move forward or Shift+Tab to move backward.
  4. 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 Fill & Sign tools

A flat form does not have interactive fields. However, you can use the Fill & Sign tools to add text and other symbols anywhere on the form. For instructions, see Fill out your PDF form.

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 Fill & Sign tools to fill out the form. Save the form on your computer, and then open it directly in Acrobat or Acrobat Reader. For instructions, see Fill out your PDF form.

Save form on your computer
Save form, open in Acrobat or Acrobat Reader, and then choose Tools > Fill & Sign.

Options for working in forms



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


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.


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 Acrobat 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.


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 under Auto-Complete.

  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 Prepare Form tool or by simply enabling the Fill & Sign tools. Acrobat and Acrobat Reader users can use the Fill & Sign tool to fill in flat forms.

Interactive form

To create an interactive form, use the Prepare Forms tool. See Create a form from an existing document.

Flat form

To enable the Fill & Sign tools, choose File > Save As Other  > Reader Extended PDF > Enable More Tools (includes Form Fill-in & Save).

The tools are enabled for the current form only. When you create a different form, redo this task to enable Acrobat Reader users to use the tools.

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 unsaved form entries

  1. Choose Tools > Prepare Forms. In the right hand pane, click More and then choose Clear Form.

Import or export form data (Reader application only, not browser)

In some workflows, individuals submit filled-in forms as data-only files in a format such as FDF or XML. In Acrobat Reader, you can import the data to view it in the context of the complete PDF:

  1. In the upper right of the window, click Extended, and then click Import Data.

Likewise, you can save the information in a completed PDF form as a data file in another format:

  1. In the upper right of the window, click Extended, and then click Export Data.

For more information, see Manage form data files in Acrobat Help.

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