Prerelease documentation: Document Flattening


This article contains prerelease information. Release dates, features, and other information are subject to change without notice.


Document or Field flattening (in the context of Acrobat Sign) is essentially the process of taking an uploaded PDF document and passing it through a PDF print driver. This process has a few benefits:

  • AcroForm PDFs with fields displaying default values are printed into the document, resulting in the field content becoming text, and the field object is removed. This is useful if you generate PDF documentation through some automated method, resulting in fields with custom content that you don't want end users (senders, in this case) to edit.
  • A normalized PDF. When Acrobat Sign prints the PDF, it's printed from a known source that retains all of the elements Acrobat Sign looks for when accepting a PDF into the system. Some applications that generate PDFs don't always adhere to the standard, and where they may generate a working version of a PDF, it may not have elements that Acrobat Sign expects, resulting in a failed upload.
  • Removal of artifacts. Some PDFs have objects left in the PDF due to upstream processing. Typically, this results from PDF generators that leave unexpected elements Acrobat Sign can't manage, resulting in a failed upload.

One of the first troubleshooting steps for a failed PDF upload would be to run the PDF through a print driver (flatten it) and then try the upload again.

The Field flattening feature automatically flattens the PDF upon upload, resolving many upload issues before they become problems that generate errors and slow the sender's progress.


Field flattening is available for individual, team, and enterprise license plans.

Configuration scope:

The feature can be enabled at the account and group levels.

How it's used

Once enabled, there is no further configuration for administrators or additional processes for senders.

Any PDF uploaded is automatically "flattened".


Procedurally, Field flattening takes place before automatic field detection, so customers who want to take advantage of automatic field detection with PDF files containing pre-filled fields may do so.

The prefilled content is printed into the document, and then field detection will identify any remaining field candidates based on the form geometry. 

Which fields are flattened and which are not

The following items are considered 'AcroForm' fields, and are flattened before the authoring phase:

  • Text fields
  • Image fields
  • Checkboxes
  • Radio buttons
  • Drop-down lists
  • List boxs
  • Buttons
  • Date fields
  • E-signature fields
  • Barcodes

These field types are not flattened:

  • Payment tags
  • Attachments
  • PDF Links
  • Multi-line fields
  • Text tags (Which aren't actually fields, but a text based field identifier.)


The controls for this feature can be assessed by navigating to Send Settings > Field flattening

The Send Settings page highlighting the Feild flattening controls


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