Fill in forms

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 must print and fill in by hand. These non-interactive forms are called flat forms.

Purple bar across the top?

Fillable forms
A.
Interactive forms highlight where you should type

B.
Forms with the Typewriter tool let you add text anywhere on the form

The purple message bar indicates the form is fillable. Depending on how the form was created, it could be “interactive” or “flat”.

Interactive form
An interactive form contains fields that you can select or fill in. You can turn on the auto-complete option to help you fill in forms more quickly.

Flat form with Typewriter tool
A flat form does not have interactive fields. However, if availabe, you can use the Typewriter tool to type over blank form fields. You can add text anywhere on the form, not only within specific boxes.

Note: The purple bar displays only if the creator of the form enabled it.

Typewriter tool visable?

If the typewriter tool is available, you can add text anywhere on the form.

Forms that display the Typewriter tool, let you add text anywhere on the form. If you don’t see the Typewriter tool palette as shown above, look in the Tools or Sign pane (depending on your version of Reader) for the Add Text option.

Note: The Typewriter tool is available only if the creator of the form enabled it.

Yellow bar across the top?

View full size graphic
A yellow message bar protects you from potentially risky files.

A yellow message bar may appear when you open a form in Acrobat. Protected View limits what you can do in a PDF so as to protect your computer from potentially malicious content. If you trust the source of the file, click Enable All Features. Once enabled, you can look for the purple message bar or Typewriter tool.

No purple bar or Typewriter tool?

Form with neither the purple bar across the top nor the Typewriter tool

If you don’t see a purple bar across the top or the Typewriter tool, your form is not fillable in Reader. You must print the form and fill it in by hand.

Quick tip tutorials on filling in and saving forms

For some quick tutorials on filling in forms, see these videos on Adobe TV:

Sample forms: flat and interactive

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.

Fill in interactive forms

An interactive fillable form contains fields that you can select or fill in. You can turn on the auto-complete option to help you fill in forms more quickly.

Fill in an interactive form

In an interactive form, the pointer changes to a different icon, depending the field. For example, the Hand  tool changes to an I-beam  when you can type text into the form field.

  1. If necessary, right-click the document, and select either the Hand tool  or the Select tool  from the pop-up menu.
  2. To make form fields easier to identify, click the Highlight Fields button  on the purple document message bar. Form fields appear with a colored background (light blue by default). A colored outline (red by default) identifies required form fields.
  3. Click inside a text field to type. For check boxes or selection buttons, click the option you want to select.
  4. Press Tab to move forward or Shift + Tab to move backward.
  5. When finished, click the submit button to send the form data. The submit button can appear in the purple message bar at the top of the form or in the form itself.

For troubleshooting tips on completing forms, see Troubleshooting forms.

Options for moving among form fields

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

Enable the Auto-complete options (interactive forms only)

The Auto-Complete feature stores entries that you type in interactive form fields. 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.

  1. Right-click the document, and choose Page Display Preferences.
  2. In the Preferences dialog box, click Forms from the list at left.
  3. Under Auto-Complete, choose Basic or Advanced from the menu. (A description of each mode appears at the bottom of the dialog box.)
  4. Select Remember Numerical Data if you want to store numbers that you type into forms.

Remove entries from the Auto-Complete memory

If Auto-Complete includes unwanted entries, such as inadvertent misspellings, you can remove them.

  1. Right-click the document, and choose Page Display Preferences.
  2. In the Preferences dialog box, click Forms from the list at left.
  3. Under Auto-Complete, select Edit Entry List, and then remove or change the unwanted words.

Fill in forms with Typewriter tool

If the form creator enabled the Typewriter tool, use that tool to fill out flat forms. The text you add with the Typewriter tool appears in the Comments List (Comment > Comments List).

  1. In either the purple message bar or floating toolbar, click Typewriter.

    Note: If the Typewriter option is unavailable, you must print the form to fill it out.
  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.

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

    Note: You cannot electronically submit a form filled out using the Typewriter tool. You must print the completed form.

Save forms

Not all forms can be saved. Completed forms can be saved only if the author of the form allows it. If the PDF author has enabled local saving, click the disk icon  in the toolbar at the upper left of the window or in the floating toolbar if viewing the form on the web. Then rename the file and save the form with your information.

Floating toolbar in form viewed on the web.

When you open a form in Adobe Reader, you can view the usage rights in the notification bar above the form. Contact the author of the form to change your usage rights.

Print forms

  1. In the upper left of the window, click the Print button .

  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:
    • (Interactive or flat form) To print the form and the typed entries, choose Document.

    • (Interactive or flat form) To print the form, the typed entries, and any comments on the form, choose Document And Markups.

    • (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

 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 a form in the Reader application

 Choose File > Revert.

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 Reader, you can import the data to view it in the context of the complete PDF:

 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:

 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.