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Filling out PDF files

Posted By : of Data Doctors on March 16, 2005

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Is there a way to download a PDF document, fill in information, then save and upload it again?


This question was answered on March 16, 2005. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

The Portable Document Format (PDF) is a file standard that was created by Adobe Systems as a way to ensure that a form or document retained its original look when published or printed and it was usable by any user on any platform (Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.)

In the past, if a Word document was sent to someone that did not have Word installed or had an older version installed, it was not viewable by the recipient This common problem was solved by the PDF standard.

In essence, it’s an electronic image of the original document in a form that is viewable by anyone that has downloaded the free Acrobat Reader ( – look for the ‘Get Adobe Reader’ button), regardless of the original program’s format (Version 7 is the latest, so if you have an older version installed, you may want to update it to be able to work with all the latest features.)

One of the most common uses for PDF files is forms For instance, the IRS and most state tax agencies post official tax forms in PDF format at their websites that can be downloaded and printed on any printer.

What can actually be done with a PDF file on your computer is generally up to the creator of the form For instance, an interactive PDF can be created with specific areas designated as form fields so they can be electronically filled out by the recipient (like those posted at with no special tools needed.

To determine whether a form contains interactive form fields:

1 Open the form in Acrobat Reader or your browser

2 Select the Hand tool, and then drag it over fields in the PDF form If the form contains form fields, the Hand tool will change to either an I-beam (the Text Select tool, which you use to type text in a text field) or a pointing hand (which you use to select an option).

If there are no interactive form fields, you may still be able to manually add text on top of the form depending upon the security levels set by the author

To check the security settings of a PDF form:

1 Open the form in Acrobat Reader

2 Choose File > Document Properties, and then select Security (or File > Document Security in older versions)

3 If ‘Not Allowed’ appears next to Changing the Document, Filling of Form Fields, or Signing in the Document Security dialog box, you will not be able to make any changes to the form.

There are a number of programs that you can buy that will allow you to do more with PDF files if you want to spend the time and money One site that has many tools that can be tried out for free is

Many other programs can be found by going to Google and searching for ‘PDF form fillers’ or ‘filling out PDF forms’, but modifying PDF files that the author did not want to be modified can be somewhat challenging, so be sure you are up for the task.

About the author

Posted by of Data Doctors on March 16, 2005

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