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How to create a fillable PDF file that people can type into

Here’s everything you need to know.

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Unless you are in the know, you might assume that PDF documents are impervious to editing, which can be an inconvenience in certain situations.

Thankfully there are ways to use PDFs as files that others can edit and tinker with, which is useful for collaboration, communication, and general usability, so here are just a few ways to go about this.

How to add to or edit a PDF file that isn’t fillable

First of all, you will be pleased to know that you can make alterations to any PDF without needing to start from scratch.

One of the most convenient options is to use browser-based tools that let you edit a PDF online, all without needing to download any additional software. Just upload the file you want to edit and you are good to go!

You can also achieve a similar thing by converting a PDF file to a Word document, making changes in Microsoft’s word processing software, then exporting the finished doc as a PDF. This is a little more time consuming, but could give you the results you need.

How to create fillable PDF forms

Using Adobe’s Acrobat software suite, you can make your very own fillable PDFs, either building them from the ground up, or converting existing documents and forms so that they are editable by third parties.

All you need to do is launch Acrobat, use the Tools tab to find the Prepare Form option and then pick which file or doc you want to generate as a fillable PDF.

Acrobat will do the legwork for you initially, detecting where form fields need to be added and including them automatically. If you want to include your own fields, you can do this via the toolbar, and also move and reposition the fields of the form according to your needs.

After you are satisfied, save the results and then share the file as you see fit, either via email or your preferred sharing service, or through Acrobat’s own built-in Distribute function which also means that any responses you receive via the form will be collected for analysis without you needing to handle this manually.

Considerations to keep in mind

When making fillable PDF documents, you need to remember a few things in order to ensure that the end product is actually able to fulfill its original purpose.

Firstly, do not overcrowd the document with fields that are to be filled out, as if there are too many to keep track of then people might miss some in the melee; the interface matters a lot.

Secondly, remember that you can use checkboxes to pose multiple choice questions, rather than necessarily needing every response to be filled out with the unique written response of the recipient. This can make collating data further down the line easier.

Also think about whether or not it makes sense to use this as an opportunity for a bit of brand-building. If this is a survey or questionnaire associated with a commercial operation, then adding logos and messaging to the form alongside the usual fields could be impactful. Likewise if the document is a contract or other important binding document, check to ensure that it meets all the requirements that are in place under law, so that both you and the signatories are protected.

Lastly, consider adding a ‘reset’ button to the form so that users can remove all entered information in an instant and start over. In short, make the fillable PDF as consistent and easy to comprehend as possible to get the best results.

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