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Editable PDFs?
September 29, 2009 2:09 PM   Subscribe

I want to be able to create editable, form-based PDFs. What software do I need?

I want to be able to create editable, form-based PDFs. For example, if you look at this W4 form, you can click and type information into each of the preset fields.

What software do I need to be able to do this? My google-fu is failing me; it looks like I need to buy Adobe Acrobat, but is that the only option? If it is, does it matter as far as Standard vs. Pro edition?
posted by Kattiara17 to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
There are lots of programs that do this, many for significantly less than Acrobat. Are you using a Mac or a PC? Do you have access to an educational discount?
posted by jedicus at 2:22 PM on September 29, 2009


I'm using a PC, no access to an educational discount, though.
posted by Kattiara17 at 2:29 PM on September 29, 2009


PDFil will add fillable forms to PDFs. It costs $19.99
posted by rxrfrx at 2:29 PM on September 29, 2009


rxrfrx, I get the impression that PDFil is a way of filling data in a non form pdf. Is that right. I think the OP wants to be able to create forms which can be filled by anyone with just a pdf reader.
posted by london302 at 2:51 PM on September 29, 2009


Scribus is open source and will create forms. Depending what you mean by "editable", this might work for you.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:53 PM on September 29, 2009


@london32, you're right; ultimately I want to be able to create PDFs that anyone with just Acrobat Reader can open, type in their info, and then save.

The end result of this will be (hopefully) that I can take some very old and outdated forms that my company has that were just scanned in, and create new, clean, pretty versions that anyone can type into.

@aeschenkarnos, I actually remember trying Scribus awhile back; but unless I'm confusing it with something else (or they've changed), it didn't create PDFs. As far as what I mean by editable, apologies for not being more clear.. if you click the link in my question to the W4 form, though, THAT is what I want to make.
posted by Kattiara17 at 3:04 PM on September 29, 2009


If you do buy Acrobat, Pro (v7 and up, if you get a used copy) is the better choice, but Standard should suffice. If it's for business purposes, it's good to have at least one license laying around for professional use. Then again, this is more about how many of these types of documents you will be creating, how often, and if you can justify the expense of what Acrobat generally goes for. Sorry, can't help you out more with any cheaper alternatives.
disclosure: worked for a company that did a little more than half of its prof. services with Acrobat Pro and developed for it.
posted by neewom at 3:20 PM on September 29, 2009


While I'm thinking about it - are web forms an option? It's fairly easy to create something that does what (i think) you want that will maintain the visual and practical things you need.
posted by neewom at 3:22 PM on September 29, 2009


Even if you purchased Acrobat, can you really make a form that anyone with just Reader can fill and save? I'm aware of filling and submitting, or filling and saving the data. I'd love to know if this is incorrect, though.
posted by odinsdream at 4:40 PM on September 29, 2009


Would a web service work? My daughter has been using this one with a 8 or 10 pagepdf document and it seems to work just fine.
posted by COD at 4:50 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


@COD thanks for submitting PDFEscape. Here is my quick and dirty review of it: This site comes very close to what the OP is probably looking for. It allows you to upload a simple pdf file and convert areas in it into fields which can be filled. I tried converting a file and then filling it with Adobe Reader. The only downside I found was that there are limitations in formatting of the text you can enter. But for free, it is a minor complaint.

More suggestions are welcome....
posted by london302 at 5:06 PM on September 29, 2009


As far as what I mean by editable, apologies for not being more clear.. if you click the link in my question to the W4 form, though, THAT is what I want to make.

Editable can be interpreted as (1) "I am able to complete the form fields", ie enter name and address in the appropriate boxes; or (2) "I am able to change the whole form", ie change "NAME:" to "WOOHOO!" if I felt like it, whether or not I entered my actual name in the box next to it.

I gather you mean #1, and it looks like Scribus and PDFEscape would both work fine for that.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:07 PM on September 29, 2009


@neewom - as far as web forms go, I'm not sure if you mean just an application that's online instead of software I'd install (which would be fine), or only being able to create forms and access them through some sort of hosted site (i.e. send people a link to an online form that would save their data). If it's the latter, that wouldn't work. I need to be able to have copies of the documents that will be distributable by email; additionally some of them will probably have confidential information.

@aeschenkarnos - the first option. I want to people to be able to complete the form fields I would create (and then save it and send back to me without losing that information).

Thanks to all for your suggestions; I feel like I must still be explaining this poorly, lol. I probably sound like a broken record, but if you CLICK HERE it takes you to a blank W4 form. If I save this to my desktop, I can then open the saved copy and type information into the predefined form fields. I can then save the document, and if I open it back up the information I've entered is still there. I could email this file to someone else, and they would see my filled in information. This is exactly what I want to be able to do.

@COD - I took a look at PDFEscape. The issue is that when I've added form fields to a PDF and then download a copy to my computer, the resulting document doesn't let you save the information you then enter into the fields.
posted by Kattiara17 at 7:17 AM on September 30, 2009


I used Acrobat professional this week to do exactly this. After searching for workarounds, Acrobat was truly the simplest and cleanest option. As the creator of the form, you can enable an option that allows "local saving". This will allow any user of the form with just Acrobat Reader to fill in and save the form on their computer.

If you are with a charity or non profit, you can use TechSoup.com or Tech Soup Canada to get a very discounted copy.
posted by sambiamb at 9:15 AM on September 30, 2009


In that case, I would just go with a single or business/site license of Acrobat Pro if you're going to be creating/maintaining a lot of these sort of files. Good luck :)
posted by neewom at 10:56 AM on September 30, 2009


rxrfrx, I get the impression that PDFil is a way of filling data in a non form pdf. Is that right

No, that's not right
posted by rxrfrx at 3:53 PM on October 2, 2009


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