Electronically filling in a PDF document not set up for input?
July 16, 2004 1:17 AM   Subscribe

PDFFilter - I have a .pdf upon which I need to enter information (think of it like an application with blanks for application-y stuff like name and address). The .pdf is not a form, however. Currently, the only option seems to be printing the document and then using either a pen or a typewriter to fill in the blanks. There simply must be a way to get this information onto the .pdf electronically instead ... mustn't there? Your help is much appreciated.
posted by Sinner to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
 
PDF is Illustrator's native file format. You can open the file in Illustrator, edit it -- i.e., add your text in the blanks on the form -- and save it back out as PDF.
posted by jjg at 1:29 AM on July 16, 2004


Acrobat will also do the job, although editing PDFs can be a pain, with v5 anyway. Maybe it's been improved in the new version. Another option is to save to RTF, but Acrobat's very approximate in the way it converts formatting.
posted by cbrody at 2:07 AM on July 16, 2004


Unfortunately most PDF forms do not use text fields although it is quite easy to add them using Acrobat 6.

If you have Acrobat (not Acrobat Reader) and the document's properties allow you to modify it you can use the textfield tool to add them, simply draw a rectangular box and set the font properties in the dialogue box.

Another option is to open the PDF in Photoshop (the PDF will be converted into a bitmap) and add the text there.
posted by tcp at 3:17 AM on July 16, 2004


nitpick: PDF is not Ilustrator's native file format, it's .AI. PDF is Acrobat's native file format.
Or do I err?
posted by signal at 8:28 AM on July 16, 2004


Thanks for the replies. I don't have Illustrator or Acrobat, so I guess I'll try it in Photoshop and see if that works. Though I didn't mention it in my post, it probably will come as no surprise that what I was/am looking for is a nice, cute and ideally cheap/free little app, open source or otherwise. It surprises me that none exists as it would seem that the number of people needed to "fill in" PDF documents vastly exceeds the number of people who have or can afford Acrobat/Illustrator/Photoshop in this manner. But this wouldn't be the first time I was wrong...
posted by Sinner at 8:51 AM on July 16, 2004


"... needing to 'fill in' PDF documents...."
posted by Sinner at 8:52 AM on July 16, 2004


OK, wow, it's early and I'm tired. That last part should had more problems than a typo. It should have read:

"It surprises me that none exists as it would seem that the number of people needing to 'fill in' PDF documents in this manner vastly exceeds the number of people who have or can afford Acrobat/Illustrator/Photoshop. I would expect there to be a solution for the problem similar to CutePDF. But this wouldn't be the first time I was wrong..."

And it would be the second time in this thread that I was incomprehensible. Sorry.
posted by Sinner at 9:04 AM on July 16, 2004


Try this link, Sinner. andrew (not a member but wants to be [and the author of the software]) says it may work for you.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:05 AM on July 16, 2004


nitpick: PDF is not Ilustrator's native file format, it's .AI.

As of the last few versions of Illustrator (going back to 9, I think), they're the same thing. Illustrator saves files with the .ai filename extension so the OS doesn't try to open a file you intend to edit in Acrobat. The data inside is PDF data. You could take any modern .ai file, change the filename extension to .pdf, and you'd have a perfectly valid PDF file.

I guess I'll try it in Photoshop and see if that works

It ought to work just fine. The only question is how the recipient will feel about getting a rasterized file back from you.

It surprises me that none exists as it would seem that the number of people needing to 'fill in' PDF documents in this manner vastly exceeds the number of people who have or can afford Acrobat/Illustrator/Photoshop. I would expect there to be a solution for the problem similar to CutePDF.

I'm not sure this need is all that common. The official line is that if you want people to fill out your PDFs electronically, you should be using PDF Forms. Anyone distributing forms as plain-vanilla PDFs doesn't (and shouldn't) expect to receive PDFs back.

As for the tool-makers, writing software to edit PDF is much more difficult than software that just manipulates existing data. I imagine it could be done pretty easily on OS X, but it would be a lot of heavy lifting on Windows.
posted by jjg at 10:16 AM on July 16, 2004


mr_crash_davis,

Thanks to you and to andrew, but unfortunately, it appears his link/app is OS X-only (as predicted by jjg), while I'm chained to Win2k.

jjg,

Thanks also for the explanation. I'm surprised by the fact that no such app exists, but I agree with you that when electronically distributed, these forms usually are, well, electronic forms. Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do about that in this particular case.
posted by Sinner at 10:40 AM on July 16, 2004


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