Create Your Own PDF Forms – you know…fill in the blanks

By Sandra Clitter  

PDF documents are pretty ubiquitous. Many of us who work in offices see them every day. Most times, they are just text, or text and images. Someone saved a Word document into a PDF format, so it can’t be edited, but can be read by everyone (well, everyone who has a PDF reader – and that’s most of us).

Sometimes, a PDF document is really a form that the user can complete/return. Some of them are just a form to print out (you can’t fill out the information on the computer). Some of them are interactive – that is, you can fill in the information right on the computer screen, then print/email the document. That’s kind of cool if you’re asking someone for information in a specified format. Making someone print out a ‘static’ PDF (one where you can’t fill in the blanks) requires them to fill in the entries by hand, scan the document back in so they can email it to you, or send you the printed out copy. If you send them a regular Word document (so they can fill it out on the computer), they can change things up – leaving the original formatting useless. If it’s a contract or other ‘official’ document, they could change the terms and return it to you and you might not even notice!

So, I would LOVE to have an inexpensive tool where I could create ‘interactive’ PDF documents, but it wouldn’t cost me a fortune. I don’t spend my life doing things like that…I only do it once in a great while.

I always thought that the only way to create these ‘form’ PDF’s was to have the full-blown Adobe Acrobat product (cost at time of this writing – $449.00 on Adobe’s site). I don’t know about you, but that’s NOT a price that I can stomach. I need to create PDF forms occasionally. When I’ve had the need, I’ve tended to just created Word documents and hope for the best. Now, I’ve found a new program that allows me to create Form PDFs for FREE – YEAH!! The promised land!

In the past, we’ve covered creating a ‘normal’ PDF document with a free PDF writer (http://www.yourtechtamer.com/blog/2010/12/creating-pdfs-for-free/, however, this was just to turn a ‘normal’ document on your computer into a PDF – its not ‘interactive’.

Welcome PDFescape! I’m so glad that we found you!!! To quote from their website (www.pdfescape.com), “PDFescape is a free service. Users of PDFescape can upload files to view them, modify them, form fill them, and even create new forms. No logo, watermark, or other tag is added to your file. PDFescape is truly free.” Hip-hip-hooray!!!

Let’s see what it’s like (click image for larger view):

First, there is NO SIGNON required. If you want to save your documents to PDFEscape’s site, then you need to create a signon, but otherwise, it is an ‘open’ world!

This document took me under 5 minutes to create – and I had never looked at how to do this before now.

You simply click on one of the types of information you want to put on your PDF (I’ll click on ‘text’):

Then you click on your blank document and start typing. When you’re done, click the yellow bar to disable and move onto the next item. Click on images and you can upload images to your document. Form-fields are a snap:

There are five (count ‘em FIVE) types of form-fields you can add: Text, Checkbox, Radio button, Drop-down, or Listbox. I added a text field and a drop-down. For the drop-down, I created several selections.

In order to make the choices for the drop-down field, I had to right-click on the field I had inserted and select ‘Properties’:

Then, I just typed in the values that I wanted the user to see (DE, NJ, PA, NY):

When I was done ‘creating’ my entire document, I simply hit this button:

and I was able to download/save the document to my local computer.

Remember, I never created a signon, so when I finished my ‘virtual’ work, I had to save it somewhere! (If I’d created an account, I could have saved the file online).

What were the results?

I could then send this document to anyone to complete…here’s what a completed form looks like:

Now, all that anyone needs to do is print it to a PDF and email it back to me! I have a lovely, consistent, legible form to work from. HOORAY!!!


8 Comments

  1. Posted June 24, 2012 at 8:39 am | Permalink | Reply

    This is great! I can’t wait to give it a try. I wish there was a book or website dedicated to all types of free or cheap replacements for expensive software for business. A review and quick how-to would be nice too. I think you are the perfect person to provide this to the world! Thanks for always being on the lookout for stuff like this. Very helpful.

    • Posted June 24, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

      You are too sweet, Bonnie! I’m actually working on something just like that, so stay tuned! Thanks for the vote of confidence.

  2. rosemary duran
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 10:39 am | Permalink | Reply

    does this tool allow for a larger amount of text to be entered into a text box. For example, an essay? I can’t seem to get the text to wrap within the box.

  3. J Reeves
    Posted March 11, 2014 at 7:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I have been looking for something like this for awhile.
    Thank you.

  4. David
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 4:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I may have misunderstood this post. I read it to mean I could upload an existing pdf form, create fields within that form and then save and download it so that it could be opened and filled out by anyone.

    This does not seem to be the case, or I’m not doing something right. The form I save and download is not “fillable” once I download it.

    • Posted April 8, 2014 at 9:10 am | Permalink | Reply

      Sorry you’re having trouble, David. We haven’t played with this tool for a while, but when we did, it allowed us to CREATE the fields to fill in, then download and share that PDF. Not sure where you were running into trouble, but you need to CREATE the fillable fields (sounds like you did that), then follow the directions to save/download. Once you do, you should be able to share, so others can fill in. It worked just fine when we tried it. Perhaps try searching their blog (http://blog.pdfescape.com/) or contact them directly with your findings. I’m sure that they want to know if its not working as expected.

  5. Posted May 23, 2014 at 4:39 am | Permalink | Reply

    PDF templating tool is useful to define where you want to fill data later on original PDF, from Web form or from any other datasource.

    Once you have areas where to fill each data (with id/field name), merging can be done in any language (PHP, .Net, JVM, …) providing a PDF library (PHP: fpdf, .Net/JVM: iText, …).

    Dhek is such tool, declaring mapping between data/areas (bounds on PDF) in an open format (JSON) which can be processed on any platform: https://github.com/applicius/dhek

  6. Ann
    Posted June 30, 2014 at 7:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Have only made one document and immediately registered. Really nice program. I use a MAC.

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