How can I make a PDF file writable?

A Portable Document Format (PDF) allows a person to read documents in their intended format on any type of computer or in any operating system. When you create a PDF document through either a PDF program or through a compatible word-processing program, such as Microsoft Word, the document is saved as an un-editable document by default. So, if the document is a form, or some other type of file that contains fields that need to be filled in, the document must be printed and filled out by hand. However, if you include writable fields--parts of the document that can be edited--in a PDF document, the document can be modified, making it possible for the document to be filled out directly in the PDF file.

Download and install a program that can read and edit PDF files. Only a few programs are available that can add writable fields to a PDF. The most well-known program is probably Adobe Acrobat, which retails for £195, as of 2010. Other programs that write PDF include Nitro PDF Professional, runs around £65, as of 2010.

Launch the PDF program and open the PDF that you want to make writable. To open a PDF in a PDF program, go to the "File" menu, select "Open" and navigate to the PDF file in the location you've saved it on the hard drive. Double-click the file to open it.

Click on the "Forms" tab if "Forms is an option. If "Forms" is not displayed on the screen in the PDF software, open the "View" menu, hover over "Toolbars" and click "Forms" to display the "Forms" toolbar.

Select the "Text Field" or "Text Form Field" option from the "Forms" toolbar. Move your cursor to the location on the PDF where you want to create a writable field and draw a text field by holding down the mouse button and dragging the mouse to form a rectangle.

Double-click the text field to open the "Properties" box for the field. Enter a title for the field, such as first name or address and use the tools in the box to change the field's appearance. Items that can be changed in the "Properties" box include colours and font settings.

Go to the "Options" tab to choose an alignment, left, right or centre, for the writable field. Enter text into the "Default Text" box to help guide users through filling out the form. For instance, you may type "First Name" into the field where you want users to enter their first name if you are creating a form. Enter a number in the "Limit of characters" box if you want to limit the number of letters a respondent can enter in the text field.

Create as many writable fields as you want on the form. When you are finished adding writable field, go to the "File" menu and choose the "Save" option to overwrite the original PDF file or "Save As" to create a separate writable PDF and leave the original file intact.


If you would like to create a writable PDF from a non-PDF source file, such as a Microsoft Word document, you must first create a non-writable PDF. To create a non-writable PDF in Word and similar programs, go to the "File" menu and choose "Print." Use the drop-down menu in the "Printer Name" box to select a PDF printing option. The name of this option varies depending on the PDF-printing program that you have installed on your system, but always has PDF in the title. Click "Save," enter a file name in the window that appears, and then click "Save" again. The file saves as a PDF that can be opened in a PDF program.

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About the Author

Alexis Lawrence is a freelance writer, filmmaker and photographer with extensive experience in digital video, book publishing and graphic design. An avid traveler, Lawrence has visited at least 10 cities on each inhabitable continent. She has attended several universities and holds a Bachelor of Science in English.