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I have some PDFs which are actually forms, with fields to fill. Is there some software that can fill those fields?

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18 Answers 18

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Xournal will allow you to draw/write anything on the top layer of any PDF document and then export it back to PDF. It doesn't allow to actually fill PDF forms, but if writing text / drawing on top of your PDF is enough for you, you may find it useful.

You can install it from the Ubuntu software.

To install from terminal, use the following command:

sudo apt-get install xournal

Note: Xournal is not anymore actively developed. There is an actively developed fork, Xournal++.

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  • 11
    But it loses the vector information of the original PDF, resulting in a lower-quality image.
    – Richard
    Dec 9, 2012 at 21:39
  • 49
    Xournal does not actually fill forms.
    – RolandiXor
    Feb 27, 2013 at 16:06
  • 1
    You can't fill in meant-to-be-filled text fields (and those get lost on export in my experience) , but you can use the text editor tool (and aim relatively high, so the bottom of that I-shaped mouse cursor is actually the middle height of your text to be). – good enough to fill out some arbitrary tax forms or parcel labels... Dec 10, 2018 at 17:30
54

Document Viewer (Evince) SHOULD be able to fill in forms, IF the document is a fillable form. Not all documents are fillable! If document does not support form filling the form, you should use tools like PDFedit or OpenOffice Draw

You can find them in Software Center

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  • 26
    I don't think evince works. When I save a form I have filled in the information I have entered is lost. okular appears to work however.
    – graffe
    Jun 6, 2014 at 8:12
  • 7
    Indeed, evince doesn't work.
    – Rho
    Jun 4, 2015 at 14:28
  • 4
    Evince 3.18.2 let me very easily put text into a form on a US tax document and save it. Opening the file in xpdf, I can see the edits. Not sure if it's filling the forms the "right way", but the spacing and font look great in this limited test.
    – Colin
    Mar 29, 2016 at 22:50
  • 9
    I've had evince work on some pdf forms, including tax forms, but not others, including university paperwork. Evince should not be considered a reliable option. Aug 5, 2016 at 9:18
  • 3
    I'm using opensuse and evince doesn't work for me. Only the text in the currently focused textbox appears, every other textboxes are blank.
    – phuclv
    Feb 15, 2017 at 15:43
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I have tried Evince, Okular, PDf Chain and other not so pretty ones. The one that comes closer in the Ubuntu Software Repositories is Okular with an option to "Show Forms" which depending on the form it will or not show. I tried all of those trying to solve this question: How to fill out the forms and save the inputs in this tax report pdf file

The only one that suggest working and has been tested is PDF Edit from here http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfedit/ and Acrobat 10 from here http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat.html

I was actually surprised to learn this since there are a lot of PDF Viewers but less editors and even lesser ones that can perform Form filling and such.

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  • 1
    Quite frankly, even with expensive Windows software like PDF Revu I am unable to edit all forms. Seems the standard isn't clear enough or not enough people stick by it?! Jul 6, 2015 at 17:24
  • 1
    Okular after opening announced that file has XFA forms that are unsupported (tax report file in Poland). Apr 26, 2017 at 9:39
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    @MateuszKonieczny Hi friend, might you have a PDF form that I could use for testing. If you do have one, please feel free to send it to luisalvarado@ubuntu.com so I can check which apps can work with it and update this answer with some updated results. Thank you. Apr 26, 2017 at 14:20
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    @LuisAlvarado finanse.mf.gov.pl/documents/766655/1481810/IFT-1(13)_v1-0E.pdf or other from finanse.mf.gov.pl/pp/e-deklaracje/formularze/pit (ones linked by text in the red font). Unfortunately I prefer to keep my file private, as it an official tax-related document (I received it after filing taxes). BTW, I ended installing and using Adobe Reader that worked. Apr 26, 2017 at 15:06
  • One nice feature of Okular is the ability to work with document layers. This can be a big plus aesthetically as it allows one to print w/o the buttons.
    – dat
    Feb 20, 2021 at 2:30
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2016 answer, since this still comes at the top of google: evince now fills in forms (including encrypted forms). I printed the result to file to save the filled-in version.

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    For me this is the most helpful answer, since evince is the default "Document Viewer" in Ubuntu anyway.
    – ojdo
    Sep 16, 2016 at 12:02
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    Not all of them, XFA forms are unsupported and unlike Okular there is not even an error message. Apr 26, 2017 at 9:41
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    Last time I tried, Evince didn't allow me to save the form and continue filling in later.
    – user334639
    Oct 8, 2017 at 23:39
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    I was able to save the form and continue filling it out later. But I recall the dialogs being a bit confusing, and it keeps the original file modification time on the form, which is bizarre and really bad practice.
    – nealmcb
    Jun 1, 2018 at 21:39
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    I can use evince (aka Document Viewer) on Debian to fill out the form. To save the filled out form, you can choose "Save a Copy" but overwrite the original. Unlike print-to-file, the form remains fillable if you need to correct a mistake.
    – roufamatic
    Sep 26, 2018 at 20:40
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PDFEdit (Click To Install on 12.04 or earlier)

Just Launch it from application -> Graphics and then click "Add text"

enter image description here

Then just draw a box and type.

enter image description here

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  • 8
    I don't like web sites that try to install things on my computer; so if anybody else was a bit freaked out, you can just install the "pdfedit" package. The web site you linked to is legit, it just spooked me a bit. :)
    – Windigo
    Mar 6, 2011 at 18:27
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    @Windigo If you are referring to the Click to install link then that is perfectly fine as it will just fire up your Software Center where you can then click on Install to install the package. Mar 6, 2011 at 19:54
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    He was not asking for tool to edit PDF, but just to fill forms.
    – gsedej
    Mar 6, 2011 at 19:55
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    Well you CAN full forms using this even the forms which are unfillable can be filled using this.
    – Lincity
    Mar 7, 2011 at 11:38
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    pdfedit does not have a package anymore in 14.04. Couldn't find it. Theres this website, though: pdfedit.cz/en/index.html But the last update seems to have happened in 2012.
    – Hinz
    Sep 14, 2015 at 7:05
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update. "Master PDF Editor 3" enables pdf form fields to be entered by the user. It works well to fill forms, remove/add pages, reorder, add comments, etc. It should be listed in ubuntu software centre, else search for the deb file online.

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    This has always worked best for me. It is commercial, but has a free version with some pro features disabled, but still allows the basics (annotate, split/merge etc. without any watermarks or the like)
    – DavidJ
    Jul 10, 2017 at 0:25
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    As of May 2018, there is now "Master PDF Editor 4". The free version does everything I need. From my (limited) tests I can confirm that it fills forms successfully, also where Ocular fails.
    – tglas
    May 9, 2018 at 9:41
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    I just tried Master PDF Editor 5. It has functions for filling forms, but they're not working with the form my accountant sent me. It's almost making sense to buy a commercial operating system at this point, which is very sad. Oct 11, 2019 at 19:48
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    Not open source, but a workable solution for XFA forms on Ubuntu. code-industry.net/free-pdf-editor
    – Al F
    Nov 5, 2019 at 15:27
  • Still working in 2022, now version 5.8
    – Luis
    Mar 14 at 18:40
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UPDATE 2019/04/23
The latest release for LibreOffice 6.2.2.2 now imports PDF files directly.

I have tried all the PDF apps in the Ubuntu repositories. All have been buggy and difficult to use.

If you want simply to fill in the blank boxes on a PDF form (such as many government forms), here is what I do [revised]:

  1. Libreoffice menus: Format → Page Style... → Area → Bitmap
  2. Click "add/import" button located in bottom left region of page
  3. Navigate to your PDF file, and click "open" button to import
  4. You should have the PDF in LO as a watermark image
  5. To add text, use "text boxes" to overlay the text onto the page
  6. Save as .odt and .pdf files.

Done.

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  • Rob, In step 2, do you mean Format/Page/Background/Graphic then choose the tiff file? If that is the case, it does not seem to work. I use Open Office 3.2. Otherwise, I do not see Page under Edit. Neither do I see watermark in Open Office. I hope you tested what you suggest. If you did, please provide the details again. Much appreciated.
    – user148152
    Apr 10, 2013 at 0:18
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    After more than 2 years your first sentence is still mostly true, unfortunately.
    – Hinz
    Sep 14, 2015 at 6:52
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    Not all of them, XFA forms are unsupported and unlike Okular there is not even an error message. Apr 26, 2017 at 9:42
  • This is way more cumbersome tha xournal
    – user334639
    Oct 8, 2017 at 23:42
  • A warning: after exporting to PDF back the content more often than not would look like slightly different than in the original document. Margins, offsets, alignment, all that (as always with OOO/Libreoffice)
    – zerkms
    Sep 24, 2020 at 0:22
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Abobe Reader for Linux, not open source but it handles this kind of stuff.

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Libreoffice Draw is the best open-source pdf filling & signing application I have found on Linux.

However for annotations (highlights, underlines, boxes & adding notes), then Okular is the best.

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  • LibreOffice Draw is working great for me on Ubuntu 18.04.
    – Garrett
    Nov 26, 2019 at 0:40
  • Draw is good other than its long-standing bug of broken formatting as a result of not supported embedded fonts: bugs.documentfoundation.org/show_bug.cgi?id=82163. Okular is great aside from the size an exported PDF becomes.
    – curiouser
    Feb 22 at 20:28
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FoxitReader Linux version works also for adding text
(anywhere , not good as a real form field editor , but can be useful too) :

After downloading, extracting and running install script, open your pdf. You can write using "typewriter" in "comment" menu.

Saving works .

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Since (at least) Ubuntu 14.04 Evince is able to fill the PDF with forms.

Then, if you want to save the PDF in a way that the form cannot be modified anymore, for example because you need to send the PDF to someone, you can just print to file the document.

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    Not all of them, XFA forms are unsupported (present in tax report form in Poland) and unlike Okular there is not even an error message. Apr 26, 2017 at 9:41
  • And what if you want to save it in a way hat can still be filled?
    – user334639
    Oct 8, 2017 at 23:40
  • @d4nyll How can I fill forms with Evince? There is option to add notes, but it is a different thing. May 11 at 15:40
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It's not exactly the "Ubuntu specific" answer, but I did away with using Google Drive and https://dochub.com/. I just clicked on "Open with" dropdown in my Google Drive and selected DocHub there.

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With PDF Studio you can fill interactive PDF forms (including XFA) or you can use the typewriter tool to add text onto flat forms, then flatten into the document or save as a PDF comment.

PDF Studio 7 was in the top 10 downloads on the Ubuntu Canonical Software Center.

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  • 7 is gone, but here's the new URL: apps.ubuntu.com/cat/applications/pdf-studio-8-demo
    – Hinz
    Sep 14, 2015 at 6:56
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    This is proprietary software, writing a disrupting watermark on each page when used in Demo mode.
    – guntbert
    Jun 23, 2016 at 17:17
  • @Hinz Your link is now dead. Apr 26, 2017 at 9:43
  • @Mateusz Konieczny: Happens to all of us, sooner or later. There's PDF Studio 11 at qoppa.com. But it seems it's payware only and thus not in the Ubuntu repos anymore.
    – Hinz
    Apr 26, 2017 at 10:54
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Atril (that is a fork of Evince) comes by default on Mate Desktop (Ubuntu Mate, Linux Mint Mate, etc) and has full support to fill forms on PDF's, including checkboxes.

https://github.com/mate-desktop/atril

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  • Are you sure? I see no option to achieve this and github.com/mate-desktop/atril#atril is not even mentioning such capability May 11 at 15:45
  • I am 100% sure, because I use it a lot to fill forms inside PDFs. The only requisite is the form fields themselves inside the desired PDF. May 12 at 9:19
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I use GIMP whenever I need to change something in PDF a document.

I know very well that PDF documents with forms – and a whole lot more awkward security holes – can be created and that some people actually use this, but I prefer that people do not send me such documents. That's why I use GIMP.

It's also not very different from printing the document and scanning it as a PDF (or TIFF and faxing it). I don't understand why people actually do "scan to PDF" without involving OCR or some kind of re-vectorization, but this misunderstanding of the format works in my favor.

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  • Note that XFA forms are unsupported (present in tax report form in Poland) and unlike Okular there is not even an error message Apr 26, 2017 at 9:50
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  1. MasterPDFeditor is now problematic for Ubuntu 17.04. crashes regularly.
  2. Using Libreoffice, LO is changed too for release 5.2. The pdf must be imported into GIMP, then saved as a bmp file. In LO, use menu: format/ page/ bitmap. Choose your bmp file and import to current LO page. To enter text, click the textbox icon in the menu. This will overlay the text onto the bmp image. Save and export to new pdf file. Repeat process if you need different forms for different pages. Join all pdf files with pdfshuffler.
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In firefox 91.7.0esr (64-bit) I am able to edit PDF fields e.g. in this form. If I then hit the download button, I download a PDF file with the fields edited. And unlike Chrome, the fields remain editable so I can repeat the process and perform further edits. Voila!

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I was able to get it done using INKSCAPE. Hope this helps!

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