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Introduction to PDF Forms

Maybe you're already familiar with paper forms: documents with blanks that people fill in and deliver to the appropriate person or organization. Then what about PDF forms?

What are PDF forms?
An Adobe PDF form is a computer-based version of a form, which can either be distributed through email or CDs, or published on a website.

PDF forms can be ordinary PDFs with blank form fields or they can be interactive. Ordinary PDFs are a convenient way of publishing forms that must be printed, filled out by hand, and physically delivered, such as by mail or fax. An interactive form can be filled out on a computer and may be submitted through an Internet or local network connection. The built-in security features can safeguard the privacy of electronically submitted data.

Interactive forms simplify the work users must do to provide the needed information. Electronically submitted forms can be labor-saving at the receiving end, too, because the data from many individuals can be set up to be collated automatically.

If you already use other kinds of forms, you can quickly make them into interactive PDF forms: You can scan paper forms and you can convert electronic forms in other formats (such as Word documents, InDesign layouts, and Excel spreadsheets) to interactive PDF forms.

Types of PDF forms
The way in which you fill in and submit information on a PDF form is determined by the person who created it:
Fill-and-print PDF forms
Contain interactive form fields or static form fields; either way, the person filling in the form must manually deliver a printed copy of the form, such as by mail or fax.
Submit-by-email PDF forms

Contain a button that either extracts all interactive-field data from the PDF form and attaches it to an email message or attaches the entire filled-in PDF form to the message.
Submit-online PDF forms
Contain a button that sends all interactive-field data to an online repository, such as a database. Available only when Acrobat is open inside a web browser.

Printing and saving PDF forms
Interactive forms can be filled in using either Adobe Reader or Acrobat. Users running either of these applications can save a blank version of the form, and they can print copies of their completed forms before submitting them.

After a form is filled in, Acrobat users can save a copy of the completed form, showing all the information they typed. Whether or not Adobe Reader users can save a copy of a completed form depends on the usage rights set up by the person who created that form.

Note: When you open a form in Adobe Reader, the usage rights appear in the notification area above the form itself.

About security for PDF forms
As with all sensitive data you transmit, precautions should be taken to minimize the likelihood of interception and use by malicious parties. Such precautions may include the use of encryption, passwords, and other security measures on your document.

All Adobe products enforce the restrictions set by the permissions password. However, not all third-party products fully support and respect these settings. Recipients might be able to bypass some or all of the restrictions you've set. Click to learn more about PDF security>>