Fill in a PDF form with your signature

There are several ways to fill in a PDF form and add your signature with Microsoft Word, Acrobat Reader or online services. All these tips are free with nothing to pay.

It’s possible to ‘sign’ a PDF form and return it without making a paper copy.  Paper forms are so 2019 <g>.  There’s no need to print a form, fill it out then scan or photo it back into a computer.  It can all be done online.

Many organizations offer PDF files you have to complete and return.  Some need an ink signature (as opposed to a digital signature or encryption).

Filling out the form should be easy if the supplied form is made correctly with form fields ready to complete. 

The best option is with Adobe’s free Acrobat Reader. It has more options than the limited in-built PDF viewers that come with Windows or Mac.

Adobe’s Acrobat Reader (Windows or Mac)  has a ‘Fill and Sign’ option to add text onto a PDF file (look in the Tools pane or View | Tools).  

It’s a free option, unlike many of the other tools in the Reader.  Sadly ‘Fill and Sign’ isn’t in the iPad app version.

There are options to include text, cross, tick, circle, dash or dot to a form – all to complete multiple- choice forms or check boxes.

At far right is a color selection tool if you want your marks in a different color (e.g. blue).

Click on the PDF to enter text. The mini-toolbar lets you resize the text. The Ab icon is interesting – it changes the text field into separate boxes for each character – useful for entering account numbers etc.  The right-side handle lets you resize the boxes to fit over data-entry boxes or lines in the PDF.

Adding a signature or initials

On the ‘Fill and Sign’ toolbar choose the Sign button to add ink initials or signature.  Do this last, after filling in the other text fields.

Add signature – opens a dialog box with type, draw or image options.

Type – type in your name and it’ll appear using a handwriting font.  Choose ‘Change Style’ to see other font options.  This is OK for some situations but NOT if the signature has to be matched against your signature on record or the signature you’re sending will be used for future verification.

Draw – write your signature on the screen.  Again, be careful if the signature will be matched with past or future signatures.  My on-screen signature looks very different from my real ‘ink on paper’ signature.

Image – the best option for adding a ‘real’ signature that can be matched up with past signatures. Upload a picture with your signature.
Tip:  it’s a good idea to have a picture of your signature saved securely, ready for situations like this.

However you enter your signature, click Apply then position the ‘ink’ onto the form.

Add initials – has the same options but in a smaller space.

See Stop copying of your signature as a picture
Insert a signature picture into a Word document

Word import

Another option is to import the PDF into Word then add the details and signature there.

That can work, however conversion from PDF to Word isn’t perfect.  Here’s the example form as it appears in Word. The labels and lines are messed up.

If the conversion is good, then add text just like any other Word document. The signature can be drawn on a touch screen or added as an image.  Other images, like a ‘passport’ photo can also be added.

If the conversion isn’t OK, a workaround for one-page PDF’s is to add the PDF as an object via Insert | Object | Create from File.  That inserts the first page of the PDF as an object (like an image) into Word.

Images (signatures or photos) and text boxes can be overlaid on the PDF object.  Insert an image or text box, choose ‘In front of text’ to put them over the PDF.

Making the PDF to send back

Once you’ve completed the PDF form, in any program there are various options for making the completed PDF file to send back.

In Acrobat Reader, save to another PDF file.

In Word, File | Save As to PDF.

If a program won’t let you save to a PDF, no problem.  Windows and Mac both let you ‘print’ to a PDF file.  Just choose the Print option in the program, then the PDF option and then the name and folder for saving to.

Online Editors

There are various free online PDF editors you can try.

among many.  Like all online services, you’re trusting the company to keep your data private and secure.

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