Introduction: Use Fillable PDFs as Form Templates

You can use fillable PDF documents as the basis for creating form templates. A fillable PDF is an interactive PDF document that allows users to enter answers on the form while viewing it in Adobe Acrobat or Reader. As you create the template, you will be prompted for instructions on how to use the fillable PDF. You can either create a fillable PDF template, or you can create a regular PDF-based form template.

Create a Fillable PDF Template

When you create a template from a fillable PDF, you can use the fillable fields from the Adobe document as a point of reference for automating the template. In fact, during template creation, HotDocs will automatically create fields where it detects fillable fields. These special fields are known as linked fields, since they link to and use the properties of the fillable fields.

Users can then assemble a fillable PDF template and save the completed document as a fillable PDF document. This allows them to edit answers directly in the PDF. Users can also save the assembled document as a regular (static) PDF or as a HotDocs PDF document.

When using fillable PDF templates, please note the following:

First, when saving the assembled document as a fillable PDF, if you changed any of the default field properties for the linked field, those properties will not be used in the saved document. Such properties include field position and size, font, and borders, just to name a few. Adhering to the default properties defined in the original PDF document ensures the saved document will meet any requirements specified by the agency that issued the form. Note, however, that if you save the assembled document as a regular PDF or HotDocs PDF Document, any custom properties you specified will be used for the fields instead.

Second, keeping fillable fields in the template makes it easier to match HotDocs fields to the original fillable fields, especially when you accidentally move, change, or delete a HotDocs field while editing the template. This precision may be important if you plan to submit the form to an agency that requires that answers be entered a very specific way, regardless of whether you save the document as a fillable PDF or otherwise.

Finally, when you create variables and attach them to linked fields in a PDF-based template, HotDocs may suggest some default properties for the variable, such as a name, format, pattern, and so forth. Where possible, you should accept these default properties. If you save the assembled document as a fillable PDF, Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader will try to format the answer coming from HotDocs so that it fits in the field as it is defined by Adobe Acrobat. If the answer contains text or uses properties that are different than what it expects, the field text may appear incorrectly. This is especially true with Number and Date formats.

Create a PDF Form Template

When creating a form template using a fillable PDF, you can choose not to keep fillable fields in the template. If you do, the template will be created as a regular, static PDF template, and users of the form will not be able to save it as a fillable PDF.

HotDocs supports only fillable PDFs (or Acrobat Forms or AcroForms) created with Acrobat Professional. It does not support any fillable PDF documents created or edited using Adobe LiveCycle Designer. (This includes XFA forms, XML Forms, or Designer Forms.) A small subset of XFA forms might still work, as long as there are no dynamic form features being used. Typically, if an AcroForm has been edited using LiveCycle Designer and only properties of fields have been changed, it is likely to still work in HotDocs.