How do you make a pdf form submittable?

Hello everyone,

I’m working on an interactive pdf which is located here:

So far only the first two sections are editable but when I was testing it I noticed that the submit button doesn’t work.

I’ve tried to follow a bunch of different online guides but so far no luck. Within acrobat I told the submit button to ‘’ however when the user clicks the submit button it just says ‘This action is not permitted.’
It is currently set to export ‘The Entire PDF’ instead of FDF, HTML or XML.

Basically my client is running a little skin care business and I was hoping that people could just fill out this intake form, hit submit, and it would send a copy of the pdf to her inbox. Unfortunately that would be way too logical and easy :rolleyes: so now I’m trying to figure out if i need to direct the submit button to a cgi script, php or something…?

Could someone please advise?

Thank you

have almost the same problem

hah well i’m glad i’m not the only one.

Acrobat Reader is not able to export ‘The Entire PDF’.
Only the full versions of Acrobat will do this.

Reader can submit via FDF though …it is your only option with reader.

Are you sure everyone visiting this form has the full Acrobat? We have a site with a form that could be filled in right on the computer (but only those with reader), but then we advise people to print and mail.

For those without any sort of document reader, we also made sure to have an html form version as well, which we thought was safest since our visitors are from all over. If this is an internal application then I guess you could tell the sysadmin to install Acrobat for everyone in the company. Otherwise I would only have it as an option, not the sole way to submit.

To make a true interactive PDF form we tend to use Adobe LifeCycle, its a great bit of software although a tad expensive. It allows you to make full interactive PDFs very quickly and easily.
Maybe worth a look.


Hey O and everyone who responded,

Thanks for the feedback guys. I actually settled on using formmail and sending the PDF as HTML data. That should suffice for my client. For anyone following the thread who is having a similar problem here’s a tutorial on getting this all to work:

Since this is a document which the user will open in Acrobat Reader does LifeCycle get around that program’s limitations? Everyone is saying that the user would need the full Acrobat program to send back a PDF formatted document. While HTML text in an email will work for this client I’m always striving to have things look better. I would love it if there was some way to easily get well formatted documents without having to jump through a ton of hoops. A fellow on the adobe forum mentioned the FDF toolkit…? Here’s his response.

To submit an FDF on line you would be best to download the FDF toolbox. The link is I have not used the toolkit myself, but it appears to have the scripts for different forms of CGI systems. There are cgi scripts as well as others. The toolkit has to be installed on a server, probably with the proper scripting language (or maybe it is included).

LifeCycle allows you to create a form for your client and then the information can either be emailed back to your client, stored in a database on a web server somewhere or the customer can save the PDF and email or print it off and post it back.
They can do all this with using reader.
You create fields for the user to enter their data in to.

Really good bit of software, takes a bit of getting used to but once you’ve used it a couple of times everything makes sense :slight_smile:


Ok…you guys were wonderdful and solved their issue…maybe you guys can with mine too :slight_smile:

As of the first of last year I have taken over the website for the fire department that I work for as a volunteer (so i do the website as a volunteer as well). We are a small town department so we don’t have the large budget to make professional website, but I sure do what I can to make it look good.

What I am looking to do is to be able to take some of the forms that we have in use currently and be able to have then be submitted via email to us. I have used Acrobat Distiller and have tried that, but sadly when I have the form set to submit it requires an email client to submit it. What I am wanting to do is just have it set to you can send it without having to have an email address. Is there any way to do it, or am I wanting to do something that isn’t possible.

Hmmm, like an emailed contact form?

I would do it something like (and I’m feeling my way here, I don’t code back-end!) a contact form where the form’s action=“havetheformsendtheinfotoyou” and in the form simply ask for the user’s email address. Nobody’s email client is used at all-- it’s simply a form that’s sent… something on YOUR server would take that info, validate it, and send you an email notice with the typed in information.

I’m also working on the local fire dept site… my husband is the vollie : ) and he is doing the back-end… I can ask him if I’m on the right track, and maybe some more details. I would try to keep Adobe out of this entirely (yesh I have a bias against them but the less 3rd-party software involved, the better it is for your visitors and your wallet).

Yes and no…

What I am wanting to do is take the forms that we hand out or we have available to be filled out and put them online. For example, we have worked with the police department and have a busines informatuion form that we use with our fire inspections. Instead of having paper copeis of them that we hand out and then have to wait to get back (it is 2 pages), if we do get them back when people don’t fill them out on the spot, put on the business card or on a half sheet of paper go here and fill them out. I have that up and working, but it requires you to send it from your email cliant and opens outlook. We have some elderly care forms, I want to be able to have them go to the library and do that or do it from their own homes (those who have computers) and not need an email address to do it

I’d still go with a regular submit and make your server do the processing and sending-out of emails. I don’t have Outlook either. I use web mail-- reach my mail anywhere there’s an Internet connection. My computer does come with Evolution. I hate it and don’t use it unless forced.

All your forms would just be HTML forms (the safest way). If you think some folks are still going to print them out and fill them out then write the forms in such a way that there are no dropdown-selects, and text saying “Choose ONE” on radio buttons.

A form is just data collection. After your server has the data it can do anything with it, depending on what script/program you use with it. There’s likely even ones out there already (very likely a Perl module on CPAN for example) that can take that info and email it to some address.

This is my opinion though. If you want to stick with doing something with PDFs (remember not everyone has or is allowed to download Adobe products, like at the library you mentioned) someone else here may have had more experience with them.

PDF was just done so that we could have our forms and people could do as they wanted with them…the idea was that we could get the information and be able to press the print button and get the whole thing on our form just as we had it before.

So how the heck do I do it in HTML? I am still learnin this whole internet thing

HTML is easier for the client, but if you’re not used to doing them, you’re in for a learning curve-- unless you want to build them in tables, where the styling is a little easier but then you still have to worry about accessibility re both tables AND forms. Being volunteer still means doing it right.

Your problem might be whenever I say “back end” because that means you have a server guy who can write basic, common scripts and functions in a programming language. Not having one of those would be the ONLY reason I’d do anything with third-party software like PDFs. PDFs are larger than necessary, require a document reading program to open and view (though it doesn’t have to be Adobe Reader, and most OSes come with some sort of document reader), and those with only Adobe Reader can’t fill the forms in on the computer. We used to have that on the old websites of ours, “just fill it in and print and mail” and people were like, “How come I can’t fill it in?” They only had Reader, and you’d need the whole Acrobat suite to actually type in them.

HTML forms on the other hand can be accessed by everyone, including the blind if they needed to. IF you have a back-end guy, you can do ANYTHING with that information, set it in whatever form, make your printer in an office automatically print it, email it, send it to Russia, whatever.

Here’s the HTML side of my most recent form (that it’s in Dutch is inconsequential, the tags are still plain old HTML tags and the CSS is regular CSS), and the [url=]print version (which is fill-in-able on the computer, which is how I’d do it if I were blind but wanted to still postal-mail the form to you). To see the actual HTML, View Source. To see the CSS, the url to it is in the <head> section.
Because they’re the static demos sitting on my site they do not do anything-- the scripts are on our company comnputers which my colleague writes and they interact with our CCS, a customer insurance premium calculator we bought. So where my forms say
this is where the script gets referenced, like

If this is all above your head or just not what you want to do, and want to stick with PDF’s, I can’t go any further as I’ve had nothing but bad experiences with it and currently I’m on a Linux box and always have a hassle trying to get Adobe products working (I don’t even use Reader on this machine, I use a Gnome Document Viewer instead). On our old sites, the PDFs were never email-able, only print-and-mail-able.

I’m guessing to email a PDF you’d still need an HTML form (so everyone can fill it out, not just those with Acrobat Suite), a copy of the blank form as a PDF on the server, and a script (in the action of the form likely) that takes what was filled in and adds it to the PDF, and then maybe another script that emails you the PDF.

Actually, Adobe might have such a script or product that does that-- takes HTML input and fills it into a PDF with the same fields (is this what Distiller does??). If it does, then your users don’t need any special software, only you guys. You’ll still prolly want a back-end scripter though. Someone who can get all this working on the server. The emailing part of the script would be separate from the form submit. I’m suspecting the reason Outlook/whatever is trying to open is because your forms currently have something like
the mailto part tells the browser to go tell the computer to go open the email client. If your form instead just has an action to dump the info into your PDF, then the emailing would be done on your end, not the client’s end. This is what your back-end guy writes/installs, the script for this.

If you are interested on building an HTML form, you can start another thread and we can walk you through all the HTML and CSS stuff.