July 29, 2013 - 08:07 — GretchenNovakXu

Have you ever filled out a PDF form on a computer and been frustrated to learn you couldn't save your work? Or have you ever had to print out a PDF form and complete it by hand because it wasn't designed to be filled out by computer? There are tools that can help.

PDF is an incredibly popular file format that is frequently used for forms such as job applications and tax returns. Many PDF forms are fillable (meaning that you can simply click on any field on the form and type in your information without using any kind of special software), but plenty of others are not. Even some fillable forms have restrictions on them such that you can print a copy of the filled-out form but can only save a blank one.

Neither of these things is a problem if you are able to submit a paper copy of the form and don't mind filling it out by hand if necessary. But what if you want to e-mail the completed form to someone? What if you need to go back and correct a typo on a fillable form that wouldn't allow you to save? What if you have a non-fillable form but prefer the more polished look of typed information over handwritten information? The first of these issues can be solved by using a scanner to get an image of the completed form that you can attach to an e-mail, but the others are a little more complicated.

The best solution for typing on non-fillable PDFs is to use PDF editing software such as Adobe Acrobat Professional (which is available on one Mac and one PC in each of Naperville Public Library's three facilities). But what if you don't have access to this software? There are many PDF editing programs available for download online. However, most are expensive, while free programs often have restrictions on saving files or insert advertisements on every page of your document.

There is another option: PDFescape. PDFescape (http://www.pdfescape.com/) is a free, web-based (no download required!) PDF editor that will allow you to fill in any PDF form, even if it doesn't have fillable fields. You can also use it to design your own PDFs, including fillable fields, checkboxes, and dropdown lists. Any file you create or edit with PDFescape can be saved to your computer or printed, and if you register for a free account with PDFescape, you can save your files to the website so you can come back to edit them later.

PDFescape does have some limitations. You can't use it to create or work with a PDF file that is larger than 10 MB or has more than 100 pages, and files stored on the website are deleted after 14 days of inactivity. (Registering for a paid premium account increases these limits.) PDFescape also doesn't have some of the most advanced features of a program like Adobe Acrobat Professional, but for everyday needs like filling out a form or creating one, it's a convenient and free solution.