Ubuntu HowTo: Is there software that can fill PDF forms?

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I have some PDFs which are actually forms, with fields to fill. Is there some software that can fill those fields?

Xournal will allow you to draw/write anything on the top layer of any PDF document and then export it back to PDF. It doesn’t allow to actually fill PDF forms, but if writing text / drawing on top of your PDF is enough for you, you may find it useful.

Install via the software center

To install from terminal, use the following command:

sudo apt-get install xournal

Document Viewer (Evince) SHOULD be able to fill in forms, IF the document is a fillable form. Not all documents are fillable! If document does not support form filling the form, you should use tools like PDFedit or OpenOffice Draw

You can find them in Software Center

I have tried Evince, Okular, PDf Chain and other not so pretty ones. The one that comes closer in the Ubuntu Software Repositories is Okular with an option to “Show Forms” which depending on the form it will or not show. I tried all of those trying to solve this question: How to fill out the forms and save the inputs in this tax report pdf file

The only one that suggest working and has been tested is PDF Edit from here http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfedit/ and Acrobat 10 from here http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat.html

I was actually surprised to learn this since there are a lot of PDF Viewers but less editors and even lesser ones that can perform Form filling and such.

PDFEdit (Click To Install on 12.04 or earlier)

Just Launch it from application -> Graphics and then
click “Add text”

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Then just draw a box and type.

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2016 answer, since this still comes at the top of google: evince now fills in forms (including encrypted forms). I printed the result to file to save the filled-in version.

update. “Master PDF Editor 3” enables pdf form fields to be entered by the user. It works well to fill forms, remove/add pages, reorder, add comments, etc. It should be listed in ubuntu software centre, else search for the deb file online.

Abobe Reader for Linux, not open source but it handles this kind of stuff.

UPDATE 2019/04/23
The latest release for Libreoffice now imports pdf files directly.

I have tried all the pdf apps in the Ubuntu repositories. All have been buggy and difficult to use.

If you want simply to fill in the blank boxes on a pdf form (such as many government forms), here is what I do [revised]:

1/ Libreoffice menus: format/page/area

2/ click “add/import” button located in bottom left region of page

3/ navigate to your pdf file, and click “open” button to import

4/ you should have the pdf in LO as a watermark image

5/ to add text, use “text boxes” to overlay the text onto the page

5/ save as odt and pdf files. done.

FoxitReader Linux version works also for adding text
(anywhere , not good as a real form field editor , but can be useful too) :

After downloading, extracting and running install script, open your pdf. You can write using “typewriter” in “comment” menu.

Saving works .

Since (at least) Ubuntu 14.04 Evince is able to fill the PDF with forms.

Then, if you want to save the PDF in a way that the form cannot be modified anymore, for example because you need to send the PDF to someone, you can just print to file the document.

With PDF Studio you can fill interactive PDF forms (including XFA) or you can use the typewriter tool to add text onto flat forms, then flatten into the document or save as a PDF comment.

PDF Studio 7 was in the top 10 downloads on the Ubuntu Canonical Software Center.

I use GIMP whenever I need to change something in PDF a document.

I know very well that PDF documents with forms – and a whole lot more awkward security holes – can be created and that some people actually use this, but I prefer that people do not send me such documents. That’s why I use GIMP.

It’s also not very different from printing the document and scanning it as a PDF (or TIFF and faxing it). I don’t understand why people actually do “scan to PDF” without involving OCR or some kind of re-vectorization, but this misunderstanding of the format works in my favor.

Libreoffice Draw is the best open-source pdf filling & signing application I have found on Linux.

However for annotations (highlights, underlines, boxes & adding notes), then Okular is the best.

Atril (that is a fork of Evince) comes by default on Mate Desktop (Ubuntu Mate, Linux Mint Mate, etc) and has full support to fill forms on PDF’s, including checkboxes.


  1. MasterPDFeditor is now problematic for Ubuntu 17.04. crashes regularly.
  2. Using Libreoffice, LO is changed too for release 5.2. The pdf must be imported into GIMP, then saved as a bmp file. In LO, use menu: format/ page/ bitmap. Choose your bmp file and import to current LO page. To enter text, click the textbox icon in the menu. This will overlay the text onto the bmp image. Save and export to new pdf file. Repeat process if you need different forms for different pages. Join all pdf files with pdfshuffler.

It’s not exactly the “Ubuntu specific” answer, but I did away with using Google Drive and https://dochub.com/. I just clicked on “Open with” dropdown in my Google Drive and selected DocHub there.

Use GIMP with the Export Layers plugin.

Export Layers allows you to export all layers at once, making editing via GIMP much less tedious.

You can then open all exported PNGs or JPEGs with something like Xviewer and print the entire collection as PDF.

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