Sunday, August 7, 2016

Create Editable and Secure Text in a PDF

How to create an editable file in a PDF?  Also known as a fillable form, or a fillable PDF...

It's not so easy.  I scoured the internet and came up with specs that work for me.  Here they are, along with the links you'll need for further tinkering.  

I used Adobe Acrobat DC Pro, but it will work with other versions.

***For Editable PowerPoint Files, please scroll down***

Editable PDF:

1)   Create a PPT document

2)    File > Save as Adobe PDF

3)    Flatten in Adobe Acrobat (see How To Flatten a PDF)

4)    Save PDF

5)    Open the flattened PDF

6)    Insert Editable text fields: tools > prepare form > start

7)    [Editable text boxes, or fields, will appear in blue.  Neither the blue color, nor the box, nor the title, will be visible in print.]  NOTE: You can skip this step if you want to enter all your editable fields individually.

8)    [To add more text boxes:] Click on [T] [text box] from the top tool bar, then click on the area of the page you want the text box > drag borders to resize box to the space > text boxes can’t overlap horizontally, but they can overlap vertically.

9)    For EVERY text box that someone will type into, you must adjust the properties [This includes EVERY text box; boxes you created AND boxes that were created automatically when you clicked “Prepare form”]:

a.    Right click on text box > rename it (optional; give text field a unique name within the page, or Text1, Text2, etc.  Two fields with the same name on a single page will automatically take on the same text when you type in one of the fields.)

b.    Include the specs below:

c.    properties >  options >  (check these boxes:)

   + alignment left

   + check spelling

   + multi-line

   + scroll long text

   + allow rich text formatting (this allows user to edit their font and font properties)

d.    Options > Default Value box > Type a letter or word, and a few rows of letters to see if they align with pre-written text in the text box.  If not, you can re-aligned the text box.  Zoom in larger on the page if necessary.  Then you may delete the test words.

In the sample above, I typed xx vertically, and aligned the text box with the pre-written text, that says: Name.

e.    Appearance > Font size > Auto
f.     Font color  > default (black)
g.    Font > default (Helvetica)
h.    Note: See Adobe website for more specs you can add:
                   i.    You can change the default settings for properties:

  •      Right-click the form field for which you have already changed properties, and choose: Use Current Properties as New Defaults.
  •      But, new default settings will only apply to new text fields you create, not pre-existing ones.

10)  You may type or cut and paste your own text into the text box, which can be later be edited or deleted by anyone, even without a password.  But FIRST, you MUST enter your password:

·        Tools > Protect > Restrict Editing > [Enter Password 2X]

·        If asked for password again: Tools > Edit > Enter password

11)  PREVIEW on top task bar

12)  Save

13)  Don’t flatten the PDF again

14)  Secure the PDF with metadata, etc., and be sure to:

·        Don’t check the box that says “Require a password to open the document”
·        Do check the box that says “Restrict editing…” AND “Changes allowed: Commenting, filling in forms…”

15)  You MUST now Save the PDF in the location of your choice, as [file name] EDITABLE +

16)  The + tells you it is secure.

Your PDF Text is now Editable AND Secure.

How to type text into an editable text box:

    NOTE: You need a password to “Edit Text,” but you don't need a password to type and change properties of text. 

1)   Open the Editable PDF.

2)   Type text into the editable text box.

     3)   To edit the text [NOTE: This will only work if the text box was formatted by the creator to “allow rich text”]: highlight the text (click and hold the mouse; pass mouse over text)

4)   Hold: ctrl/E (on a PC) or CMD/E (on a MAC)
5)   This will display the Form Field Text Properties toolbar
6)   Change font, size, color, bold, italic, underline, etc.
7)   For alignment of text: More > Paragraph > horizontal, vertical, indents, spacing
8)   To add bullet points: Just paste it into the field, from a Word doc or somewhere else; or you could use the Unicode shortcut: Alt+0149

  •             [Using the numbers on the small sidebar of your keyboard]

Save the PDF with a different name...and celebrate.  Job well done!

This took me many hours (way too many hours!) to figure out.  Now that I've typed it all out, it seems like a breeze.  If it seems a little like a breeze to you, I'll call it a rip-roaring success! 

Editable PowerPoint:

Good news: you can create an editable PowerPoint, and it is easier than using Adobe Acrobat.  More good news: you can flatten the images as jpgs, so no one can lift the clip art and text. 

Bad news: the ppt will not be secure.  Also, the quality of a simple jpg is not quite as crisp and clear as a pdf in the printing.  You can go into your systems to increase the dpi of you JPGs.  Then import each jpg into a new ppt, page by page.



·         Prep ppt: make a copy of the ppt, and from this copy, remove all editable fields including any print with hyperlinks.  Keep only the backgrounds, borders, graphics, images and clipart that you want flattened so no one can lift them out of the doc.
    Also keep any text that will be non-editable!

·         Remove page #s if desired, and add one page with a blank border, to add text and TOC Table of Contents

·         Open ppt/ save as / adobe pdf

·         Tools/ export pdf/ image/ JPG

·         Settings/Gray scale quality: maximum/ Color: maximum

·         Format: progressive (5 scans)

·         OK/ Export/ Create folder called: [Doc Name] JPGs 
·          Create new ppt called: [Doc Name] JPGs AND: Import the jpgs one at a time onto each blank page of the ppt
·         Add editable text fields from original ppt as necessary, including Title page, TOC page text and terms of use page text--with hyperlinks--which will be inserted into a blank border page

--   Add any text that you wish, that will not be flattened.   Buyers can edit this.

--  Tell buyers that they can add any text they wish, and explain how to add a text box:  Insert > Textbox > [Type inside the box; edit the color, size, font; click and drag the box anywhere on the page.]

·         Shrink borders for proper printing, slim at left and top, a bit wider extra border at right and © at above 1” from bottom, if necessary for proper printing
·         Save as ppt [Doc Name] EDITABLE w JPGs


  1. Thank you very much for your very informative guide - I downloaded your flatten guide a few minutes ago, followed the steps, but when I reopened the PDF, it still says PowerPoint Presentation at the top, and can still right click on the clip art to save :/ it's the first time I've tried to create an editable PDF, I made the same document as an editable PPT earlier but I'd like to offer both :) any help is much appreciated

  2. Ice just figured it out - I was opening the PDF that I saved (which I hadn't flattened in PPT, then saved as a PDF) - I just opened the .JPG file of the PPT fine :)

  3. So glad you figured it out, ZippadeeZazz! Sooner or later, we usually do :) --Renee

  4. Hi there! Thank so much for this guide! I heard that creating an editable document on a Mac is a little more difficult... Will these steps work for a Mac as well?

  5. Hi Brandi, thanks for your message! I've not tried this on a Mac, but usually a PC is nearly identical (CTRL instead of Command button). Best wishes, Renee

  6. Renee, does this same work flow apply to creating one set of words/content (that people type in) and it makes the text typed in appear somewhere else in the document?
    Thanks, Leslie

  7. Hi Leslie, If you mean adding text (like class names) in one spot and then having it appear on another page, too--yes, I think that will be easy to do. I've never done it myself, but if you google the question, I'm sure you'll find the exact procedure. --Renee

  8. Hello! Can the person who is typing in the text boxes change the font and size? Or when they type it in, will it be in the font we used?

    1. Hi Lauren, Yes, the person who is typing in the boxes can change the font, size, and color of the text--in an editable ppt OR PDF. -- Renee