How-to: Create PDF forms with OpenOffice

Hi everybody,

under these month I’ve been managing a lot of burocracy due to my Erasmus period which will start in August in Tampere, Finland. Among all the forms I had to fill in, I recieved a PDF file from Finland which actually was a form. I hadn’t seen such files before! So I asked me: How do I create one of them? So after some tries… here you are! My experience.

But why should you need to create such a form? Well, PDF forms are really much better than *.doc or *.odt forms. That’s because in a PDF files fields remain exaclty where you put them and you can set plenty of intresting parameters. They are easily online-fillable and this is nowadays really important.

To create a PDF Form you will need OpenOffice. As far as I know Microsoft Office doesn’t support PDF export (but I heard this feauter will be implemented in the next version of Office). You can easily get the OpenOffice suite here:

There is not a big difference between OpenOffice and Microsoft Office for what concerns the GUI (Graphical User Interface). So even if you are new to OpenOffice and used to work with MS Office you should not find any big difficulty in working on this easy stuff.

Open now OpenOffice Writer. Here you are. You can now handle this page as you usually do as any other written document. But your question surely is: How do I insert form controls/fields?

To insert Form controls and fields go on View -> Toolbars -> Form Controls .This will show you a toolbar with plenty of useful form stuff such as Labels, Text Boxes, Check Boxes, etc…
In this toolbar you will also find another useful button, More Controls which allows you to insert even more controls.

Inserting form controls in your page should not be a problem. Just find a layout you like. You can treat this elements exactly as any other element like an image, a paragraph or whatever. With a right click on the object you can modify its properties. Really intresting are the “Control…” and “Data…” entries which allow you to set advanced properties of your newly creted object.

Once you have created your form it’s time to create the PDF file. You can click on the “Export directly as PDF” button directly from OpenOffice’s standard bar or either go on File->Export as PDF and select some more advanced options.

There you are! Now you have your PDF Form. You can fill it and print it obtaining a really standard piece of paper, useful if you have to collect lots of the same information from many people.

Pay attention
Please note that you PDF module won’t be saveable. People just have to fill it in and take a print in order not to loose their work!

That’s it. Hope this will be of some help for somebody. Otherwise it has been a great exercise in written English for me! 🙂

How-to: Create PDF forms with OpenOffice

39 thoughts on “How-to: Create PDF forms with OpenOffice

  1. Shailendra says:

    Hi Dennis,

    I had created a PDF Form which I had used for a legal agreement with my Vendor.

    But when I went back to create another one a few weeks later, I had completely forgotten about it.

    Thanks for the article on creating a PDF Form.
    It helped me recall all the steps.


  2. Bill says:

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I’ve been searching for a way to produce a Form Fillable pdf for quite some time.
    I work with a non profit organization, we can not afford the professional software that is available.
    Ive been using Ooo for some time, never knew I could do this.

    By the way, install Cutepdf (should still be freeware) it is a virtual printer.
    File->Print-.Cutepdf “Prints” a copy to the desktop, or wherever you choose. Open it, Badda-Boom Badda-Bing! You know have a form filled pdf!!

  3. Deepak says:

    Hi Dennis

    Thanks for the nice help i have tried with open office but didn’t ee the expert as PDF option their after reading your blog i will look at it again

    Thanks for Really helpful content


  4. Anne Marie says:

    Hey I was wondering if you could help me. I made a pdf through Soffice but am not sure as to how to set the security so that it can’t be exported as text. I would like it so that that text cannot be edited altered or exported, just printed out from the pdf. Do you have any advice?

  5. Dennis says:

    Hi Anne Marie,
    I am very sorry, but I cannot help you with this problem, I do really not have enough knowledge. I can tell you to post somewhere on a forum where you can find more people willing to help you… 😦

  6. Tres says:

    you can save the modified form as filled outside of printing a hard copy, just print the filled in form as a pdf, it will create a pdf of the filled in pdf….

  7. Mario says:

    Hi Anne Marie,
    You can set up the security by clicking on the security box while exporting your odt document to pdf.

    Another interesting thing to consider is that programs like Okular, will allow the user to fill the form and save the contents.

  8. nobotz says:

    Is it possible to add a digital signature field to the PDF form thus created.

  9. Michael Shaley says:


    You have made me look like a genius at work.

    After finding this post and working with it I was able to scan in a much used office form as a JPG and then import the picture into Writer, and create my form fields on the JPG image,


    Our people already have Primo PDF running.
    You are the genius – I’m just getting the credit for Googling you.
    Oxnard, California

  10. Question… I made a fillable pdf in oo, but it keeps skipping a field and it’s not moving in a logical order… (in other words I created the fields in the order I expected them to be filled out in, but when I tab through… it doesn’t follow in order and as I said skips on field… suggestions?

  11. Ian says:

    Hi Anne Marie,
    Make sure you have downloaded Open Office 3.
    File/Export as PDF gives the option using the security tag to set a password to prevent editing. There is also another option to prevent it being opened without a password.
    The General tag gives options of setting the compression ratio and other useful things.

  12. Dave Satwicz says:

    After creating a document, with some fields, I exported it as a PDF. When I click on the file it opens in Adobe reader. However I cannot enter data into the fields.
    Any ideas?


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  14. Michael says:

    So I created a form for users to fill in data and everything works fine up until I go to close the form. At this point it asks me to Save or not. Is there any way to disable this and have it default not save the entered data. Users being users will sometimes not bother looking at whats on their screen and save the form.


  15. Juan P. says:

    Thank you very much, for clear howto. And thanks to Tres, the idea of print pdf as a pdf is very good.

  16. What is the simplest way to create PDF forms on a Mac?…

    Hey Jared…. The question I answered did not really ask about “fillable” forms but as a matter of fact, I have made them using open office using a workaround I found on a blog. I cannot find my original blog post but I have one here that references …

  17. Teej says:

    Is there a way to possibly have the form submitted or emailed back to you once someone fills it out? That way there is no need for printing?

  18. Ben says:

    Good stuff! Thanks so much!

    Another great program is NITROREADER, free from PrimoPDF. You can save the form, comment, add text, etc. An amazing and helpful program!

  19. Christian says:

    Hi dennis. Thanks for this. I have a question. I already created a document that I want to be my form. Is there anyway of saving my already made document into a form? Or can I cut an paste it into a form document.

    I didn’t know about Form mode when I did this.

  20. Is there any way to make the pdf saveable? I need people to be able to go into the form and make changes, save and send back to me.


  21. Matt says:

    When I used the current openoffice with this tutorial, and foxit pdf reader. My form was save-able. I thought it might be just a fluke of the local software, but all the data was there when I emailed it to a co-worker.

    Thanks for this tutorial. It will be a great help.

  22. Eric says:

    As far as I know there is no way to save these forms.
    I search all over.
    The Foxit program someone mentioned above requires the user to download the free foxit program, no one I know is going to do that.

    Still a good tutorial. I wish there were some way to put the form on the web. Even using google docs requires the user to open a gmail account. Not very user friendly.

  23. dr memals says:

    add a “push button” and set the “action” to “submit form”

  24. Douglas says:

    Dennis, I created the form as you said and exported it as a PDF document however in the PDF version I cannot not typed in the information that is required. What am I doing wrong?? Please advise

  25. Mark says:

    Hi Dennis. I created a form and exported it as a PDF. There are some fields (such as date or phone number) that are patterned or formatted so that they will show correctly when inputting data. Are these fields exportable to a PDF because I can enter numbers but they do not follow the patterns I put in place. Thanks for your help!

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