Problems with fillable PDFs

Created 21/12/20

I have had a few reports of people not being able to fill in the forms, very occasionally on Windows machines and more often, but still only occasionally, on iPhones and iPads. Usually what happens is that the person getting a message that the form is password protected and cannot be edited.

That is correct: the text of the forms is password protected as we don’t want many slightly modified versions to get out there. However, that has nothing to do with filling in the forms and most people should have no problem filling in the form and never realise that the areas other than the fillable bits are password protected. I think I can help people fix this on the very rare occasions it happens on Windows, I am very much looking for advice about possible fixes when this happens on iPhones or iPads. See details for each below.

On Windows

Occasionally people don’t have a PDF reader installed on Windows machines and then their web browser may try to open the forms for editing when someone tries to answer using the form.

The answer that I think will always fix this is for the person to download and install the free version of Adobe’s Reader from: https://get2.adobe.com/uk/reader/otherversions/
I think that should prompt for the operating system and should give instructions about installing the program so that it will then open PDFs so that people can fill them in. If that doesn’t work for you or your client, I would love to hear from from you with details of the version of Windows and what went wrong. I do have Windows but as it simply works for me I’m not sure that really helps me debug this. However, at a time that works for me (see my work diary) I am willing to try to set up a zoom share screen and watch what happens when you try to fix things and that may enable me to help you.

On iPhones and iPads

I think I’ve had only two reports of things not working on Windows (and none of failures on Linux or Mac machines), however, I have had perhaps ten reports of forms not working on iPhones and iPads but so far no-one has replied to my enquiries seeking more details. It looks to me as if Adobe don’t provide a PDF reader for these platforms which is probably contributing to the problem. However, as these are such popular platforms and as I’ve had so few messages about the forms failing on them, I think that working solutions that handle fillable PDFs there must be very common. However, I don’t have an iPhone nor an iPad so I can’t try this myself so I’m very keen to hear from people who have used these platforms to fill in the forms successfully to hear what versions of the iPhone/iPad they have and what software/program/app handled the form if they can see that (and, if they know it, the version of the operating system on the iPad/iPhone).

Equally, I’d like to hear from people for whom the forms don’t work with the same information. I have found this:
https://osxdaily.com/2017/05/17/fill-out-pdf-ios-markup/
Which looks as if it may be a free download that may solve the issue and if anyone has problems and tries this out, I’d love to hear their experience with it.

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