So You Think You Can Tech: Filling Out & Signing PDFs

Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Tech Tuesday

#TechTuesday with E-Services

It’s happening more and more. You have to fill out some important paperwork and instead of a stack of pages you get a file in your email. How do you sign a file? There is no touch screen to write on and there certainly isn’t a handy pen. So now what? Do you print all this stuff out, fill it out, find a place to scan the documents, and then send it back?!

Thankfully, that is the furthest thing from what you have to do. Instead, if you follow a few straightforward steps, you can have your paperwork signed and returned in no time. And as with many of our topics, today begins with a deceptively simple question.

#Have you Downloaded the File?

This might seem like a simple thing, the sort of start that makes for an easy time. But like I said, it is deceptively simple. More times than I care to count someone has filled out their forms, hit save, and then found their form completely blank. Whenever this happens the first thing I do is check whether they have downloaded the file. Nearly without fail, the file wasn’t downloaded. Instead, they opened it in their email and tried filling it out in their browser.

#But it opens in my browser, shouldn’t I fill it out there?!

Your browser is there simply to view a file. Because PDF as a file type has been around forever and a half, modern browsers have the capability to view them. And that’s it. They can view a file and they can print a file. All those other things you want to do with a file, the filling, the signing, that won’t work. So don’t do it. Download the sucker and open it in Adobe Reader.

#Okay, I tried opening it in Adobe and it keeps pulling up my Browser...

This happens to everyone. Heck, sometimes it happens to me. It’s a real easy fix though. All you need to do is go to where you saved the file, it’s probably in the Downloads folder. Once there, RIGHT CLICK on the file and choose “Open With Adobe Acrobat Reader DC.” This will open it in the right place.

This brings us to another question.

#Is the Form Fillable or is it Just a PDF?

Now you may be asking yourself, “How the heck am I supposed to know that,” thankfully it’s really easy to tell. Look at your form. Do you see light blue boxes where you might otherwise handwrite information? If you do, then it is probably Form Fillable and if it is, then thank whoever did that work for you. Because those blue boxes make things a lot easier.

#Hey, I can click in those boxes!

That’s right. To fill out this PDF all you have to do is click in each box and type the appropriate information. Make sure to save frequently to prevent any loss of information. My recommendation is, if you are going to fill out multiple copies of the same form, to save each one as a different name. Doing this prevents you from needing to download the file again.

#Um, I don’t have any blue boxes. What about me?

You’re not out of luck, you are just going to have to make some luck of your own. Thankfully, Adobe has your back. First, make sure you are in Adobe. I mean, you should already be there but if not, follow the instructions above. If you look on the side of your window, there should be a column of options. Scroll down until you find one saying, “Fill & Sign,” and click it. Now you will be able to click on the lines where you would normally hand write your entries. When you do so, you should be able to type in the box that appears, allowing you to fill out the formally static PDF.

#Speaking of Signing...

The fill and sign part of Adobe will also allow you to sign a document with a digital signature. While it won’t be your signature exactly, there are several options to get one close to yours. You can even create a signature that is saved to the computer so you can use it for multiple files. This option will add some custom Adobe tracking, so the security certificate is up to date. But if you are just signing for a lease or something you probably don’t need that.

Once your file is filled and signed, make sure to save it. Because we now come to the next part.

#Sending your signed form back!

Now that you have it signed and saved, we need to send the file back. Go to where you need to submit the file, be it your email, an online repository, or some other system. Once you get the appropriate location, find the upload button. Sometimes it says upload, sometimes browse, sometimes it’s a paperclip. Regardless of the appearance, it will allow you to pull a copy of the signed file off your computer and place it in the required location. There you go. You’re done. You’ve filled out a form, signed it, and returned it. Congrats!

#Anything else?

There are a few apps you can download that will allow you to fill out a PDF. We do not discuss them here mainly because there are too many to really nail down, they are different between the iPhone and Android, and you should really just use Adobe’s App anyway. Also, the app is cumbersome with files that have not been converted to form fillable. So the computer option really is your best bet.

But other than that, no, nothing else.

So have fun, find adventure, and be safe.

The Jacksonville Public Library's E-Services Department is dedicated to helping users learn and master the technology needed in today's economy. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, join us for our online computer classes. All of our classes are free and open to the public.

John Carter

John Carter

Husband, Father, Digital Artist, and Teacher, these are but a few of the hats John Carter wears. If he is not at one of our many public libraries hosting a computer class or helping someone in an appointment you can find John working in his yard practicing hügelkultur, hidden away sketching and writing, making a pilgrimage to Disney World, or trying new recipes in the kitchen.

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