Looking to create an online fillable PDF? That is, a PDF where you take some content from your website, add it into a pre-formatted PDF, and are able to download or email the completed PDF document? We have the answer!
Fillable PDFs can be useful in all sorts of situations, including applications, contracts, and other legal documents. They’re perfect replacements for paper documents and paper forms. You can take in information from a WordPress form and then output all that data in a downloadable PDF file.
In this post, you’ll learn how to create an online fillable PDF with off-the-rack solutions – no coding or technical knowledge required.
We’ll be using WordPress here. WordPress is free software which powers over 37% of the internet, from blogs to the biggest websites in the world.
You’ll be able to create a front-end fillable form like this on your WordPress site:
Then, when someone submits that form, you can automatically enter that data into PDF fillable fields and create a finished PDF document like this (while preserving the styling of your PDF):
Ready to learn how to set up interactive forms? Let’s get started…
What You Need to Create a WordPress Fillable PDF
In order to create a WordPress fillable PDF, you’re going to need an existing WordPress site, and then two WordPress plugins. If you don’t already have WordPress, it’s fast and easy to get started. You’ll find information here. Then, here are the plugins you need:
- Gravity Forms – a popular and flexible WordPress form plugin.
- Fillable PDFs – an extension for Gravity Forms that lets you generate filled-out PDF files when users submit a form.
You’ll use Gravity Forms to create the front-end web form that people interact with. Depending on your needs, you can either make this form public or you can restrict it so that only authorized users have access.
Then, once someone submits that form, the Fillable PDFs plugin will work on the backend to input that form data into the associated fields in your fillable PDF file.
And the neat thing is that your fillable PDF file will retain its original design. So you can create branded, stylish fillable PDFs while still being able to dynamically fill them with information from WordPress.
You can also use Gravity Forms’ many extensions and still include that information in your fillable PDF. For example, if you use the Gravity Forms Signature add-on, you can include a person’s actual signature in your fillable PDF file, which is especially helpful if you’re looking to create contracts.
Next, let’s go through exactly how to set up Gravity Forms and Fillable PDFs to help you create a WordPress fillable PDF.
How to Create a WordPress Fillable PDF With Gravity Forms
Here’s your step-by-step guide to creating a WordPress fillable PDF…
1. Create Your Fillable PDF Template
At this point, you may or may not already have the fillable PDF document that you want to use with WordPress. If you do, you click here to jump straight to the next step.
If you don’t, here’s a quick guide on some easy ways to create a fillable PDF document.
First, if you care about the styling and layout of your document, your best bet is to probably use Adobe Acrobat as it will give you the most flexibility. You can design your PDF using Acrobat’s many features and then create fillable PDF fields by following these instructions.
If you just need a basic fillable PDF document and are more concerned with information than style, two simpler browser-based Adobe Acrobat alternatives are:
- PDFescape – basic, but easy-to-use PDF editor that doesn’t have any branding or watermarking.
- JotForm – a very user-friendly fillable PDF creator, but includes JotForm watermarking at the bottom unless you pay for a premium plan. It also supports digital signatures.
You can also use Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel to create a bare-bones fillable word document and use the convert PDF option to save as a PDF document.
For example, here’s what it looks like to create PDF templates with the free JotForm browser tool. We’ve included a logo in the form so that you can see how your styling will still show up on the final form.
2. Install Gravity Forms and Fillable PDFs
Next, you need to purchase, install, and activate both the core Gravity Forms plugin and the Fillable PDFs plugin.
For Gravity Forms, all you need is the Basic license unless you want access to more advanced add-ons like the Signature add-on.
3. Create a WordPress Fillable PDF Template
To get started, you need to upload the PDF that you created in Step #1 as a WordPress fillable PDF template for your WordPress form.
To do this…
- Go to Forms → Fillable PDFs.
- Click on the Templates tab in the Fillable PDFs for Gravity Forms interface.
- Click Add New.
- Give your template a name – this is purely internal, so make it easy for you to remember.
- Use the Select a Template File button to select your PDF document.
- Click Create Template.
4. Create Your Front-End Form
Next, you need to create the front-end form that your visitors will use to enter data into the WordPress fillable PDF.
You have two options here. You can..
- Manually create a form in Gravity Forms by going to Forms → New Form or using an existing form.
- Let the Fillable PDFs plugin automatically create a form for you based on the fields in your fillable PDF file. This is only available on the Business plan and above.
For this tutorial, we’ll use the second approach because it saves you some time – but either approach is fine.
To have the Fillable PDFs plugin automatically create a form for you…
- Go to Forms → Fillable PDFs.
- Click on the Import PDFs tab in the Fillable PDFs for Gravity Forms interface.
- Use the drop-down to select the template that you created in the previous step.
Next, the plugin will help you create your front-end form by automatically creating a new form in Gravity Forms and mapping the fillable fields from your PDF to that form:
If needed, you can go through and change which type of form field to match to your fillable PDF field. You can also change the labels on the fields to make them more user-friendly.
For example, if you have an “Email” field in your fillable PDF, you can change the association to use an “Email” field in Gravity Forms as well. Do the same for all fillable form fields in your form such as checkboxes, text field names, dropdown menus, radio buttons, and signature fields.
Once you’ve made your choices, click Import Form at the bottom to finish the process.
Now, when you go to the Forms tab in your dashboard, you should see a new form.
Click to edit that form:
If needed, you can use the drag-and-drop Gravity Forms editor to remove extraneous fields or add new fields that you want to include on your web form, but not in your fillable PDF:
5. Map Web Form Fields to Fillable PDF Document
Once you’re happy with the appearance and layout of your front-end web form, go to Settings → Fillable PDFs to finish the setup process:
Then, click Add New to create a Fillable PDFs Feed. A “feed” in Gravity Forms is basically processing that happens after someone submits a form. In this case, that processing is uploading the form data into your fillable PDF file:
Give it a name and use the Template drop-down to select the template you created in Step #3.
Once you select your template, click the Open Mapper button to map the fields in your web form to the fields in your fillable PDF form:
Mapping fields is easy and visual. All you do is click on one of the fillable fields in your PDF. Then, you can use the drop-down to select the relevant field in your front-end fillable PDF form.
- Click on the First Name fillable field in your PDF.
- Select the First Name field from Gravity Forms in the drop-down.
- Repeat for all the fields in your PDF.
Once you’ve mapped all of your fields, you can close the visual mapper tool. Then, click the Update Settings button to save your changes.
6. Attach PDF to Email Notifications or Add Restrictions (Optional)
If you want to automatically attach your filled-out PDF document to email notifications that you send to admins and/or people who submit the fillable PDF form, you can use the Notifications setting in the Feed Settings interface:
You can create new Gravity Forms email notifications from the Notifications tab.
You can also go to the Advanced tab of the Feed Settings interface to add restrictions to your PDF file, like a password or download restrictions:
7. Display Your Form on the Front-End
Finally, to make your front-end web form available, you can create a new WordPress page and add the Gravity Forms block or shortcode:
If you want to draw attention to your form and rank it in Google, you can consider adding some additional text elements around the form.
Once you get a form submission, you can download your PDF from the Gravity Forms entry in your WordPress dashboard, and Gravity Forms will also attach your PDF to any notification emails that you specified.
If needed, you can upload the PDF file to your media library for easy access. There are also WordPress PDF plugins that can help you add a PDF embedder or PDF viewer on the front-end of your site if needed.
Benefits of Using WordPress
While there are many products that let you create a fillable form like Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Word or Excel, Google Forms, or even paper documents, WordPress gives you more control over your overall form layout and the information you collect.
You will be able to apply your page styles to everything on your fillable form including check boxes, text fields, radio buttons, signature fields, and dropdown menus. When you want to create fillable PDFs that you can send to customers online, you can use existing forms that you save as a new interactive form.
By using the Fillable PDFs plugin, you can extend its functionality with other plugins that allow you to prepare forms using a digital signature, include a PDF editor on page, or convert a Word document or Adobe PDF, or paper form to fillable form fields.
When you create PDF fillable forms in WordPress, you can use the same field properties and field names on check boxes, text fields, and radio buttons for any new fields you add to existing forms or new forms and it automatically reflects on your website.
Get Started With a WordPress Fillable PDF Today
Using a WordPress fillable PDF is a great solution for applications, contracts, and other legal documents.
It’s simpler for both you and your visitors.
It’s simpler for them because they can enter all their data via a user-friendly web form. And it’s simpler for you because you can automatically turn that data into a finished PDF document without lifting a finger.
With Gravity Forms and the Fillable PDFs plugin, it’s easy to turn form entries into finished PDF documents, while retaining all the original styling in your PDF document.
To get started with your first WordPress fillable PDF document, purchase the Fillable PDFs plugin today.