How to Create a WordPress PDF Generator (Flexible and Code-Free)
Looking to create a WordPress PDF generator to automatically generate PDF documents from your WordPress site?
A WordPress PDF generator is great for any situation where you need to receive input and then generate that data into a finished PDF file. For example, contracts, applications, bureaucratic forms, etc.
By combining these two tools, you’ll be able to create front-end forms to collect data for any type of PDF, from contracts to applications and more. Then, you’ll be able to generate PDFs that maintain your own design/branding, including a watermark if needed.
You can even automatically email the generated PDF to yourself or the person who filled out your form.
By the end of this post, you’ll be able to take a WordPress PDF generator form like this:
And then turn it into a finished PDF document like this:
Why Gravity Forms + Fillable PDFs Make the Best WordPress PDF Generator
- What information you use to generate a PDF.
- How that information looks in the finished PDF file.
You can use the Gravity Forms WordPress plugin to create a front-end form that collects data. You can either keep this form private and use it for yourself or for your employees. Or, if your use case dictates it, you can also make the form public and accept submissions from visitors to your site.
Then, you can automatically generate a PDF file by inserting the data from your form into your PDF document. You can create your own PDF template and your PDF will retain its layout/design even after inserting data from your form. For example, you can add a watermark or your business’ logo.
While you can find other PDF plugins that let you turn a static WordPress page into a PDF, the benefit of using the approach in this post is that you can use WordPress to generate a unique PDF from any data.
Potential Use Cases for Your WordPress PDF Generator
The great thing about setting up your WordPress PDF generator using this method is that you’ll have total flexibility for how you generate PDFs.
You’ll be able to fully customize your PDF generation forms to collect as much (or as little) information as needed. Then, you can automatically insert that information into a pre-styled PDF document so that it has a standard PDF format.
This approach makes a great option for:
- Contracts and other legal documents — you can even have users digitally sign your PDF and include their signature in the finished PDF file.
- Bureaucratic forms — save time on paperwork by making it easier for people to fill out forms. Instead of writing forms by hand, they can enter data in a user-friendly web form and automatically generate a finished PDF.
- Applications — collect as much information as needed from applicants and then turn it all into a PDF.
- Receipts — you can create an eCommerce payment form with Gravity Forms and then generate a PDF document receipt for people who make a purchase. You can even sync your form and PDF generator with WooCommerce.
Because Gravity Forms is so flexible, you can easily adapt this method to other use cases as well.
How to Set Up Your WordPress PDF Generator
Here’s the basic high-level process to create your WordPress PDF generator:
- Create a data collection form with Gravity Forms. This is where you’ll collect the data with which to generate your PDF document.
- Create a fillable PDF file. This is where you can control the template, design, and style for the finished PDF document.
- Map your data collection form to the PDF template.
- Set up email notifications to email the finished PDF to people (optional).
- Start generating PDFs on WordPress!
Here’s how to set it up…
1. Create a Data Collection Form with Gravity Forms
To get started, install and activate the Gravity Forms plugin. Then, go to Forms → New Form to create a new form.
Again, this is the front-end form where you’ll collect the data that you’ll use to generate a PDF. You’ll want to add form fields for all the data that you want to include in your generated PDF file.
For example, if you want to include someone’s name and address in your PDF, make sure to add fields for both name and address.
Here’s an example of what it might look like for generating a PDF file from a simple application:
If you want to change the text of the submit PDF button, you can go to the Settings tab in the Gravity Forms backend and look for the Button text field. For example, you can change the text to “Generate PDF”:
2. Create a Fillable PDF File
Next, you need to create the template that you’ll use to generate your PDFs.
You can do this by creating a regular PDF document with “fillable fields”. You’ll be able to insert data from your forms into those fillable fields, which is how you generate the PDF file.
The nice thing about this approach is that you can also include static content that will always stay the same. For example, you could include text, logos, watermarks, etc.
Your finished PDF documents will retain this formatting — the only thing that will change is the data in your fillable fields.
To create a fillable PDF, you have a few options.
The most flexible solution is to use Adobe Acrobat to design your PDF — you can follow this tutorial to add fillable fields in Adobe Acrobat.
If you want a simpler, cloud-based tool, two good options are:
- JotForm — you can design your PDF file using a simple drag-and-drop interface. The free version includes JotForm branding, though.
- PDFescape — not as user-friendly as JotForm, but it’s free and doesn’t include any branding.
Make sure to include fillable fields for all the data in the form that you created in step #1. You can also feel free to include other text or design elements.
Here’s what it looks like to create a fillable PDF with JotForm:
3. Upload Fillable PDF as PDF Template and Map Fields
To tell Gravity Forms to generate form submissions into PDFs, you need to install and activate the Fillable PDFs plugin from ForGravity.
Next, go to Forms → Fillable PDFs → Templates → Add New:
On the next page, give your PDF template a name and select the fillable PDF file that you created in the previous step. Then, click Create Template:
Once you’ve added your PDF template, open the Gravity Forms editor for your PDF generation form. Then, go to Settings → Fillable PDFs:
Click Add New to create a new “feed”. A “feed” is what tells Gravity Forms to take new form submissions and use them to generate PDF documents:
Use the Template drop-down to select the fillable PDF template that you created a moment ago. Then, click the Open Mapper button. This allows you to map the form fields in your front-end form to the fillable fields in your PDF template:
To map fields, all you need to do is click on a fillable field on the live preview of your PDF. Then, you can select a field from the front-end form that you created with Gravity Forms:
Once you’ve mapped all of your fields, you can close the mapper interface and click Update Settings to save your changes.
4. Set Up Email Notifications (Optional)
If you want to automatically email newly-generated PDF files to your email or someone else’s email, you can set up email notifications.
To get started, go to the Notifications tab in the Settings interface of your form to create the basic notification.
You can enter any email address, including the email address that a user entered in your front-end form:
Then, you can go back to the Fillable PDFs section and attach your generated PDF files to your email notification:
5. Start Generating PDF Files
And that’s it! Your WordPress PDF generator is complete. You (or others) can enter data in your front-end form from Gravity Forms. Then, the Fillable PDFs plugin will use that data to generate a new PDF file when someone submits the front-end form.
If you want to display your finished PDF documents on the front-end of your site in WordPress posts or custom post types, you can use a PDF embedder or PDF viewer WordPress plugin from WordPress.org.
With these plugins (usually available in a free version), you can display PDFs on the front-end using a shortcode. You can also add a PDF download button using these plugins and index your finished PDFs in Google for SEO.
Get Started With Your WordPress PDF Generator Today
From contracts to applications to receipts and more, you’ll be able to collect any type of data and then use that data to automatically generate a new PDF file. You can then attach that PDF to an email notification or use an embed PDF plugin to display it on the front-end of your site.
To get started with your own WordPress PDF generator, purchase Fillable PDFs today.