Why Can I Not Print a Fillable PDF Form?

By Melissa Worcester

Portable Document Format files, or PDFs, are files meant to be formatted so users can view and print them easily and they will look the same, regardless of differences in hardware and software between users. Most PDF files can't be edited or changed in any way unless the user has Adobe's Acrobat software. The Adobe Reader software that is available free will only let you read and print PDF files. The exception to this is PDF forms that are specifically created so users can fill them in on their computers, save them with their responses and send them back. It is unlikely that the fact that the PDF is fillable is the cause of a printing problem.


There are several limitations to the system. The biggest one is that you can't create a fillable form unless you have a version of Adobe Acrobat, the software made to allow users to create PDF files. You can't create a PDF file in Adobe Reader. However, you should be able to fill in a PDF fillable Form using Adobe Reader, and once you've done so, you should be able to print it.


The benefits of fillable PDF forms is that users can type in their answers and responses right on their computer and can return the filled-in form in a state that will make it easy to read. Another benefit is that the users who need to fill in the form don't need a scanner. An alternate way to send back a filled-in form would be to print it, fill it in by hand and scan the handwritten form in to send it back. But many home users don't have scanners, and the fillable form gets around that problem.

How to Tell the Difference

If you open a form in Adobe Reader and you're not sure if it's a fillable form, there's a way to tell for sure. Move your mouse cursor (in Adobe Reader it will be shaped like a little hand) around the screen and hold it over some of the fields on the form (the parts where you would fill in a response). Watch to see if the cursor changes to an I-beam (like the cursor when you enter text in a word processor) or a hand with a pointing finger. If the cursor doesn't change, the form is not a fillable form.

Troubleshoot Printing Problems

If you can't print a PDF form, there may be a number of reasons. Try some or all of these steps to see if you can fix it. Visit the Adobe website to download the latest version of Adobe Reader, if you don't already have it. Visit the website of the manufacturer of your printer and download an updated printer driver, if one is available. If you are trying to print a file that is on a thumb drive, try copying the file to your computer's hard drive and then try printing it again. Make sure your system works normally otherwise by trying to print another PDF file, or trying to print from another program. Try to print to a different printer, if one is available. As a last resort, download the PDF file again and fill it out again. Or print the PDF as an image by choosing "Print as Image" from the "Advanced" window in the Print dialog box.