How To Fill Out and Sign a PDF Without Printing

by Sarah Dobson on March 09, 2020

At times, having a paper copy of a form is helpful and reassuring, but all too often, paper makes for extra work. Has this ever happened to you? You’ve downloaded a PDF of a form that needs to be filled out. Now you have to print it out and fill it in. Plus you have to figure out how to return it: scan it and email it, run it through a fax machine, or pop it in an envelope and mail it. You can avoid printing altogether using Apple’s Preview app, which is installed by default on your Mac. And, if you use Apple’s Mail app, there’s an additional option, which we’ll explain at the end of this article.

You’ve likely used Preview many times to view PDFs, but now it’s time to learn how to alter them:

  1. Open the PDF in Preview. Choose View > Show Markup Toolbar. 
  2. To fill in text (such as your name, or an X that can be placed over a checkbox), click the Text button on the Markup toolbar. Preview inserts a text box. Type to enter your text in the box, format your text as desired by clicking the Text Style button, and position it on the form by dragging it.
  3. To create a signature, click the Signature button on the Markup toolbar. You can use the trackpad or the Mac’s camera. Either way, Preview saves your signature, so you can use it again without repeating this step.
    • To use the trackpad, click Click Here to Begin and start signing. Press any key when you’re done. Honestly, this is hard to do with a finger—click Clear to try again—so if you have a rubber-tipped iPad stylus, use that to make the writing easier. Click Done once you have a signature you like.

    • For an easier method, sign your name using a dark black pen on a white piece of paper that’s blank on the back. Then click Camera and hold your paper up to the Mac’s camera. Move the paper around until the entire signature fits in the panel and isn’t angled oddly. Click Done.


  4. To sign the PDF, click the Signature button again and click your signature. Preview inserts as a graphic that you can drag around and resize to fit into the appropriate space. (You can create and insert multiple signatures, and while forgery is frowned on, Preview makes it easy for an assistant to affix the boss’s signature to documents that don’t need the real thing.)

  5. To save your changes, choose File > Save.

Now that you’ve filled out your form on-screen, you can send it as an email attachment, share it with instant messaging, or fax it using an online fax service.

For those who use Mail, here’s that tip we promised. If you plan to return the filled-in form by email, instead of opening the PDF in Preview, attach it to an outgoing email message. Then hover over the PDF in the message to reveal a small down-pointing triangle. Click the triangle, and choose Markup.

Now you can add text and a signature using the same techniques described above. Any signatures that you save in Preview or in Mail’s Markup panel will be available in both locations. Once you’ve made your changes, click the Done button at the upper right. Now you can send the message with the filled-in form attached.

Need a hand? Your Apple Premier Partner has got you covered!

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