Posts Tagged ‘PDF’

How to edit PDF files for free

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

I had a PDF form which I needed to fill in. The form was not editable, but I still wanted some way to fill in the fields on the computer rather than having to print it out and fill it in by hand.

A quick search shows that there are many other people wanting to do the same thing, but there aren’t many solutions that actually work. Many of the suggestions/solutions that I found online didn’t work at all. These were my requirements:

  • Add text to an existing uneditable PDF.
  • Save the PDF with the new text in place.
  • Ability to re-open the PDF and continue editing the newly added text.
  • I wasn’t interested in the ability to edit the PDF form itself – only the new text that I added.
  • The software should be free.
  • I didn’t want software with a time limited trial.
  • The software had to leave no watermarks on the PDF.
  • I wanted PC based software rather than web based – I don’t want to have to submit my PDFs to some company that I may never have heard of.

The software that I found that allowed me to fill in my PDF forms as per my requirements was called PDF-XChange Viewer.

How to install the PDF editing software

The easiest way to install PDF-XChange Viewer is to download the EXE installer from their webpage. You should be careful when installing, as by default it will change some of your computer’s settings and try to install a browser toolbar.

On the ‘Select Components’ screen I deselected everything except for the help file. I don’t want any extra menus added to Windows Explorer, browser extensions, or automatic update checking. This is a tool that I’m only going to use occasionally so I want it be unobtrusive when not in use.

pdf editor install 1

Then on the ‘Select Additional Tasks’ screen I made sure that the ‘Set PDF-XChange Viewer as default viewer for PDF files’ was unticked. I want to continue to use Adobe Reader for viewing PDFs.

pdf editor install 2

On the ‘Install the Tracker Ask Toolbar’ screen I unticked the top option. It would be easy to misread it if you are quickly clicking through the install, and think that this option is just to agree to the main licence terms. But read carefully and you’ll see that it is for agreeing to the licence terms for the Ask Toolbar and confirming that you want to install it. So untick it unless you want the Ask Toolbar.

pdf editor install 3

Finally when I started the tool for the first time I told it not to make PDF-XChange Viewer the default PDF viewer, and set the option for it not to ask me again.

How to add text to your PDFs

After carefully completing the install this is how to add text to your existing PDFs. I’m using a random uneditable PDF that I found on the internet.

First load the PDF into PDF-XChange Viewer. You should be able to figure out how to do that yourself!

The easiest way to write on the PDF is with the ‘Typewriter Tool. Go to Tools->Comment and Markup Tools->Typewriter Tool->Default Style to select it.

pdf editor typewriter tool

Then you can simply click anywhere on the document and start typing. You’ll see the Typewriter Tool cursor where the text will appear.

editing a pdf

To test that your changes get saved properly: save a copy of the PDF and then load it into Adobe Reader.

To test that you can re-edit your text additions: load the PDF back into PDF-XChange Viewer and try re-editing your text. You can double-click on your text to get the editing cursor back. And you can right click on any of your new text boxes to get the option to delete them.

Self Assessment and clever PDFs

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

For 05-06 I was able to use the HMRC free online self-assessment tax form which proved to be very easy to fill in and which did most of the tax calculations automatically. This year I wasn’t able to do this as I needed to fill in the Capital Gains Tax supplement. This supplement isn’t included in the sections available on the HMRC free online tax software.

There were therefore two option:

  1. Fill in the paper forms. Complicated, not fun, and easy to screw up.
  2. Investigate some 3rd party software to fill in the tax return.

The Inland Revenue has a list of approved software listed on their website. The software from ftax looked the best to me – they have a demo on their site if you want to see. The look and feel is identical to the paper forms. It allows you to fill in the main form and all the supplemental sections.

I purchased the software and downloaded it to my desktop. I went to my desktop and was expecting to find an exe or a zip file. I could find anything that looked like an installable application so I went back to the ftax site and downloaded it again.

Once more I could see nothing that looked like an install file for this software. I did however spot a PDF called SA2007. I was puzzled as I was expecting some software to be downloaded, not a PDF.

I opened the PDF and it became clear. This is no static, dumb PDF. This is the King of PDFs. You can fill in fields, save the data and press buttons to calculate your tax figures, and to submit your final return. It really is an amazing use of the PDF file format, I never realised PDFs could do this kind of thing. Many of the tax calculations are automatically done for you which makes it really easy to fill in. There is a lot of field validation in there as well, so you don’t mess up the form as you can easily do with the paper version.

The official (and free) HMRC software also does automatic calculations and validation, but if you need to fill in any supplemental pages that aren’t covered by the free software then I can definitely recommend a package like this. I haven’t yet submitted my return so I won’t be fully convinced until I have my submission receipt from HMRC but it is looking good so far.

Update 2010: The online self assessment tax forms from the HMRC do now allow you to declare capital gains.