Create a PDF Form from a Locked PDF

Locked PDF Forms

Some PDF Forms, like the Internal Revenue Service W-9, are locked. Fields in the form are fillable, but either you make other changes to the form at all or would have to go to the bother of installing Adobe LifeCycle Designer to change it. There's a trick you can use to make an unlocked copy of the form.


When you try to edit a locked PDF form in Adobe Acrobat, you get an error message like the one shown above.

What Is the Purpose of Changing a Fillable PDF Form?

Why would you want to change a fillable PDF form? To avoid all the bother of having to print out the form, sign it, scan it and finally email it. Instead, if you could edit it, you could add a Button field (image only) and insert a scanned image of your signature. You could add a Text field for filling in the date. Then you could use that form over and over entirely in your computer. That is much faster than printing, signing and scanning. And it doesn't waste paper and ink. Printing to paper is so 1900s.

Also, if you want to automate the process of completing forms using other software, you need to be able to edit them. For example, we offer a product, Active Form Filler (click here), that can complete forms with client information pulled out of your Time Matters database.

Creating automatic documents makes you and your support staff more productive. It is a key to making your practice more profitable.

How to Create an Unlocked Copy of a PDF Form

  1. Open the PDF form in Adobe Acrobat or other software that allows editing PDF files.
  2. Print the form to Microsoft XPS Document Writer to create an XPS file. (See screenshot, below.)
  3. In Adobe Acrobat or other editing software, choose Create PDF from File and select the XPS file.
  4. Add your own fields to the form.


When you create an unlocked PDF form using this approach, none of the existing fillable fields are carried over into the new form. If you want to be able to fill the original fields, you need to add them using the Create Form feature. If what you fill into those fields doesn't change over time, you can fill those fields in the locked PDF form and create an unlocked copy that will have that information "hard-coded" into the unlocked form.

With Adobe LiveCycle Designer, you can edit many fillable PDF forms that are locked. LiveCycle Designer was included in some earlier versions of Acrobat Pro. At this writing, it is available as an Add-On for $299. LiveCycle Designer preserves existing fillable fields and let's you add your own.