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by Ray DeCosta

Q. I often receive PDF forms that I have to fill out and sign. Is there an easy way to handle this chore?

A. It's actually pretty simple to fill out PDF forms these days. One of the better free programs to do this is called FoxitReader which is available here.

To use this program, just open your PDF file with FoxitReader instead of the usual Adobe Reader. Go to the Comments tab and select Typewriter and then Typewriter again from the list of choices. At that point you can click anywhere on the page and a box will appear where you can type the desired information. It's easy to correct mistakes or come back to the filled-in form later.

FoxitReader isn't particularly good at printing the final form if you should need to do so. As a result, you should open the PDF file with Adobe Reader instead and use that program to print yourself a final paper copy. Also note that some PDF files are specifically created, for security reasons, to prevent you from saving any such changes. In general, the only way to defeat this alleged "feature" is to print the pages and then scan them yourself into a new PDF file.

Attaching your signature is a bit more difficult and requires that you use a scanner to obtain a PNG image to use on the form. All-In-One (AIO) printers have scanners or you could ask a friend to scan your signature. The trick here is to create a PNG file with a transparent background. Using a JPG file will result in a big white block that often obscures the printing behind it.

Once you have obtained your signature as an image, in FoxitReader go to Comments -- Stamp -- Manage Stamps -- Create -- Create Custom Stamp. Then browse to your PNG file and click OK. From then on, your signature will appear under Signatures and you will be able to locate and size it as needed to complete your PDF file. This method of signing a form is acceptable for most common digital documents but anything important would require a "real" signature.

Published: Courier 7/6/14 - Page 1D