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Filling Out and Signing Forms With Preview



Going paperless is great. Not only is it more efficient, but it is better for the environment. But when it comes time to fill out paperwork, the workflow is typically:

  1. Print document
  2. Fill out and sign document
  3. Scan and email or fax document

It doesn't have to be that hard. If you own a Mac, you can use Preview to fill in all of the blanks, including the signature line. By filling out documents on the computer, you can skip steps one and three, thereby saving time and resources.

In this tutorial, I will show you how to:

  • Fill in documents using annotate with text
  • Highlight sections of the document using shapes
  • Add a signature using the trackpad
  • Add a signature using the webcam

Annotate With Text

Open the pdf in Preview. From the top toolbar, choose Tools, then Annotate. Choose Text from the list of available annotation options.

The annotation bar in Preview
The annotation bar in Preview

Type the required text in the text box that appears. Use the text inspector to adjust the font type, size, and orientation. Then drag and drop the text to the line where you would like it printed.

Repeat the above steps as needed for the remaining text fields. For additional speed, you may use copy & paste or the Shift-Command-T shortcut to quickly add more text boxes to the page.

Fully filled out form using text annotations
Fully filled out form using text annotations

Highlighting With Shapes

Imagine that you need to bring attention to one of the fields. That can easily be done as well. From the toolbar at the top choose tools, then annotate. This time choose the rectangle annotate option from the list of available choices.

Adding rectangles to forms
Adding rectangles to forms

Move the box over the area you would like to highlight. Use the blue circular handles around the box to reshape it to meet your needs. Then use the tool bar at the top to set the background color. Instead of choosing a base color, click the Show Colors button. 

Use the color wheel to choose the base color, then use the slider at the bottom to slide down the opacity and the forms text to still come through.

Setting the highlight colors
Setting the highlight colors

Adding a Signature

If the form requires a signature, go to Tools, then Annotate, then Signature. Click Manage Signature then click Create Signature. There are two options to add a signature to Preview: Either scan/take a picture of the signature, or use the trackpad to draw a signature.

Draw a Signature

This is the default option. Click the Click Here to Begin button and then use your finger on the trackpad to draw a signature. When you are done, press any key. If you are unhappy with the result, you can clear it and start over. If you are satisfied with the signature, click Done.

Take a Picture

Write your signature on a piece of plain white paper. Then hold that paper up and click the Camera option in the add signature box. Line up the signature to the line on the webcam. 

When the signature is lined up, it will be scanned into Preview.

Using Signatures

Once a signature is loaded into Preview, it can be inserted into documents at will. Click the signature button from the annotation bar. Choose the signature you wish to add. Then drag, drop and resize as needed.

Inserting signatures into documents with Preview
Inserting signatures into documents with Preview


Going paperless is very popular these days. The time and ink savings alone make it worth while. So the next time you have a document that would normally be printed, filled out, then scanned, give Preview a shot instead. Let me know how it goes in the comments below.

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