Software

Use Word to type on a printed form without a typewriter

There's no need to manually scrawl your way through a paper form. Convert the form to an online image you can fill out using Word.

What do you do when someone hands you an application to fill out or when you need to fill out a printed tax form? If you don't have a typewriter, you probably fill in the form manually, hoping that the recipient can read your handwriting. Fortunately, you can use Word to "type it in" instead. Follow these steps:

  1. Scan the form and save it as a picture to your My Pictures folder, or any folder where your picture files are kept. For this example, I scanned a tax form and saved it as a .PNG picture (Figure A).

Figure A

  1. Open a blank document in Word.
  2. Go to View | Header and Footer. (In Word 2007, double-click in the Header pane of your document.)
  3. Go to Insert | Picture and then click From File. (In Word 2007, position the insertion point in the Header pane, click the Insert tab, and then click Picture in the Illustrations group.)
  4. Navigate to the file containing your form and click the Insert button.
  5. Crop, resize, and reposition the picture as necessary to fit the page.
  6. Right-click the picture, go to Format Picture, and click the Behind Text option. (In Word 2007, make sure the form is still selected. Then, under Picture Tools in the Format tab, click Text Wrapping in the Arrange group and choose Behind Text.)
  7. Double-click anywhere in the document outside of the Header pane. You can then enter the desired text. (Figure B).

Figure B

To type the data as shown, I decreased the font size to 9, changed the paragraph formatting to single line spacing, and applied 0 spacing before and after the paragraph. This made it easier to use the Enter key to move from one line to another, as if I were using a typewriter.


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73 comments
jhmcmullen
jhmcmullen

Mind, I'm using Word 2010. It is inaccurate, though: in the new version of Word, at least, the option to put the image behind the text is not on Format Picture. What I did was: Click on the picture. Right-click to display the context menu. Select Wrap Text, and from there I chose the correct option. Hope that helps.

Metrotek2010
Metrotek2010

Just like many other turorials, this doesn't work and many of the commands that the author refers to aren't even available in the Word progam. There is not a 'behind text option' when you click on format picture for example. I find this all the time when tweaking Vista or IE8 and I research and download a lot of application software and modify and/or create registries. These so called 'geeks' just make a lot of this stuff up.

smardis
smardis

Doesn't work for me - at all.

israelking
israelking

Thanks for the info. That was good!

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

on their web site, just go there, download it, fill it in, and email back or print out, which ever is required.

rmc400
rmc400

great idea, and simple to do, but how do you overcome the fainter print that the watermark produces?

Cussy
Cussy

The watermark idea works well and is the simplest to set up - but don't even bother with the form making. Just type as normal. Tabbing across the page is simple. Coming down seems tricky but just set the line spacing to 1.5 and enter several blank lines first. Then go back to the top and start typing in your first box. Whenever the typing doesn't quite match the actual line position, go to the line above, highlight it, and use the auto increase/decrease font size button to adjust so the line below is perfect.

info
info

Mary Ann: The question is not if this was the best method to fill a form, or even a useful one... The idea is masterful, innovative and just some great thinking. If you ever want to come to my office and just sit around and think out loud, you surely will be welcome!

j.rollason
j.rollason

Followed steps 1-6 but when double clicking as in number 7 the text I type is appearing with the header section. Cany you help.

lockhaca
lockhaca

Use Section Break too! I had a multi-page document and I use section break and broke the link to keep in all in the same document!

rroberto18
rroberto18

How would this work with an existing .pdf file?

kywriter1
kywriter1

You can also make a table, changing the cell widths and row height or merging cells to precisely match the blanks. It's easier to navigate from cell to cell than moving between text boxes and can even be used in data merges. This technique is especially useful when the form is used often.

The Outlaw
The Outlaw

IRS likes their forms to be consistent in size - be sure the form will print to the same size or it may not be accepted!!! Otherwise a good tip.

sankaran.murthy
sankaran.murthy

Brilliant, however, I can't see how to ensure the spacing on the form will exatly match the spacing on the Word document text.

philip.ratcliffe
philip.ratcliffe

Well, it wasn't obvious and it wasn't obvious that it could be that easy - great! Thanks, Phil

lynnembailey
lynnembailey

I've done this many times and it works fine. You can also use text boxes and/or adjust the line spacing to fit the text properly

PalKerekfy
PalKerekfy

Thanks, this is good and simple solution to a common issue! Well, OCR can be used, too, but I'd prefer this very simple solution if I don't need to complete the same form several times.

cschutte
cschutte

How about Adobe Acrobat 9. Auto conversion to take care of blanks it recognizes in document. I understand you are trying to make things work in Word. Too bad Word doesn't have a built in feature to do same. Word does have the "Form" feature which allows you to create fields. Guess I am looking for a built in solution. A lot to expect from Microsoft. However, I do believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, so Microsoft has a chance.

jerang@
jerang@

Hadn't thought of this! Thanks for the tip!

cerec
cerec

My files consist of electronic documents and have scanned all previous paper documents. If I fill a form by hand, still have to scan and file the form. It is much easier to take the form, edit, submit and store it. I use an bitmap signature that most accept, although, I don't know how it would stand in a Court of Law.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

We receive 'Request for Quotation' forms from our customers as e-mail attachments. These are usually .TIF files created when the customer scanned their hand-completed form. In order to complete the form by hand we'd have to print it, fill it out, and scan it back in. Printing and rescanning wastes time, paper, and results in loss of resolution. Doing it this way is faster, cheaper, easier to read and update, and results in a clearer document, even if we don't use spell checker.

Marshwiggle
Marshwiggle

I think Sherlock's older brother would have spent a little more time in thought before being so dismissive ... and had better manners to boot.

mmenez1981
mmenez1981

I experience the same symptom. Anyone have a solution? The basic problem is not being able to get the picture to really go to the background and be able to see the text, in spite of following the dirctions. Any suggestions?

dhays
dhays

I usually use a ruler, this seems to be a better way. CERE said above to use Snagit (don't have any idea what it is) to do .pdf files. OCR would be better, if you had a good scan. Too many tax forms are fillable, but not saveable, especially here in Oklahoma.

bkdirks
bkdirks

No, it wouldn't work with a PDF file, because the form has to be inserted into the Word doc as a picture, which cannot be done with a PDF. Unless you know of a way to convert the PDF to a picture.

charleswdavis6670
charleswdavis6670

The IRS web site provides forms that you can complete on their web site. No problem with resizing or line spacing.

vchildress
vchildress

I have used this many times, but it is not as easy as it sounds. Lining everything up takes a great deal of time. Unless it's a form I will be using more than once, I don't bother, I just hand write - carefully.

slange
slange

Be sure you scan the image at it's exact size, matching your printer's resolution. Then when placing it in the document, place it at it's default size/resolution. You can move it to align with the document edges, but do not re-size it. Enter your text where appropriate and it will match nicely with the printed form.

jimdandy45
jimdandy45

It can get a bit tricky to line up the text, I agree. If there are blank lines in between entries, one can adjust the line spacing by changing the font size on the blank lines to help line up the entries. But as already suggested, inserting a textbox, then adding the text into the textbox, may be a better solution. Once the textbox is completed, simply click on the edge of the textbox and drag it so that it lines up with the form in the background. You may have to format the textbox so that there is NO FILL and there is NO LINE color.

blankev
blankev

If you use a picture as backgroud, the only difference seems to be for the "not word savvies" that the Header type of typewriter form seems as if not changeable. Am I correct in this?

Arlene
Arlene

For those with lack of funds.....after scanning the form, use Cute PDF (free)to print as a PDF file, then use Foxit Reader's (free) typewriter feature to fill out the form.

Miller1
Miller1

That's Just COOL. It is always nice to learn something new....especially with a product that you think you know everything possible about!

david
david

When our kids were in High School we filled out lots of forms for scholarships. We used WinFax. It seemed a lot easier. The imported forms as pics in Word were slow because of the memory it took for pics

cerec
cerec

If you have MS Office in your computer, take a .tif picture with snagit and save the image anywhere. Then Open the image with Microsoft Office Document Imaging. Click the Insert Text Box, right-click in the text area, click in format text change the font the way you want it then move the cursor to the frame, right-click and select Format Text Box, change the transparency to 100%, exit the formatting and then copy to the clipboard the box. Then, proceed to fill the form by pasting your box on the form. this is much faster and easier to remember than the original suggestion using MS Word headers

slange
slange

My solution is to use PagePlus by Serif.com instead of Word. In it, you can use the image as a non-printing background layer and place the text boxes exactly where they need to be on their own, printable layer. An added bonus is you can increase the image transparency to fade it so your added text will stand out and make it easier to check for errors before printing onto the pre-printed form.

cerec
cerec

This is a program available at http://www.techsmith.com/ It used to be free. It allows you to take pictures of regions of your screen (many options available) I use the program extensibly. It is just great!

ElijahKam
ElijahKam

Photoshop Elements will save a PDF as an image. I would prefer to use Foxit Reader or PaperPort to fill out a form anyway. Then you don't have the hassle of changing the original item.

frankrober
frankrober

To turn your PDF into a picture, simply use the Save As command and select .png or .jpeg. (I'm not sure if this requires owning Acrobat, which I have.) This technique for forms is terrific.

Marshwiggle
Marshwiggle

... the IRS form is just being used as an example as to how to fill out any hard-copy form via your PC, rather than pen or pencil. Besides, who wants to fill out lengthy tax forms at the IRS Web site? This provides a way to download the form, fill it out while disconnected from the IRS, then re-submit it.

mjohnson
mjohnson

When you have a text box with the format you want, select the box, hold down the CTRL key and grab the edge of it to drag a copy of it anywhere you want. Then use that to enter the next field. Sometimes it's helpful to turn off Snap to grid.

Ryk
Ryk

After being asked to complete the same frickin' emergency contact form for a daycare provider over & over & over & over.... I finally used this trick. The text boxes work well, keeping the text aligned properly and it saved me hours of duplicating the form for both my kids every single year.

Sophia Kelly
Sophia Kelly

This is a good and creative method. If you're only going to fill it out once, you could use MS Paint or most other graphic editing programs in a similar to add text on directly to the image in whatever font size and placement you wanted. You could also position it and reposition it as precisely as required. I guess a benefit of using the image is that if you were to sent the completed form by email instead of printing, images have a greater portability than Word (eg: if you have a later version than your recipient.)

rroberto18
rroberto18

...with only adobe reader...don't have acrobat

blacksmith
blacksmith

That's a pretty good idea, and can be useful. This may be a bit off-topic, but MS Office Infopath does forms and such. I don't have enough experience to have a valid opinion about it, but it might be worth checking out. Also, there's a program called Form Pilot (http://www.colorpilot.com/formsoftware.html) which works quite well for me.

Lost Cause?
Lost Cause?

filling out the form (any form) this way allows for saving all of your changes directly to your computer or USB flash drive for safe keeping.

Daiv_Skinner
Daiv_Skinner

Same here - For some stupid reason they make me fill out the same form every year fpr emergency contacts. I have suggested 5 years in a row that they allow us to indicate "no change" and initial it. but no dice!

lynnembailey
lynnembailey

If you've got a PDF go to full screen mode and display the entire document. Then use the Print Screen function to capture the image. Then go to your Word document, view Header and paste in the image (CTRL + V), crop, expand, etc. to fit the page. The bigger your original capture size, the better the resolution.

Willie11
Willie11

I use PDF Exchange Viewer (which is free like Adobe) instead of Adobe. It has a feature they call "typewriter" which allows you to position the cursor anywhere in a PDF and type something in. If you have a form that is a PDF (or you can make it into a PDF) you can type over the blanks in the form and then print out a copy with the form and the typing. It is easy to use and works great. You can also save the PDF with the typing if you wish.

mtrevino57
mtrevino57

There is a freeware version and in addition to adding text, you can also hightlight, draw and add links,etc.

cerec
cerec

Take a save a picture of the PDF form with SnagIt and use it as originally described.