If I fill out a PDF form using Preview.app on Mac OS X, and email it to a Windows user, it appears to be blank when they open it in Acrobat. The same applies to some (most?) annotations.

How can I stop this happening?!

I keep encountering this, both in my own work and friends/family filling in PDF forms using Preview.app. It can be a bit embarrassing in professional circumstances, getting a response of "No, please send the filled out form, not the blank one!".

1 Answer 1


NB this seems to be fixed in the most recent versions of OS X, so workaround perhaps no longer required...


Probably the simplest / safest option is to 'flatten' the PDF before sending it, by printing it to a new PDF.

After completing your form in Preview, go to the Print menu (cmd+P) and use the PDF drop-down in the bottom-left, selecting to Save as PDF... to generate a new, 'flattened' PDF.

Flattened simply means that all annotations (including data in the form) become indistinguishable from the actual content of the PDF, as if they were part of it all along. This means you can't edit them anymore (in the new, printed PDF), which can be desirable, but also means they'll show up properly in Adobe.

The Problem

The actual cause of the problem is detailed here from Adobe, and that blog post also includes a script for Acrobat users to recover the data from a form filled in using Preview.app (it turns out Preview puts the data in the form, but doesn't specify how it should 'appear', so Acrobat shows it as blank/invisible).

I'll leave it up to the reader to decide whether this is a bug in Adobe's software (for not showing form data without a specified "appearance") or a bug in Apple's software (for not including the "appearance" information).

If you've been affected by this bug, please consider notifying one/both of these companies of the issue:

  • 1
    nice workaround. Been avoiding preview for this reason for years! Will now start using it again. You kill your flash we kill your preview. Unfortunately corporate childishness on both sides for not sorting this out.
    – Joop
    May 15, 2014 at 14:21

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