What is a PDF Form?

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We might best begin to answer this question by rephrasing it – in other words, what is the difference between a PDF and a PDF Form?

Originally, PDFs were static documents, simply a format for display in some medium of what might have traditionally been in print, such as a book, a booklet, or an essay. What has been added to the format capabilities is the allowance for a PDF to be modified by the reader/user, by entering information online, such as one might fill out a form on paper. In addition, one might have annotations or bookmarks in a document for additional information or ease in navigating from one part to another. It is quite common, for example, to see a downloadable manual having links in the table of contents to quickly jump to a selected chapter or section.

Here we will simply delineate the PDF Form elements that Scribus can create and edit. Keep in mind that these are particular functional additions to your document which otherwise may use any other features which Scribus documents can contain.


Start With OK

On your toolbar, find the icon with this default OK label, which by the way changes as you select from the list. Attached to its right side is an expander to generate a drop-down list of choices: Button, Text Field, Check Box, Combo Box, and List Box. By selecting one of these, you can then go to your document and click-drag to create a frame, which you will perhaps be disappointed to see merely creates a generic-appearing empty text frame.

What this shows is that simply making one of these Form items doesn't do much of anything – each needs content, associated attributes, and actions to be useful in your PDF Form.


A Button has several operations it can carry out. It might show itself as a text message, but you can also load an image for the Button, and create your own tooltip. When clicked, one possibility would be for it to have no action, but of course, what would be its point in that case? More useful actions could be to go to a particular page of the same or a different PDF, to submit data from the form, reset the form, run a short JavaScript command, or import some data to the form.

Text Field


A Text Field, not surprisingly, is for entering some keyboard input to submit with the form. You can set limits as to its length, perform some sort of testing of the input, make some calculation based on the input, and again, perform some action with JavaScript.

Check Box


Clicking on this will, in the PDF Form, make or unmake a checkmark of some sort, the type chosen from a list in Scribus. Some JavaScript action can be carried out here also.

Combo Box

For a Combo Box, create a list in Scribus, this simply being a column of possible choices, which can be editable or not. When this appears in the PDF Form, the user clicks on a choice, and to the right there is a feature to click to expand the list in a drop-down manner if needed.

List Box


Like the Combo Box, a List Box is a simple text list of items to click a choice from, which can also be made to be editable. There is no drop-down feature like a Combo Box, but instead use these scrolling arrows as seen here.

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