I am sure I am not the only person to have had the following problem: one has a pdf document (usually some kind of a form that one needs to fill out over and over again) in a pdf file, which is not a form in the PDF sense. One wants to be able to fill the form quickly, and some fields are always the same. A solution is to use package pdfpages to include the form into .tex document and add some text with absolute positioning. Then each time one needs to fill the form, all it takes is a quick change of some text. This works, but the process of finding the correct absolute positions is slow even if one uses the binary search. Is there a tool to help with this? Or a better solution perhaps?

(I know of pdfedit, but it is unstable for me.)

  • 2
    Not a TeX solution, but you can import the pdf into a vector drawing program (e.g. Inkscape), add the text and then export as pdf again. Or you could try how well Inkscape's TikZ/PGF export works in that case.
    – Caramdir
    Nov 29, 2010 at 22:20
  • on windows, use foxit reader to add the text where you want, then print the pdf to another pdf.
    – Mica
    Nov 29, 2010 at 22:28
  • 2
    Another tool for windows is PDF-XChange viewer (tracker-software.com/product/pdf-xchange-viewer). There is a free version.
    – Ignasi
    Nov 30, 2010 at 15:33

4 Answers 4


I have a really amazing bit of technical wizardry that helps me to do this. It's called a Rectangular Uniform Long-Edge Reader. You need a your document in Pointed Regular Inked Neat Typeset Editable Document form. Once you have that, place the Rectangular Uniform Long-Edge Reader against the Pointed Regular Inked Neat Typeset Editable Document and the Reader will magically tell you where the boxes are!

That said, I usually just use something like xournal or jarnal to do this as it saves Perishable Absorbent Pulped Environmental Resources.

  • 1
    +1 for the laughs. I wish I can also +1 for xournal: it was a great day when I convinced the IT guy in my department to install xournal on the office machines. Nov 30, 2010 at 13:52
  • It's a great program (along with jarnal). I just found myself wanting to do a computation, looked for a pen, couldn't find one so it was either down 5 floors to the stores or fire up xournal. Needless to say, laziness won. More seriously, I use it for lecturing so that I can have all the benefits of the interactivity of a board with the presentation of a ... presentation. Nov 30, 2010 at 14:46
  • Actually I prefer Triangular Readers.
    – Caramdir
    Nov 30, 2010 at 17:10
  • I like xournal, it does what I need. @Willie: You were not sufficiently convincing. It is installed only on your machine.
    – Boris Bukh
    Dec 1, 2010 at 9:24

I do what you do with pdfpages and absolute positioning, but...

...this is one occasion where it helps immensely to have a live updating PDF previewer which will automatically live-update as you edit, so you don't need to hit recompile whenever you make a small tweak to a positioning parameter.

There are a few of those available, at least for GNU/Linux systems:

gummi LaTeX editor

whizzytex (for emacs)

live-latex-preview script for vim + mupdf

I'm not sure what works/what's available like this for other OSes.


Use a proper diagramming program: I use Omnigraffle, but Inkscape can do this as well. Create rectangles over where you want your Latex boxes. Call up the object inspector and look at the attributes. Write down the dimensions of the box, remembering that Tex uses a different notion of pt to everyone else.

I'd love to have a more automatic system for finding these boxes, but this works well enough.

Postscript Ah, Caramdir suggested Inkspace first.


After exploring different solutions, I found that the foxit pdf reader is the most easy and reliable solution to add text on pdf file.

Using the "comment"->"typewriter" feature of foxit reader, you can put text in pdf file with a result that can be recognized by acrobat nicely and later print nice filled form.

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