Do-It-Yourself Printable Forms
By Goody Clairenstein
Updated September 28, 2017
Items you will need
Microsoft Office program suite
Adobe Acrobat Reader
You may need printable forms for your upcoming event registration, library use, or political campaign; the uses for printable forms are many. It's simple to create printable forms yourself using productivity software that you probably already have installed on your personal computer. The most comprehensive suite of productivity software programs is Microsoft Office, which includes programs that can generate printable forms such as Microsoft Word and Publisher. For online or PC-based use, use Adobe Acrobat to create forms that cannot be edited or changed without access to the original MS Office format.
Open up Microsoft Word. If you are not prompted to select a document template from a dialog box, go to the "File" menu and select "New" from Template. Browse the sections to find a form template that suits your needs. If you do not have a preloaded printable form template, select the "Online Templates" menu at the bottom of the source menu. Scroll to the "Forms" section. Microsoft Office makes many different form templates available online at little or no cost to the user. Select from employment application forms, membership application forms, assignment templates, rubrics, incentive charts, reference cards, and hundreds of other options. Keep in mind that these forms are fully customizable and, if a form does not have the exact format you require, you can always manually add it or remove superfluous sections.
Select the desired form template and click "Choose" at the bottom right of the dialog box. Agree to the terms and conditions that Microsoft prompts for user-generated document templates. The template will open as a new document. Save the template right away; you can simply hit "Ctrl" + "S" to save any changes you make without risk of losing your work. Proceed to edit the document as needed. Any gray areas on the form template indicate editable fields; they will not appear on printed copies of the form.
Preview your completed form using the "Print Preview" function in Microsoft Word. In Microsoft Word 2011, the Print Preview option is available from the "Print" dialog box. It will open up the "Preview" application, which is the Mac equivalent of Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have a printer installed on your computer and are using MS Word 2011, you will not be able to access the Print Preview function. Save a final copy of your form once you have deemed it ready for printing.
Save a copy of your document as a PDF if you plan to distribute it virtually or make it available online. The Professional edition of Adobe Acrobat will also let you save the document as a Smart PDF, meaning the form can be downloaded and filled out on a computer. Go to the "File" menu in Microsoft Word and click "Save As," then select "Save as PDF" or "XPS." On a Mac, select the "PDF file format" from the format's drop-down menu. Saving the file as a PDF will give you an idea of how the printed version will look. You may have to edit the native Microsoft Word document if the PDF converter changes the margins or other settings that modify the look of your printable form.
Print, post online, and distribute the PDF version of your printable form. You can attach a PDF and send it via email to professional printers, such as FedEx Kinko's, for high-volume printing needs.
The other productivity programs in Microsoft Office, such as Publisher, also have access to the online database of user-generated templates. From the "File" menu in any Microsoft Office program, select "New" from Template to browse the selection of form templates.
Goody Clairenstein has been a writer since 2004. She has sat on the editorial board of several non-academic journals and writes about creative writing, editing and languages. She has worked in professional publishing and news reporting in print and broadcast journalism. Her poems have appeared in "Small Craft Warnings." Clairenstein earned her Bachelor of Arts in European languages from Skidmore College.