Creating PDF from Templates

One thing We’ve wanted for a long time as a feature in Acrobat has been the ability to create a PDF document from a template. Many different authoring applications support creating new files from templates, but not Acrobat—at least not the way I want to create a new PDF.

You might want to reuse a purchase order form, an invoice form, a vacation leave slip, or other some such document you work with on an ongoing basis. The nice thing about using templates is that they prevent you from inadvertently overwriting the original.

Every time you open a template it’s a fresh original; and when you click the Save tool, you’re prompted to type a new name. This feature, as well as having your templates always stored in the same location, helps save time and aggravation. Why hasn’t Adobe added a command like Create PDF >> From Template?

The primary reason is that not enough users have asked for this feature. But I’ll bet many others have wanted such a feature in Acrobat, so I’m going to walk you through some steps so that you can actually create a workflow to create PDFs from template files.

It might appear a little convoluted at first, but if you’re like me, in the end it will save time over the hours you spend searching folders for files. The Adobe engineers didn’t design this method to be used this way, but Acrobat is flexible enough that you can add some of our own personality in your workflow.

If creating PDFs from Templates is of interest to you, look over the following steps:

  1. Create a PDF document for use as a template. You can use any kind of PDF document you like. In my example I use a form created in Adobe Designer.
  1. Add a document title. Open the Document Properties (Ctrl+D) and click Description. In the Title field, type a descriptive title name to help identify your template.
  1. Save the PDF. Select File >> Save As and save the file to a location where you can find it easily— such as the Desktop. For the filename, use any name that easily describes the document. Quit Acrobat.
  1. Copy the document to a templates folder. On Windows, open the DocTemplates folder. The path is C:/Program Files/Adobe/Acrobat 8.0/Acrobat/DocTemplates/ENU. Copy your template to the ENU folder. On the Macintosh open the Macintosh/Applications/Adobe Acrobat 8.0 Professional folder.

Click the Adobe Acrobat Professional program icon once to select it. Open a context menu on the program icon (Ctrl+click) and select Show Package Contents. The folder that opens has two subfolders. Double-click the Contents folder to open it.

Find the Resources folder and open it. Locate the en.lproj folder and open it. Inside this folder you find the DocTemplates folder. Open that folder and copy your template to this folder.

  1. Store the backup copy. Copy your original file to a folder on your hard drive where you can easily return to it. If you upgrade your version of Acrobat, you can lose your DocTemplates folder. Try to keep some backup files in a folder location you can easily return to when upgrading the product.
  1. Launch Acrobat. When Acrobat opens, click the Secure task button to open the pull-down menu and select Create Security Envelope. Creating a Secure Envelope was not designed for creating PDF files from custom templates, but we’re going to fudge things a bit to create a workaround for not having a Create PDF From Template command.


  1. Add a file attachment. The Create Security Envelope Wizard opens. The first pane requires you to add a file attachment. You can’t progress in the wizard unless you identify a file to be attached to the envelope. Don’t worry—you delete the file attachment later. Click the Add File to Send button and attach any PDF document in the Choose files to enclose dialog box.
  1. Select your new template file. Click Next and the second pane in the wizard opens. Here you’ll find a list of default templates listed as template1.pdf, template2.pdf, and template3.pdf. Your new template should appear with any name you provide for your file name.

If you added a document title to your file, the Document Title column lists your document title information. In my example, I used a form created in Adobe Designer. The Designer document title isn’t reported in this wizard window.


Note that if you use forms created in Adobe Designer, the Document Title information isn’t displayed in the Create Security Envelope Wizard.

  1. Choose the delivery method. Click Next and you arrive at the Delivery Method pane in the wizard. Click the first radio button on the right side of the pane for Send the envelope later.
  1. Choose a security policy. Click Next and the Choose a security policy pane opens in the wizard. For a custom template used in this example, no security is applied to the document. Just click Next and a warning dialog box opens. Click Yes in the warning dialog box and you arrive at the final pane in the wizard.
  1. Finish the template creation. Click Finish in the last pane and your document opens in Acrobat.
  1. Delete the file attachment. Click the Attachments pane (the paper clip icon) and open a context menu on the file attachment listed in the Attachments pane. Select Delete to delete the attachment. Remember, you had to add a file attachment in order to proceed through the wizard window.

Your template is now ready for use. Make any changes you want on the file. When you click File >> Save, a Save As dialog box opens prompting you to supply a filename. Your original file remains in the DocTemplates folder (until you upgrade Acrobat) and you can’t inadvertently overwrite the file.

At first glance, working through these steps may seem a bit elaborate. However, once you create some template files and use them routinely you can quickly find a template and work with it. Note that you can always store a number of files in the Organizer, but using the Organizer files doesn’t give you the same features as using template files where you are prevented from overwriting the file.

You can also set file properties to Read Only to prevent overwriting, so the Organizer comes a little closer to being a good tool for this kind of workflow. However, if you work in an enterprise environment where many people use the same templates, copying custom DocTemplates folders to all users’ computers is much easier than configuring individual Organizer file links.