Interactions with PDF Forms

Reading form fields

from pypdf import PdfReader

reader = PdfReader("form.pdf")
fields = reader.get_form_text_fields()
fields == {"key": "value", "key2": "value2"}

# You can also get all fields:
fields = reader.get_fields()

Filling out forms

from pypdf import PdfReader, PdfWriter

reader = PdfReader("form.pdf")
writer = PdfWriter()

page = reader.pages[0]
fields = reader.get_fields()


    {"fieldname": "some filled in text"},

# write "output" to pypdf-output.pdf
with open("filled-out.pdf", "wb") as output_stream:

Generally speaking, you will always want to use auto_regenerate=False. The parameter is True by default for legacy compatibility, but this flags the PDF Viewer to recompute the field’s rendering, and may trigger a “save changes” dialog for users who open the generated PDF.

Some notes about form fields and annotations

PDF forms have a dual-nature approach about the fields:

  • Within the root object, an /AcroForm structure exists. Inside it you could find (optional):

    • some global elements (Fonts, Resources,…)

    • some global flags (like /NeedAppearances (set/cleared with auto_regenerate parameter in update_page_form_field_values()) that indicates if the reading program should re-render the visual fields upon document launch)

    • /XFA that houses a form in XDP format (very specific XML that describes the form rendered by some viewers); the /XFA form overrides the page content

    • /Fields that houses an array of indirect references that reference the upper Field Objects (roots)

  • Within the page /Annots, you will spot /Widget annotations that define the visual rendering.

To flesh out this overview:

  • The core specific properties of a field are:

    • /FT: Field Type (Button, Text, Choice, Signatures)

    • /T: Partial Field Name (see PDF Reference for more details)

    • /V: Field Value

    • /DV : Default Field Value (used when resetting a form for example)

  • In order to streamline readability, Field Objects and Widget Objects can be fused housing all properties.

  • Fields can be organised hierarchically, id est one field can be placed under another. In such instances, the /Parent will have an IndirectObject providing Bottom-Up links and /Kids is an array carrying IndirectObjects for Top-Down navigation; Widget Objects are still required for visual rendering. To call upon them, use the fully qualified field name (where all the individual names of the parent objects are separated by .)

    For instance take two (visual) fields both called city, but attached below sender and receiver; the corresponding full names will be and

  • When a field is repeated on multiple pages, the Field Object will have many Widget Objects in /Kids. These objects are pure widgets, containing no field specific data.

  • If Fields stores only hidden values, no Widgets are required.

In pypdf fields are extracted from the /Fields array:

from pypdf import PdfReader

reader = PdfReader("form.pdf")
fields = reader.get_fields()
from pypdf import PdfReader
from pypdf.constants import AnnotationDictionaryAttributes

reader = PdfReader("form.pdf")
fields = []
for page in reader.pages:
    for annot in page.annotations:
        annot = annot.get_object()
        if annot[AnnotationDictionaryAttributes.Subtype] == "/Widget":

However, while similar, there are some very important differences between the two above blocks of code. Most importantly, the first block will return a list of Field objects, whereas the second will return more generic dictionary-like objects. The objects lists will mostly reference the same object in the underlying PDF, meaning you’ll find that obj_taken_fom_first_list.indirect_reference == obj_taken_from _second_list.indirect_reference. Field objects are generally more ergonomic, as the exposed data can be accessed via clearly named properties. However, the more generic dictionary-like objects will contain data that the Field object does not expose, such as the Rect (the widget’s position on the page). Therefore the correct approach depends on your use case.

However, it’s also important to note that the two lists do not always refer to the same underlying PDF object. For example, if the form contains radio buttons, you will find that reader.get_fields() will get the parent object (the group of radio buttons) whereas page.annotations will return all the child objects (the individual radio buttons).

Caution: Remember that fields are not stored in pages: If you use add_page() the field structure is not copied. It is recommended to use .append() with the proper parameters instead.

In case of missing field objects in /Fields, writer.reattach_fields() will parse page(s) annotations and will reattach them. This fix can not guess intermediate fields and will not report fields using the same name.

Identify pages where fields are used

On order to ease locating page fields you can use page.get_pages_using_field. This methods accepts a field object, id est a PdfObject that represents a field (as are extracted from _root_object["/AcroForm"]["/Fields"]. The method returns a list of pages, because a field can have multiple widgets as mentioned previously (e.g. radio buttons or text displayed on multiple pages).

The page numbers can then be retrieved as usual by using page.page_number.