[SOLVED] Text hidden on PDF form fields until clicked on


You’ve got a PDF with form fields enabled.

People are completing the form, saving the information and sending it back – however when you open the document the form fields appear empty.

When you click on the form fields the text appears, when you click away the text is hidden again.


This mysterious issue has been reported for several years without a fix from Adobe, however there does appear to be a workaround if you have the Adobe Acrobat software.

The issue appears to stem from Apple Mac users completing the form using the ‘Preview’ application – which allows Mac computers to open PDF documents without Adobe Reader being installed. Preview appears to be corrupting the PDF, saving the form information but not displaying it correctly.

To fix the issue try applying a background colour to the form fields – for example a white background colour.

How to apply a background colour to a PDF form field

  1. Background colours can be set on an individual text field or multiple text fields at once. Either select all the text form fields in the document or the individual form field you need to fix.
  2. Right-click on the form field and select ‘Properties’
  3. AdobePDF-hiddenformfieldtext1
  4. Click on the ‘Appearance’ tab
  5. Under ‘Fill Color’ select the desired colour, for example white
  6. AdobePDF-hiddenformfieldtext2
  7. Click ‘Close’ to save the changes
  8. The text which was hidden in the form field should now appear. When you save the document and reopen the text will remain displayed correctly.

Alternative method

Allan: “another way to fix it is to mark all textboxes and downsize the font size by 2.”


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11 comments on “[SOLVED] Text hidden on PDF form fields until clicked on

  1. Thanks. This has helped a lot. To summarise, the issue is that someone sends you a PDF form they have filled in. But when you open it in Acrobat Reader the fields are all blank. However, if you click inside a field the text magically appears, only to disappear again when you click away.

    One cause of this problem is that the person who filled in the form has corrupted the file in some way and Acrobat can’t display it. Several people report that filling in a form with Apple Preview on a Mac will cause this problem. So to avoid the issue, tell users to always use Adobe Acrobat Reader to fill in the form.

    To fix the corrupted file and make it readable again you don’t need expensive Adobe tools. Just open the problem file in Acrobat Reader and re-edit each field. You actually need to add something to each field, like an extra space at the end. Retyping the same text won’t work. As you go through the form the new text should become visible in each field. Finally save it using File>Save As.

  2. The problem is with Preview on Macs and yet the instructions are for Windows.
    I have tried to change the background color and text size for different fields in a pdf in Preview and nothing changes.

  3. Interestingly, the filled fields display fine in any number of 3rd party applications that can read pdfs (Google Docs, SumatraPDF etc). In fact in my experience, Adobe’s software seems to be the only software that wont display a “problem” pdf properly. And the only way to “fix” such a document seems to involve installing Adobe’s software. Mighty convenient on Adobe’s part!
    *puts on tinfoil hat*

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