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XFA stands for "XML Forms Architecture." It is made by Adobe Systems for creating interactive forms in PDF documents. XFA allows for the creation of complex forms with dynamic content. You can use them for calculations, validations, and interactive elements like buttons and dropdown menus. However, these files are prone to compatibility issues.

In some instances, an XFA form cannot be edited by any editor. What should you do when you have an XFA form that cannot be edited? That is what you will learn in this article.

In this article
  1. Why This XFA Form Cannot Be Edited?
    1. XFA Form Cannot Be Edited Problem Solved Using the Print Feature
    2. Fixing the XFA Form Cannot Be Edited Problem by Converting It to Word
  2. Avoid Uneditable XFA Form Problem by Converting to PDF
    1. Interactive Form Fields Supported by Wondershare PDFelement

Part 1. Why This XFA Form Cannot Be Edited?

XFA forms are documents with interactive form elements. Meanwhile, traditional PDF forms are based on the AcroForms technology and store form data in a static manner. Most PDF editors are built to support traditional PDFs. Thus, they may be unable to edit XFA forms.

Adobe Systems, like Acrobat Pro DC, can open and edit XFA forms, but not always. If there are restrictions added to the form, even Adobe Acrobat can't edit them. The best way to edit them is by using Adobe LifeCycle Designer. With this, you can preserve all interactive elements of the form. However, that is another app that you need to install and learn how to use. If you have to edit just a few XFA forms throughout the year, it is not recommended.

Part 2. This XFA Form Cannot Be Edited: What Do I Do?

There are two ways to fix an XFA form that can't be edited. One is by using the Print feature of a PDF tool. Another is to convert the form to Word and then back to PDF.

For this guide, we will be using Wondershare PDFelement. This sophisticated PDF editor has Print and Convert features. It’s a fantastic choice since Wondershare PDFelement is cheap and user-friendly. But do not underestimate it, as it has the power equal to that of a more expensive PDF editor. Plus, it is not part of Adobe Systems, so we can test for compatibility issues.

Method 1. XFA Form Cannot Be Edited Problem Solved Using the Print Feature

Please note that this method flattens the PDFs. That means the form fields will no longer be interactive, and the layers and Javascript will be removed. Thankfully, you can use Wondershare PDFelement to add the interactive elements back after you have fixed the issue.

  1. Open the XFA form using Wondershare PDFelement.
  2. Click the Print icon on the upper left of the screen or click File > Print.
activating wondershare pdfelement print feature
  1. Select Wondershare PDFelement as the printer.
selecting wondershare pdfelement as the printer
  1. Click Print and save the new file.

Method 2. Fixing the XFA Form Cannot Be Edited Problem by Converting It to Word

This one is admittedly more complex than the last one. But if the previous method did not work, it's worth a try. For this method, you also need Microsoft Word.

  1. Open the XFA form with Wondershare PDFelement.
  2. Click Comment.

navigating to comment tab of pdfelement
  1. Select the Signature tool. Select your signature and add it to the XFA form.
activating signature feature of wondershare pdfelement
  1. Click File > Save as. Save the PDF as a different PDF.

saving signed file as different pdf
  1. Go back to the PDFelement main screen. Click Convert PDFs.
convert pdf feature of pdfelement
  1. Select Word(*docx) as the output file format. Click OK.

converting xfa based pdf to word
  1. Open the Word file using Microsoft Word. Click File > Save As.
exporting word file as pdf
  1. Choose PDF as the file type.
  2. Click Save. The XFA form is now fully editable.

Part 3. Avoid Uneditable XFA Form Problem by Converting to PDF

Some companies still use XFA forms. But no one recommends doing it.

First and foremost, as we discussed, XFA forms are often uneditable. They are subject to document rights management (DRM) controls. That limits the actions that you can perform on the document. Depending on the permissions set by the owner, you may be unable to edit, print, or copy the document. Yes, you can solve that with the methods provided above. Even still, you'd have to waste time fixing that issue.

Second, ISO formats for PDF documents like PDF/A, PDF/E, PDF/X, and more do not allow the use of XFA. Last, mobile devices do not support XFA forms. Therefore, the only way to edit XFA forms on the go is by using a laptop. But unlike smartphones, you can't open your laptop anywhere.

With that in mind, you should convert them to PDF. With this move, you can remove all compatibility issues. PDF tools are more common than tools that can edit XFA forms. While some PDF tools can also edit XFA forms, not all can do it.

Additionally, PDF is the preferred format for legal documents and forms. Converting XFA to PDF ensures that the document complies with legal requirements and standards for document exchange and archiving.

The best thing is that PDFs also support interactive form fields. So, the files getting flattened after the conversion does not matter. You can just add them back using tools like Wondershare PDFelement.

Part 4. How To Edit an XFA Form Using Wondershare PDFelement

Wondershare PDFelement is a PDF tool that supports interactive form fields. It also supports XFA. Therefore, you can use Wondershare PDFelement to edit XFA forms. With its Recognize Form Fields feature, you can quickly identify form fields that have stopped being interactive. You can add the appropriate form element over it so you can still fill the form up.

To edit XFA forms using Wondershare PDFelement, follow these steps:

  1. Launch Wondershare PDFelement.
  2. Drag and drop the XFA form into the PDFelement interface to open it. Alternatively, click Open PDF > select the XFA form.

opening xfa form using wondershare pdfelement
  1. Go to the Form tab. This will show you all the interactive form fields.
navigating to wondershare pdfelement form tab
  1. If there are any, add the interactive form fields.
  2. Click Home or Edit. You can now click the interactive form fields to fill them up.
filling up the xfa form

Part 4.1. Interactive Form Fields Supported by Wondershare PDFelement

Here are the form elements that you can add using Wondershare PDFelement:

Text Field - You use this when there is no specific answer to a question. You let the form filler enter whatever works best. To paint a picture, you use a text field to let the form filler enter his/her name.

Checkbox - If you have a list and the form filler can select multiple of them, checkboxes are the form elements to add. You can also use checkboxes for yes and no questions. Checked means yes, while unchecked means no.

Radio button - You use radio buttons when there are at least two options, and the form filler can only select one of them.

Dropdown - Dropdowns function similarly to radio buttons, but they save more space. Typically, dropdowns are used when there are at least three options. If there are only two, radio buttons are better since they immediately show the form filler what the options are.

Signature Field - Signature fields are special form fields that only accept digital signatures.

Date Field - You use this when you want the form filler to enter a date. For example, their birth date or the date when they are filling up the form.


Your XFA form cannot be edited? With the solutions provided above, this is no longer headache-inducing. You can now easily solve them. But this may be a sign for you to stop using XFA. Instead, use PDF, which also supports interactive form elements. The upside of making this shift is that PDF is certainly better when it comes to compatibility. Any device, including mobile phones, can open and edit PDFs.

On that note, Wondershare PDFelement is your best choice for a PDF editor. This tool is available on macOS, iOS, Windows, and Android. You can also use Wondershare PDFelement to create forms, edit forms, or fill up forms. Indeed, this is an easy choice to make.

Audrey Goodwin
Audrey Goodwin Apr 07, 24
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12 years of talent acquired in the software industry working with large publishers. Public speaker and author of several eBooks on technical writing and editing.