What Is an XFDL File?

How to open, edit, and convert XFDL files

What to Know

This article describes what an XFDL file is, how to open one, and how to save one as a PDF or another format like HTML.

What Is an XFDL File?

A file with the XFDL file extension is an Extensible Forms Description Language file. It's a secure type of XML file developed by PureEdge Solutions (a company acquired by IBM in 2005) as a way to create secure and legal electronic forms.

These files are most commonly used in a business or government context when transferring data or buying and selling things over the internet. The data contained in one typically consists of things like transaction information and digital signatures.

Screenshot of several XFDL files in Windows 10 that open with IBM Forms Viewer
Tim Fisher 

The format supports multiple digital signatures, where each one can apply to different sections of the form to prevent changes to the content. The US Army at one time used XFDL for their forms, but later migrated to fillable PDFs.

How to Open an XFDL File

Some XFDL files are compressed in an archive, which means you have to first extract the file out of it before you can use it. 7-Zip is a popular program that can do this, but so can other free file extractors.

Once you have the actual file, open it with Lotus Forms Viewer. If the download on that page doesn't work, try IBM Forms Viewer from IBM's website, or IBM Forms Designer if you need to edit the file.

IBM Forms hasn't always gone by that name. It was originally called PureEdge Forms before IBM purchased the PureEdge company. It was then called IBM Workplace Forms before changing to Lotus Forms in 2007, and finally, IBM Forms in 2010.

Since it's really just a text file, any text editor can be used to open and properly display the contents if you just need to edit it or view the text. To do this, use Notepad in Windows or a program from our Best Free Text Editors list.

How to Convert an XFDL File

We don't know of any free file converters that will convert an XFDL file to another format. However, the IBM Forms Designer tool mentioned above can convert one to PDF. You can also use IBM Forms Viewer to save the file as an FRM (Form) file.

The file can be saved to a non-fillable PDF another way, too, using a script, as described in this document on the Army Publishing Directorate website.

To convert the XFDL to a Word document, we recommend first making it a PDF and then using a free PDF to Word converter to save the file to the DOCX or DOC format.

If you need to convert one to HTML, use the Webform Server component of IBM Forms Server.

Still Can't Open It?

If the programs mentioned above aren't helping open the file, double-check the file extension. It's remarkably easy to misread it and confuse another file for this one.

Some files that share some of the same file extension letters include XSD, CXF, and XSPF. While lots of extensions appear similar and might make you think they can use the same programs, they most likely can't because the formats aren't similar enough.

An FXL file, for example, might be used by the CRYENGINE video game development platform to store facial expressions used by a 3D character. This is far from an XML file, and so it won't open in any of the programs linked above.

That said, files with the XFD extension are the same as XFDL files. However, be sure you're not confusing it with an Acrobat Forms Document XFDF file.

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