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Solving the mystery of the empty PDF form

#1 User is offline   Macworld 

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 06:00 AM

Post your comments for Solving the mystery of the empty PDF form here
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#2 User is offline   jceeetle 

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  Posted 06 February 2013 - 06:23 AM

I've run into this numerous times. The last time I did exactly as you describe. I printed it to PDF. But I ended up with the same issue. Printing to PDF didn't get rid of the form fields. Printing it to JPEG would do the trick.

On the windows side, the form appears blank. But if you select one of the fields you can see the data in that field until you deselect it.
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#3 User is offline   AndrewRodney 

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  Posted 06 February 2013 - 07:52 AM

>> Starting in Mountain Lion, entering data in PDF forms got even easier; Preview can now automatically detect where form fields are, so blanks automatically become text fields where you can type and checkboxes can simply be clicked.

To be clear, the PDF has to have had the forms created right? It's not like Preview can take any PDF and detect where to enter the form, nor can it make them right? I'd need Acrobat for that.
Andrew Rodney
Author “Color Management for Photographers”
http://digitaldog.net/
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#4 User is offline   palane 

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  Posted 06 February 2013 - 07:55 AM

I believe that once you print your PDF to a PDF file, it can no longer be edited.

There is an alternative. Fill it out using Acrobat Reader.

BB
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#5 User is offline   Kurliak 

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  Posted 06 February 2013 - 08:05 AM

I've always done it this way, for the very reason you mention in your last sentence. It would never occur to me to send editable form fields, especially to recipients with whom I didn't have a 100% trust relationship (such as a creditor, or the IRS in the example above). That would be like sending a paper form filled out in pencil. Not the best idea in an age of ID theft.
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#6 User is offline   jceeetle 

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  Posted 06 February 2013 - 08:17 AM

I just retested the print to PDF solution. The resulting PDF file still has selectable text. But when viewed on Acrobat in Windows I can see the filled out forms. The letters are also selectable in Acrobat but I can no longer edit them.

So I changed my mind. This does work. But I don't understand the "rasterize" piece of it. If that were true, you wouldn't be able to select the text.
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#7 User is offline   Paddy 

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  Posted 06 February 2013 - 08:43 AM

This is a problem that is 4 years old now and it is APPLE'S responsibility to fix it (since PDF is an Adobe creation). Preview isn't setting the appearance flag that Acrobat/Reader require to show the contents of the form fields.

See http://blogs.adobe.c...x_previewa.html for more info.

The script at the Adobe blog page above can be installed in Acrobat (not Reader) and fixes the forms filled out in Preview, which can help the recipients of the forms, but still doesn't address the root of the problem.

Of course, the best work-around is to simply use Acrobat or Reader rather than Preview until this issue is fixed by Apple.

Dan - why not ask the folks at Apple why they've not fixed it? It's been a known issue for almost FOUR years now.
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#8 User is offline   jcwelch 

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  Posted 06 February 2013 - 10:04 AM

Quote

This is a problem that is 4 years old now and it is APPLE'S responsibility to fix it (since PDF is an Adobe creation). Preview isn't setting the appearance flag that Acrobat/Reader require to show the contents of the form fields. See http://blogs.adobe.c...x_previewa.html for more info. The script at the Adobe blog page above can be installed in Acrobat (not Reader) and fixes the forms filled out in Preview, which can help the recipients of the forms, but still doesn't address the root of the problem. Of course, the best work-around is to simply use Acrobat or Reader rather than Preview until this issue is fixed by Apple. Dan - why not ask the folks at Apple why they've not fixed it? It's been a known issue for almost FOUR years now.


Because the problem isn't that preview isn't filling in the DATA correctly, it's that they aren't setting a metadata value right. What Acrobat et al should be doing is failing more gracefully. "Oh, you filled in that field, but didn't set a metadata flag. However, since those fields do contain data, I'll display that data anyway."

The idea that the Acrobat team is completely correct here is silly.
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#9 User is offline   technologist 

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  Posted 06 February 2013 - 10:21 AM

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I just retested the print to PDF solution. The resulting PDF file still has selectable text. But when viewed on Acrobat in Windows I can see the filled out forms. The letters are also selectable in Acrobat but I can no longer edit them. So I changed my mind. This does work. But I don't understand the "rasterize" piece of it. If that were true, you wouldn't be able to select the text.

Indeed; it's not rasterized at all, just composited.
And now a word from our lawyers.
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#10 User is offline   djr12 

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  Posted 06 February 2013 - 12:38 PM

Quote

This is a problem that is 4 years old now and it is APPLE'S responsibility to fix it (since PDF is an Adobe creation). Preview isn't setting the appearance flag that Acrobat/Reader require to show the contents of the form fields. See http://blogs.adobe.c...x_previewa.html for more info. The script at the Adobe blog page above can be installed in Acrobat (not Reader) and fixes the forms filled out in Preview, which can help the recipients of the forms, but still doesn't address the root of the problem. Of course, the best work-around is to simply use Acrobat or Reader rather than Preview until this issue is fixed by Apple. Dan - why not ask the folks at Apple why they've not fixed it? It's been a known issue for almost FOUR years now.


Let me just echo the recommendation here — I've been using this script for a few months now and it works as advertised, both in Windows and Mac environments. What should be is nice and I do wish Apple would fix this, but in the real world you have to be able to handle what your clients throw at you. So I'd recommend this script for anyone unsure of where your forms are getting filled out. And I'd recommend using Adobe's own apps to fill out forms if you want to be sure the person on the other end will see your data.
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#11 User is offline   Paddy 

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  Posted 06 February 2013 - 12:42 PM

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Because the problem isn't that preview isn't filling in the DATA correctly, it's that they aren't setting a metadata value right. What Acrobat et al should be doing is failing more gracefully. "Oh, you filled in that field, but didn't set a metadata flag. However, since those fields do contain data, I'll display that data anyway." The idea that the Acrobat team is completely correct here is silly.


I didn't say that Preview wasn't filling in the data correctly. It's not setting the appearance flag correctly, causing that data not to show (unless the field is clicked on - or "in focus") And sure, you could go back and forth pointing fingers and laying blame, (and get nowhere) but bottom line, Adobe created PDF and why should they have to adapt to Apple's non-compliance? Sure - it would be nice if Acrobat and Reader weren't quite so sticky about things, but that's not the case and I don't see Adobe willingly devoting any resources to this issue; after all, why would they want to encourage people to use Preview over their own products? It truly doesn't matter who is "correct" - Adobe has acknowledged the problem, provided scripts on their website to help resolve it for recipients of filled in forms from Preview users, and have informed Apple that they need to fix Preview. So, given this scenario, whether we like it or not (and I'm no apologist for Adobe, believe me) it makes sense for Apple to fix the problem. But they haven't. I'd love to know why not. <_<

There is an additional script on Adobe's website here: http://kb2.adobe.com...psid_88564.html
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#12 User is offline   dshan 

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  Posted 06 February 2013 - 01:10 PM

Quote

I believe that once you print your PDF to a PDF file, it can no longer be edited. There is an alternative. Fill it out using Acrobat Reader. BB


Printing a form filled out in Preview to a PDF file and then opening that file in AR will both show all the filled in fields and prevent AR (and Preview) from editing it.

The problem with filling out the form in AR instead of Preview is that AR won't let you save the filled out form! You are only allowed to print it (to an actual printer, print-to-PDF is blocked in AR.)
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#13 User is offline   thubsch 

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  Posted 06 February 2013 - 08:21 PM

There is a definite benefit of "print to PDF": the data and signature inserted cannot be (re)moved or "lifted" easily.
Cheers, Tristan
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#14 User is offline   Kurliak 

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  Posted 08 February 2013 - 08:54 AM

Let's not kid ourselves that PDFs created by print-to-PDF can't be edited. Any PDF editor (such as PDFPenPro) should be able to do the job. The limited "security" of PDFs created by printing comes from the fact that the casual user won't have an editing tool available, or be aware of how easy it is to get one--though anyone with a lick of common sense can find them easily via search.

For real security, print or save to PDF and enable the security (encryption) options.
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