I'm not sure whether to call this a bug or just a bad design decision that looks like one.
My instructor decided to start distributing homework assignments as PDF forms. This is great! The only problem is that the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Pro X harasses me with this ridiculous dialogue box when I try to fill out his forms:
Eh ok... So it restricts some features to allow for MORE features, which is bad so I should certainly Save a Copy to fix this horrible restriction that I'm not having a problem with. Makes perfect sense.
Anyway, while trying to fill out his form I would constantly get harassed by this seemingly at random, so to make it shut up I finally did what it wanted and hit "Save a Copy".
Since this copy contained everything I'd filled out the form fields with, I naturally wanted to use it. So I foolishly copied this into a Dropbox folder so I could easily retrieve it from elsewhere and let class partners load and add to it. Big mistake!
The next day, after loading the "Save a Corrupted Copy" copy into Adobe Reader X (not Acrobat Pro) on another computer elsewhere, I get this which didn't happen in the PDF form for everyone else who only ever used Adobe Reader to fill out the form:
(That says: Click "Sign" to fill out and sign this form. When you are done, you can save a copy by clicking "Done Signing.")
Ok... so that's odd, but I made changes and then jumped through the unnecessary hoops that it required before it would let me save the file. Lo and behold, the next time I load the file all the form fields are read-only and neither I nor anyone else can edit the form! This is ridiculous.
My instructor had received at least one other PDF from me or someone else with form fields missing, so I was pretty determined to figure out why this was happening so I could show that this was due to a bug and to make sure it didn't keep happening. After a bit of debugging, I figured out that "Save a Copy" was acting more like "Save a Corrupted Copy" and mangling the metadata without warning on the PDF file before saving.
The teacher's form, as loaded immediately after downloading, had the following security settings:
So that's fine since it allows forms to be filled out, saved, loaded again, edited, saved again, etc, all with just Adobe Reader rather than the full version of Acrobat.
The problem is that "Save a Corrupted Copy" seems to have stripped all of this out without warning for no reason. That would be OK IF Save a Copy warned you about specifically what it's doing and the consequences AND if it didn't constantly try to harass you multiple times at random into Saving a Copy with this troublesome metadata stripped out even though you have no reason to.
Here's what the metadata looks like in the corrupted Save a Copy copy:
Apparently this causes Adobe Reader (I'm guessing that what Save a Copy actually did is just strip out the whole Security block of metadata) to default to "allow filling out and saving forms, but only if form is "signed" and then only save the form as read-only."
This is bad bad bad.
So... why exactly is Acrobat Pro harassing me with nonsensical dialogue boxes strongly encouraging me to do something that silently corrupts my file such that other's can't use it with Reader?
You will get this if you Open the file in Acrobat.
This message assumes you want to edit the form, in which case you do as the warning says.
Open in Reader X (Free) and you won't get the message.
DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMTANCES OPEN USING APPLE"S PREVIEW. NOT UNLESS YOU WANT AN INSTANTLY CORRUPTED FORM.
Standard PDF without forms are okay to be opened in Preview.
The problem is that there's no valid reason to assume that you want to edit the form just because you opened the file in Acrobat. It's perfectly reasonable for people to open all PDF files in Acrobat if they have it installed since its functionality is redundant with Reader. So now, because Acrobat is misbehaving, I have to install both Acrobat AND Reader and set one or the other to be the default application for PDF files.
Also, Acrobat appears to wait until a random time to make the assumption that you must be trying to edit the form, even though you haven't done anything that might indicate that. Lastly, rather than say "Are you trying to edit the form? If so and you want to save your edits you'll need to save them in a new file with ALL of the security metadata stripped out. These defaults will disable Reader's ability to save editable form data. Do you want to do this?" it says something nonsensical about "some features" and "extended features" which gives you absolutely no idea what is going on. The message is so utterly meaningless and void of any context that it might as well say "Wowowowowowoowowowooooohooooo!" in the dialog box instead.
There's no way to justify this sort of behavior by the application especially when there's nothing to explain what the application is doing to the file.
Even if I did want to edit the form, why would that imply that I want to throw away ALL of the security settings? That strikes me as a greviously wrong assumption especially given that the settings are security settings of all things.
This is going to be a problem for many situations where more than one person is editing and saving form fields especially on shared file services.
I assume that posting a message here doesn't constitute filing a bug report. Maybe it's pointless since I'm not a large institutional customer or something, but how would I go about filing a bug report in the most effective manner?
You could file a proper bug report, but I suspect you'd get a response that this behavior is as designed. The security settings you refer to really have nothing to do with security, they are simply restrictions that Acrobat/Reader will honor. Fortunately, you've discovered the simplest workaround, which is installing and using Reader for these forms.
I forgot to add that if the person creating these forms were to add security before Reader-enabling the document, I believe the message that you find annoying in Acrobat would no longer appear.