My personal view, having developed both dynamic, interactive PDF forms, as well as complex, multi-screen SWF (Flash/Flex) UIs, would be:
- PDF forms are a superior solution, if the goal is to replicate a paper form which may include signature verification, and may need preservation of the original layout of the form (e.g., for legally required archival storage). PDF supports verifiable digital signing and the ISO PDF/A archival format.
- Flash/Flex UIs are a superior solution, if the goal is to create a richly interactive interface from which - ultimately - only the submitted data is important, not the original layout of the form. Flash/Flex supports more form controls, layout choices, and digital interactive "candy" (e.g., video, audio, animation, CSS styling, etc.).
Key questions I'd ask in deciding between PDF vs. SWF as my tool for creating a data input and display interface include:
- am I reproducing a form which already exists (PDF), or developing a new user experience (SWF)?
- should the interface look like a piece of paper (PDF), or something else (SWF)?
- will I need to preserve a copy of the original form in its original layout (PDF), or just gather and display user data (SWF)?
- will digital signatures be required (PDF) or not (SWF)?
A PDF vs. SWF analysis could go deeper than this, but I hope this is helpful.
Technical Training Specialist
Yes, offline-fill is definitely a useful PDF feature. At the same time, with AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime), a SWF application can run entirely offline and just occasionally synchronize its data when it detects network availiability (as well as create local SQL databases, use the file system, etc.). So, if offline use is a key factor, SWF provides a much broader total offline feature set than PDF.