3 Replies Latest reply on Jun 7, 2012 2:27 PM by George_Johnson

    Questions about using a PDF form online

    MarkWalsh Level 4

      I have a client who wants to create an online version of a PDF form that they are currently using. I am currently trying to explain to them that this would be best done as an HTML web form, but I may not win this argument. I have only used PDFs for printed forms (either hand-written or using form fields) so I am not familiar with any problems that converting the form for use online would entail.


      When the 'Submit' button is pressed on the form, is there a way to redirect to another web page after the data is submitted? (i.e. does the PDF have access to it's outer 'environment'?)


      Are there any security issues submitting data using the PDF form as opposed to using a standard web form? (There may be sensitive data being submitted)


      I'm not sure how they plan to handle the data that is submitted, but there are several options in the submitForm parameters - I am assuming that using the HTML option would submit the data in the same format as a web form would. Am I correct here?


      Can the PDF be prevented from being downloaded or printed? This form should only be used to submit data to their server, not as a printed form.


      Are there any other 'gotchas' that I need to look out for? Does anyone have a recommendation for a site which contains any tutorials or guidelines for using PDF forms online?

        • 1. Re: Questions about using a PDF form online
          George_Johnson MVP & Adobe Community Professional

          Regarding redirecting, it is possible, but it's up to the server-side script to return a response that causes this to happen. The most reliable way of doing this in my experience is to return an FDF that causes the redirect to occur.


          The security issues are pretty much the same as with an HTML form. If you use SSL (HTTPS), it should be fine.


          Regarding submitting as "HTML" form, yes, the format of the data is the same. PDF forms behave a bit differently than HTML forms, however. For example, you can have multiple fields with the same name but different values in an HTML form. As you know, if multiple fields have the same name in a PDF form, the values will be the same.


          A PDF can be prevented from being printed using standard password security restrictions, but it must be downloaded in order to be used. When a use configure Reader/Acrobat to display a PDF in the browser, it is downloaded to a temporary location. Since the form will not be printed, it seems to me there is less reason to use a PDF form.


          The biggest problem is not all users have Reader installed, or have it configured to open in their browser. A PDF form can still submit when it's being viewed outside of a browser though. The problem then becomes what sort of response should the server return with.

          1 person found this helpful
          • 2. Re: Questions about using a PDF form online
            MarkWalsh Level 4

            Thanks for the information.


            Yes, I agree that there is less reason for it to be a PDF form (Actually, no real reason other than the original form already exists in PDF), but I am unfortunately in the position that my input in this project is not necessarily being considered (my company is following direct -and inconsistent- directions from the client, and I have no contact with the client to ask questions about what their actual needs are). I have been told to give the client the 'Tomato' that they are asking for, even though they are describing an 'Apple'.


            The reason this form is not meant to be printed is that we have replaced the 'Signature' fields from the original form with checkboxes that the user must check to confirm they have 'signed' the document. If they are to print/fax/whatever the document, they should use the original form, not this one. And I am still trying to explain to them that this would be better served with an HTML web form, but I fear I am losing that battle.


            I have brought up the fact that it is not 100% guaranteed that Acrobat will be available in the browser, although I can only guess that it is less than likely that anyone will not have some sort of PDF viewer available to their browser.


            I will also mention that issues may arise if the file is not submitted from within the browser.

            • 3. Re: Questions about using a PDF form online
              George_Johnson MVP & Adobe Community Professional

              You can also point out that some PDF viewers will not submit the form. For example, Chrome's built-in PDF viewer, which may be active despite Reader being installed, has limited JavaScript support and submit form actions. So a user may see the form loaded in their browser but not be able to submit it. Many mobile PDF viewers won't submit either.