10 Replies Latest reply on Jun 20, 2011 12:23 AM by George_Johnson

    What are the reasons for disabling the saving of data in a PDF?

    BChernick Level 1

      I seem to have had more than my share of encounters lately with PDF files that have editable fields but have their data saving capability disabled.

       

      In some of these situations this has been an absolutely maddening inconvenience.

       

      When I attempt to bring this to the attention of whomever's responsible I get brushed off.

       

      One person's response was: Actually the majority of the PDF forms I have are Adobe reader and you cannot make changes electronically at all.  The reason for this is to make sure that the documents are not altered in any way.  The <companies creating the PDFs> must make sure that changes are not being made to their forms. 

       

      I just don't understand that.  How is entering and saving data 'altering' a PDF?

       

      Is this just bone-headed bureacracy, an urban legend, or is there some fundamental practical matter I am not aware of?

        • 1. Re: What are the reasons for disabling the saving of data in a PDF?
          Claudio González Most Valuable Participant

          Perhaps they want you to print the form, fill it by hand, and fax it back? In any case, it's difficult to guess their motives.

          • 2. Re: What are the reasons for disabling the saving of data in a PDF?
            ~graffiti Adobe Community Professional & MVP

            BChernick wrote:

             

            I seem to have had more than my share of encounters lately with PDF files that have editable fields but have their data saving capability disabled.

             

            That would be the majority of them I would guess. They have to be specially enabled by the creator of the file beofre folks using the free Reader can save the filled in forms. It's always been that way.

             

            BChernick wrote:

             

             

            I just don't understand that.  How is entering and saving data 'altering' a PDF?

             

            By definition, adding anything to a file of any type is "altering" the file.

             

            BChernick wrote:

             

            Is this just bone-headed bureacracy, an urban legend, or is there some fundamental practical matter I am not aware of?

            It's up to the creator of the file. You'd have to ask them about their decisions. Adobe Acrobat gives them the choice but they make it.

            • 3. Re: What are the reasons for disabling the saving of data in a PDF?
              BChernick Level 1

              When the creator is buried deep in a state bureacracy it's kind of hard to ask him. 

               

              I'm going to have to go with 'bone-headed bureacracy' since one of the PDFs in question is the North Carolina Employment Security Commission's job search log, long term required record keeping.  I can either print it and fill it out by hand (not a neat idea given my handwriting) or wait until they ask for the log and then rush to the library to fill it in all at once and print the PDF there, since I don't own a printer.  But this is now academic since I have a new job ( and the NCESC has so many other computer problems these days, the PDF is a minor detail.)

               

              On the other hand, you don't suppose there's some way to spread malware using PDFs with data saving enabled?

              • 4. Re: What are the reasons for disabling the saving of data in a PDF?
                MichaelKazlow MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                On the other hand, you don't suppose there's some way to spread malware using PDFs with data saving enabled?

                 

                No. Malware spreading is independent of data-saving as far as anyone has noted.

                • 5. Re: What are the reasons for disabling the saving of data in a PDF?
                  eliasct

                  Where did you get the information that saving of data in a PDF was diabled?

                  • 6. Re: What are the reasons for disabling the saving of data in a PDF?
                    BChernick Level 1

                    ???

                     

                    Right at the top of the PDF display itself.  You get that purple bar that states: "Please fill out the following form.  You cannnot save data typed into this form."

                     

                    (My question stands.  What's wrong with these people?  If it can't spread malware, then why disable it?  I consider these files damaged goods.)

                    • 7. Re: What are the reasons for disabling the saving of data in a PDF?
                      tvarano5

                      Please let us know if you find anything.  We are in the same situation.  We have thousands of users relying on FDF on the pdf and now it is disabled.  The only solution that we know now is a roll back to previous version.  That can't work for the long run.  We are looking at all security preference settings and also WORST case to use ITech sharp but that doesn't provide some critical controls.

                       

                      Let us know what you find and we will do the same.

                      • 8. Re: What are the reasons for disabling the saving of data in a PDF?
                        BChernick Level 1

                        Note to 'tvarano5'.  If I find out anything it will be here.  I'm afraid that creating PDFs has never been a big part of my job so I'm afraid I'm not familiar with FDF or ITech.

                         

                        It looks like it's a toss-up between bone-headed bureaucracy and some malware threat (real or imagined).

                         

                        I did see an article that claimed that nearly half of all malware attacks last year involved 'malicious' PDFs'.  So who knows?

                         

                        Of course the magazine carrying the article was Delta Sky (the inflight magazine for Delta Airlines), not exactly a major computer magazine.

                        • 9. Re: What are the reasons for disabling the saving of data in a PDF?
                          tvarano5 Level 1

                          Thanks for responding.  It is amazing that Adobe puts developers and service providers that use their technology in a situation like this.  We are planning to call their support asap Monday, i know too that their support is terrible.  I will let you know what we find.  Thanks again for answering so quickly.

                          • 10. Re: What are the reasons for disabling the saving of data in a PDF?
                            George_Johnson MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                            Saving a filled-in form has always been disallowed with Adobe Reader, formerly known as Acrobat Reader. Though there are a few exceptions...

                             

                            History lesson:

                             

                            Forms features were first introduced in Acrobat 3. As you might imagine, a number of folks wanted to be able to save filled-in forms using Acrobat Reader. Since this functionality simply was not a feature of Reader, it was not possible. If you wanted to save a filled-in form, you needed to use Acrobat (Exchange).

                             

                            Upon recognizing the potential market for a product that they could sell, Adobe developed and released Acrobat Business Tools, which was a version 4 product. It was positioned between Reader and Acrobat, was reasonably priced, and allowed users to save filled-in forms, apply digital signatures, and add comments. Unfortunately, this was marketed poorly and did not achieve commercial success.

                             

                            The next iteration was a similar product named Acrobat Approval, which was a version 5 product. It too could save a filled-in form, but was in some ways more limited than Business Tools, and suffered a similar fate. That is, it was not a market success. It was however distributed for free to US taxpayers on the IRS tax products CD-ROM.

                             

                            The next idea from Adobe - which was a good one - was to provide for a means of embedding usage rights in a PDF document. These rights would allow Reader to do things it normally would not be able to do, such as saving a filled-in form, adding comments, importing/exporting form data, creating new pages using templates, connecting to databases and web services, etc. At first, the only way to enable these usage rights was with an expensive product from Adobe, so the potential was initially not realized.

                             

                            With the release of Acrobat 7, Acrobat users were able to add some usage rights, such as commenting. While this was a welcome addition, folks still wanted to be enable forms to be saved with Reader. Finally with the release of Acrobat 8 Pro, users were able to enable forms to be saved with Reader, but it came with licensing restrictions. In short, if the licensee distributed the form for more than 500 recipients, the licensee could use data from no more that 500 copies of a particular form that was returned to them, including hardcopies. This was great for forms used inside of an orginization, but not so great for forms that needed to be used by the general public. Still, it was a very useful feature for a majority of businesses for internal forms, the vast majority of which have fewer than 500 employees.

                             

                            Acrobat 9 or 10 didn't change things. Adobe still wants to capitalize on this market, which certainly is not a bad thing for Adobe and their stockholders. The US IRS forms have long been saveable with Reader because they licence Adobe Reader Extensions, which provides revenue for Adobe.

                             

                            Note that some third-party PDF viewers allow users to save filled-in forms whether or not the documents have usage rights. Such software has a different marketing model than does Adobe Reader/Acrobat, and rides the coattails of Adobe by taking advantage of the popularity of PDF forms.