Adobe Acrobat - Overview

These guys are morons ... they have done it again. Adobe Acrobat is supposed to be able to create user fillable forms with JavaScript support.

Hey, if it worked, then I would not waste my time writing this page.

Overview | Displaying a DialogBox | Visible Property | Caption Property | Technical Background | Final Thoughts


Adobe has been pushing Acrobat for developing web forms for the last few versions. I have always avoided this in the past because my computers are always more likely to crash after viewing pdf files. However, a friend (who does not share my cautiousness) had an application where Acrobat appeared to be the perfect design platform.

This page is based on that experience (disaster).

Adobe Acrobat forms are designed in Adobe LiveCycle Designer. I don't know how many of these problems are Acrobat and how many are LiveCycle Designer, but it does not really matter. If a developer has to analyze problems to that level, then it is time to find a different language.

The examples (and problems) discussed on this page were tested in Acrobat 7 and/or 8.

Displaying a DialogBox

When debugging, one of the first commands most people need is a way to indicate where the code is executing. In Windows systems, this is done by displaying a dialogBox.

In JavaScript, the following code will display a dialogBox.

In Acrobat (7 and 8), you must use Guess what? Neither app nor alert can be found in the provided help. Wow, what a great way to drive customers away. (This code was found in a book ... no thanks to Adobe.)

The following also works (but don't bother looking for a reference in the help ... I never found any for this either).

Visible Property

Most object oriented languages provide a visible property for form components. Adobe Acrobat provides presence ... but

Well, it is really worse than that. When designing a form where the available data fields change based on what values are selected (a fairly common design technique), groups of components are usually combined in some way to simplify controlling when they are displayed. To enable this, Acrobat provides subforms - you add components to the subform and then you can display of hide the subform via code ... NOT.

That's right, when the subforms are hidden, some components are hidden and others are not. This is the only programming language I know with this kind of defect.

Of course, I searched for help ... and found none.

It is possible that there is another property that should be used, or whatever. But the code we are using was from some book ... or we would have never gotten this far.

Caption Property

Most object oriented languages provide the caption property to allow changing text at run time ... but not Acrobat. With CheckBox objects, there is a caption property ... but ... you can not read or write it.

This means that caption is actually an object that has its own properties. So instead of

like most other languages, I tried the following which also failed.

Of course, I checked the (worthless) help and found nothing.

Technical Background

Adobe’s XFA Forms (XML Forms Architecture) is a closed standard that uses non-standard JavaScript.

In 2002, Adobe bought what was known as JetForms and added XFA support to Acrobat 6 in 2003. These forms are edited in Adobe LiveCycle Forms Designer only and can not be edited in Adobe Acrobat 6 or 7. The forms will not work with versions of Acrobat Reader before version 6.


Final Thoughts

Calling this bastard of a language JavaScript is borderline fraud. I know a little JavaScript and can not create a simple program in this.

On top of that, the provided help sucks (a technical term that means totally worthless). Even that could be excused if there was reasonable help on-line ... but I never found any.

My advice, avoid Acrobat!

Author: Robert Clemenzi -
URL: http:// / user / clemenzi / technical / Languages / Acrobat / Overview.html