FDF has been part of PDF almost since very early days. Adobe didn’t exactly have a long track record as an interactive forms company at the time, but in FDF, they succeeded in creating one of the most powerful and flexible forms solutions ever devised.
As of last summer, FDF is part of ISO 32000, which means it is here to stay, forever. Let’s talk about what FDF can do for you, because it’s pretty impressive:
Capabilities of FDF
- Efficiently exchange forms-data (as opposed to the form itself) with a server or locally. No, FDF is not XML. So what? All that really matters is client and server can talk. (If buzzword compliance is critical to your application, XML FDF (xFDF) can do most of what FDF can do.)
- Exchange annotations (comments and the like) with a server or local file-system.
- Cause Acrobat/Reader to run a script.
- Cause Acrobat/Reader to display a dialog or execute another (safe) function.
- Operate on the desktop or in the browser plugin.
- Additional capabilities with Adobe Reader Extensions
- and more…
The value of FDF depends entirely upon Adobe Reader, an extremely powerful (if frequently underappreciated) application. Due to the hundreds of millions of copies in daily use, it’s a reasonably stable one as well.
As for the server, there are many FDF solutions, Adobe and 3rd party, including (of course) ours. One very valuable piece of software for those considering FDF solutions is Adobe’s free (yes, free) FDFToolkit, which makes reading and writing FDFs a (relative) snap.
When you think about it, the combination of Adobe Acrobat (for authoring powerful PDF forms), Adobe Reader (for distribution) and the FDFToolkit (on the server) you’ve got enormous client-server power for PDF within easy reach, and the price is… well… can you say, hard to beat?
In these tougher times, FDF-based solutions might get a second look. They deserve it.