In cooperation with a client’s server developer, we recently designed a large forms implementation using FDF. For months, we encountered serious difficulties, as individual forms would fail here and there for frustratingly silly reasons.
I asked the server folks how they were making their FDFs. They’d examined sample FDFs, they claimed to have read the relevant sections of the PDF Reference, as I’d asked them to do. Maybe they’d read Mark Gavin’s post as well.
In any event, they decided to write their own code to convert database output into FDF and vice-versa, and they plowed a bunch of time into it.
That did NOT necessarily make sense. While all the terms are defined in the PDF Reference, writing FDF files from database records, especially if you want to dynamically populate list box and combo box fields (and we do), isn’t trivial.
Enter Adobe’s free FDF Toolkit. Built for Windows, UNIX and Java servers, this API doesn’t do anything super-complicated, but for reading and writing FDF files on a server without having to learn FDF, it’s the business.
After tossing (with regret for time wasted) the in-house code and implementing with Adobe’s FDF Toolkit instead, all the FDF-related problems on this project went away instantly. Much happiness ensued.
By Duff Johnson