How to automate Acrobat Reader

New Here ,
Mar 11, 2021 Mar 11, 2021

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I have an application that does simple automation of Microsoft Word via COM calls - I can open a document, merge application data, and either let the user review & print or execute and print silently.

 

However, many of my customers use fillble PDF forms generated by a third party.  I would like to automate these forms in a similar fashion to save users the hassle of re-keying data that's already entered in my application.  I don't need to edit the PDF itself - just fill in the edit fields and check boxes. What would I need in order to do this?  Is there a SDK of COM calls for automation, and if so, is there a way to identify and retrieve the names/handles of all of the fill-in fields & checkboxes on a PDF?  Alternatively, is there an ActiveX component that would enable me to do something similar?

 

As things stand, I've been creating Word documents patterned after my customers' PDF files, but that is a horribly tedious and imprecise exercise.  PDFs have become the de facto standard for document forms, and I would very much like to be able to automate them directly from my application.

 

Many thanks in advance for any help you can offer!

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Mar 12, 2021 Mar 12, 2021

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The documentation of the APIs for Adobe Acrobat are available in the Acrobat SDK.

For the most functions is an installation of Acrobat Reader not enough.

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New Here ,
Mar 12, 2021 Mar 12, 2021

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That's unfortunate.  There's no way I can ask every one of my customers to buy full copies of Acrobat for every PC they own, just so they can occasionally auto-fill existing PDF forms.  In the worst case, I can continue converting PDFs to Word documents and automating Word, but that seems like a lot of neeedless time and effort to me.

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LEGEND ,
Mar 12, 2021 Mar 12, 2021

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Bear in mind that the Acrobat SDK is a marketing tool to encourage people to license paid-for Acrobat - not a way to get more from the free version.

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New Here ,
Mar 12, 2021 Mar 12, 2021

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If the solution meant that I, as a developer, needed to license a copy of Acrobat to use with my development tools, then that would work.  But there is no way I can tell all of my customers "Oh by the way, to continue using our software, you now have to buy Acrobat for all of your PCs" - simply not an option.  It's not like I want to create PDFs - all I want to do is open an existing PDF, auto-fill its editable data fields, and print.  In short, I just want to automate tasks that you can already do manually in Acrobat Reader DC.

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LEGEND ,
Mar 12, 2021 Mar 12, 2021

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And there's the problem. Adobe's plan is to sell Acrobat to everyone in every office. To do that they add killer features like automation. But their competition is Word. Of course Word isn't free, but people already paid for it. But I guess Adobe don't feel the way to compete with Word is to give away more for free...

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Mar 12, 2021 Mar 12, 2021

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What you can do in the free Reader is quite limited, but I've developed a (paid-for) JavaScript tool for it that will allow you to export and import form data as a plain-text file, which you could edit in Excel or even Notepad.

You can find it here: http://try67.blogspot.com/2013/02/reader-importexport-form-data.html

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New Here ,
Mar 12, 2021 Mar 12, 2021

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Thanks for the info, but that appears to be an interactive process.  What I do now with Word is essentially an automated mail merge - users click a button in my software and everything else happens automatically.  If I can't achieve the same level of functionality with PDFs, then I'll have to abandon the idea of working with them, unfortunately.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Mar 12, 2021 Mar 12, 2021

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That is not possible using the free Reader.

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