Forms functionality in PDF has not received much attention in quite some time. The definition of PDF-based forms has not changed in over 20 years. Meanwhile, web-based forms have evolved considerably.
We are past-due to refresh our technology stack and to address new use-cases for forms. To that end, the PDF Association has operated the PDF Forms TWG for almost two years to define the next generation of forms. If that sounds like a big change – it is. But the basic structure of forms in PDF will not change. There will still be a Fields array and if a legacy forms processor were to encounter a next-generation form, it should be minimally functional.
To give you a taste for what the working group is doing, here are some of the highlights:
Forms need to work in responsive mode. In practice this means that we can derive fully functional HTML- based forms from our PDF-based form definitions.
HTML has long embraced Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA). Some of those concepts find their way into the spec – most notably, there will be a new annotation type that will supply the equivalent functionality of the HTML label and legend elements.
Twenty years ago, we exchanged data using XML. Now we need our forms to submit and import JSON data. To take that a step further, our forms will be able to process a complete JSON-Schema definition without requiring that all data be associated with field definitions.
There are several built-in extension mechanisms:
Date and datetime formats are native to the form processor. Forms/Fields can declare which time zone to use for capturing/displaying values. That time-zone-aware hotel booking form will be easy to develop.
The functionality we expect to cover is largely complete. We are at the stage of validating it via reference implementation and beginning the formal documentation. We would welcome additional participation in the PDF Forms TWG – whether for review or for additional reference implementation(s).
Editor's Note: John Brinkman will be presenting at PDF Days Europe 2022 on Next Generation Forms for PDF.
John joined Adobe via the acquisition of Accelio in 2002. He is a client side architect working on the Adobe Document Cloud product. Prior to Document Cloud, John worked on the XFA technology, serving as the LiveCycle Forms Architect,
John joined Adobe via the acquisition of Accelio in 2002. He is a client side architect working on the Adobe …