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This PDF form restricts some operations.

18 Aug 2009 | | 5 Comments

Today a couple of PDFs landed on my desktop with an odd affliction that I have not previously encountered.

PDF form restrictions

"This PDF form restricts some operations."

A simple and curious note — hidden away at the bottom of the window. I was intrigued so I quickly opened up a couple of alternative PDF readers and dropped the PDFs in. Uh-oh.

Foxit Reader Screenshot

"To view the full contents of this document, you need a later version of the PDF viewer. You can upgrade to the latest version of Adobe Reader from www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html For further support, go to www.adobe.com/support/products/acrreader.html"

Special indeed. Restricts some operations is a bit of an understatement really. Not being able to open these PDFs with anything but the latest version of Adobe Reader is a huge restriction. In the past it hasn’t been uncommon to come across a PDF that can’t be fully interacted with when viewed in a none Adobe product — for example, you might be using a PDF viewer that doesn’t support JavaScript or XFA forms — but in those cases, at least the PDFs rendered. You could still view the PDF, you just couldn’t interact with it in some ways.

But not being able to view the PDF at all, if you don’t have Adobe Reader installed, is really annoying. Of course, now that the PDF specification is an official ISO standard, and thus out of Adobe’s full control, we can expect more of these “special” PDFs, as they look to enhance Acrobat, and subsequently “Adobe PDF”,  in ways that don’t really help anyone, but give them an excuse to release a new major version every 18 months.

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  • 4xPDF Blog » Blog Archive » PDF and Adobe PDF said:

    […] post is on a topic related to my previous post. A rant […]

  • Chris said:

    This is standard behavior for LiveCycle created / protected (DRM’ed) PDF files. It’s been around for years (yes, even locking users out of PDF files completely).

    The issue here is that the creator of the PDF decided to lock in their DRM solution to Adobe (similar to those who use FileOpen, who again only create a plugin for use with Adobe products).

    Perhaps Adobe needs to make the side-effects of their PDF protection schemes more clear, but LifeCycle is a very popular solution for big business with few alternatives (because it provides content protection password based encryption can’t and it unlocks features in Adobe Reader not usually available).

    You should probably be mad at the PDF creator / publisher, not Adobe, for locking themselves into a proprietary solution.

    How SHOULD big business get around the limits of the most popular PDF reader? Turn to PDF based web applications such as PDFescape.

    Note: This web application won’t open your problematic files, but it will help a company from creating them in the first place.

  • Leonard Rosenthol said:

    Chris is partially right (at least from what I can tell from your simple screen shots and w/o an actual link to a PDF). The form _IS_ an XFA-based PDF created by Designer BUT it does NOT have any custom encryption – just standard password encryption.

    As such, the PDF is FULLY COMPLIANT with ISO 32000-1 which fully documents both the encryption algorithms and include XFA as a normative reference.

    Unfortunately, at this time, only Adobe Acrobat & Adobe Reader are fully conforming readers according to the requirements of ISO 32000-1. At such point as other readers upgrade to fully support the requirements of that standard, then they too will be able to view that form w/o the need for the message.

    So don’t blame Adobe – they did NOT do anything wrong. Instead, talk to the manufacturers of the other viewer(s) you tried and get them to support the open PDF standard.

    Leonard Rosenthol
    PDF Standards Architect
    Adobe Systems

  • Joaquin Menchaca said:

    Leonard, Thank you for the information. I wish there was a tool to analyze the PDF document, so I could figure out why I get the error message.

    But what I am wondering though, is how is that string displayed. It must from the PDF right? Thus, the PDF is blocking content?

    I tried a PDF with Apple’s Mac OS X Preview, and I get the same text:

    To view the full contents of this document, you need a later version of the PDF viewer. You can upgrade to the latest version of Adobe Reader from http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html

    For further support, go to http://www.adobe.com/support/products/acrreader.html

  • Eddie Nolan said:

    I know this is a bit old but hopefully someone will still answer…

    I have Adobe Livecycle forms that use XFA. I generate my xml from data and then use XFA to fill the FillXFAForm using iTEXT.

    But when I try to open in a none adobe reader I cannot see the data…

    Is it possible to save the PDF without the XFA but still maintain the data?


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