Ubuntu – Why does Ubuntu not ship with a way to fill in PDF forms


Why does Ubuntu not ship with a way to fill in PDF forms? I am not asking how to fill the forms. I am asking why there is not a way to do this in the default installation. It's basically the only thing that Ubuntu cannot do that I need my OS to do.

Best Answer

Most likely because there's not an open-source implementation of the entire "new" PDF forms specification, called XFA. Older forms (FDF) are generally supported.

While XFA is technically an open standard, like Office Open XML, it is basically a giant glop of a file format that Adobe "documented" to meet government requirements for open file formats. The current version of the specification (3.3) is 1584 pages long (just for the forms feature, not all the rest of PDF) and includes such wondrous features as multiple ways to encode form information, inline denormalized XML attachments inside a PDF-only datastream format, and embedded JavaScript.

To my knowledge (and I've been working with programmatically filling PDF forms this week), Adobe has the only complete implementation of XFA in existence, and I don't know of any open-source graphical client that handles it. (iText and PDFBox have partial support.)