Displaying PDF forms in a browser saves a lot of the manual work of filling in forms, scanning them to then digitally present them. By making use of checkboxes, buttons and lists, fillable PDF files simplify this process. It also makes them widely accessible (all you need is a laptop or mobile device) and allows easy submission of the data into systems.
There are five different ways to display PDF forms in a browser:
1. Using Adobe Acrobat
Acrobat Reader DC allows users to fill and sign interactive forms by selecting options from a drop-down menu or inserting text.
The filled out forms are then submitted to a server or sent via email to the relevant inbox. This solution allows developers to import the filled out forms into their applications’ workflow.
Traditionally, this was the easiest and most popular way to use Acrobat’s application to view PDF forms. However, most modern browsers have stopped applications running inside a Browser as a security risk. So you will need an old copy of Internet Explorer if you still want to use Acrobat in a browser.
2. Flatten form or display as a flattened form
Our previous article explains how PDF form flattening works, including the advantages it has such as simplifying the PDF – I suggest checking that article out for more information. After the form is flattened, it can be displayed.
Because the Forms themselves have been turned into images and non-editable text, the downside of this is that the Forms can no longer be edited. So this is a strictly display only option.
3. Client software
4. Using Browser-based software
If you are using interactive content, there are software products which provide a browser front end and allow you to display PDF files. Adobe has a very powerful (and expensive) Enterprise solution called Adobe Experience Manager Forms ( previously known as LiveCycle). Forms Manager can automatically convert traditional input fields to digital forms which is a nice additional feature.
5. Convert form to HTML5
This is our prefered solution which we implement with our FormVu product. Browsers display HTML5 content (including interactive form elements). So why not convert the Forms into standalone HTML5 content.
Which of the 5 ways will best suit you will depend on your exact requirements and budget, but there is a real choice of viable options to get your PDF forms into the browser.