A customer recently asked me if it was possible to avoid Reader Extending 100 of their multi-page PDF forms. They had 2 pages within each of these “forms” that contained a 2D barcoded form with save-off-line capabilities enabled (Reader Extended).
The “100” PDF forms they were talking about were actually different packages of many different PDF forms that were put together using Acrobat 7 from a combination of other PDF forms. Depending on the target audience, they would include different forms in these packages but the 2D fill-and-print form would always be included as it was a generic form used for some sort of account application. They also wanted to move their developments from Acrobat forms to Designer forms but could not include XFA forms in this merged PDF (you can add XFA forms as attachments, but not directly inside the PDF as an additional page).
The solution of course, is Acrobat 8 Packages. If you have yet to notice, under the “File” menu you have a new “Combine File” option or alternatively under the “Create PDF” menu you will see a “From Multiple Files” option. Both provide you the same “Combine Files” window once selected.
From this selection window you can add both regular PDF forms, Acrobat forms (extended or not), and Designer (XFA) based forms (again, extended or not). Select the files you need, click on the “Next” button and you’ll find out why “packages” are such a great thing. If you included a Reader Extended PDF Form and a Designer based Form you will see two messages: “Digital Signatures will be removed during merge” and an “Adobe XML forms cannot be merged” message. So, not only will your fill-and-print forms have their rights taken away (which sounds more dramatic than “broken” doesn’t it?) but you can not include the Designer XFA forms. Now, change the radio button at the top of the screen from “Merge files into a single PDF” to the wonderful world of “Assemble files into a PDF package”. The warning messages will disappear.
Another radio box will appear at the bottom of the screen, ”Select Cover Sheet”. This option lets you select whether or not you would like to use the default cover sheet for the packages or the first document in your list of documents as the cover sheet (if the document you want as your cover sheet is not first in the list, use the “Move Up” button to change its’ order).
Click on “Create” and you will have an Acrobat 8 Package PDF that contains a great looking cover page and all the PDFs you needed to distribute as a single PDF including all their rights and the XFA form (with its rights too).
And yes, you can open this package PDF in Reader 7 as well as Reader 8. With Reader 7 users will still receive the “newer version” message but your cover page will be nicely displayed and the additional PDFs will be displayed clearly in the attachments window.