Adobe Reader Mobile and XFA forms from LiveCycle Designer

As the world becomes increasingly more mobile, we hear a lot of questions about dynamic PDF forms created in the LiveCycle Designer and mobile devices.  These forms use an underlying XML structure called XFA (XML Forms Architecture).   This XML structure is pretty powerful and allows the form to grow and shrink based on data or user actions.  It also provides a scripting model that lets you do some amazing things and interact with objects on the page through code.   Many enterprises require this kind of capability for their complex forms.

Along with the changes in the world where more and more people connect to the internet with mobile devices comes a variety of operating systems and browsers.  Some of these operating systems place restrictions on what can be done on the device and most of the browsers now provide their own PDF viewers which are not as capable as the Adobe Reader on the desktop.   This makes it very difficult (impossible actually) to provide the same dynamic PDF experience you expect on the desktop across all mobile devices using PDF.  As a result, Adobe Reader Mobile does not support XFA based PDF’s created in the LiveCycle Designer and it will not provide this support in the future.

Fortunately the XFA structure also allows a single form definition to be transformed into a number of different targets besides interactive PDF.  To target mobile devices and ensure a consistent experience across devices (and on the desktop too!) we’ve created a Mobile Forms capability that renders the same template design for PDF to HTML5 and preserves the layout, scripting and dynamic capabilities.  Given the nature of HTML and the web, this is not a single file like a PDF that can be routed around in email.   It’s an online experience rendered by a server.   Using a server platform there are a lot of other capabilities that come into play such as prefilling forms with data, form management, forms workflow and document generation.  For more information on AEM forms please see our web page.

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5 Responses to Adobe Reader Mobile and XFA forms from LiveCycle Designer

  1. Kristian says:

    It would be great if you could render the HTML source on the server side as is currently done for PDF, then send that in an email with all javascript and CSS included in the HTML. While the form may still require an online connection to submit, you could at least open the form and fill it in offline on a mobile device. Will there be support for HTML forms as stand alone files in the future?

    • Jeff Stanier says:

      Problem is is that you can’t save the data in the HTML. So you have to be online to receive the form, and you have to keep the form open until you were ready to submit it. If you closed it you would lose the data. We’ve got a capability in LiveCycle ES 4 called the Mobile Workspace app that let’s you download process tasks, associated forms, and data and work with them offline. The wrapper that the app provides is what allows us to manage the data offline. Right now it’s connected with a LiveCycle process workflow, but I can see up making it more generic to synchronize forms and data offline. No commitment right now, but it’s something we are looking at.

      • Kristian says:

        Thanks for the reply Jeff.

        Mobile Workspace is a great app, and has good coverage of offline. However this requires LiveCycle username and password management. A PDF does not, and it also suffers the loss of data when closing unless the form has been Reader Extended – if it’s not extended then you must keep it open until you are ready to submit, same as HTML offline. With any scenario there’s the requirement to obtain the form online, be it download from the web (PDF), have it emailed to you (PDF), open in the browser (HTML), or obtain via Workspace (both PDF and HTML I believe), but with PDF there is the ability for a single file form to be rendered and sent via any means.

        Please don’t get me wrong, I think the progress in ES4/AEM forms is great. This is just something that would be very valuable as well.

        • Jeff Stanier says:

          Kristian,

          Thanks for the kind words about ES4/AEM forms and for the feedback. PDF at least has the option to be Reader extended or used in Acrobat. Pure HTML in email/browser provides some challenges. Not trying to blow you off – I do believe this is something we need to explore further and we will do that.

          Jeff