PDF Forms with image fields and Acrobat Reader

Recently a client wanted to use a PDF form on their site to allow their clients to submit applications. As part of the application it was essential for the end user to be able to include a photo on the form. This was more of a headache than originally intended.

The first port of call was to make the form in Acrobat Pro XI, fairly straightforward and something we’ve done loads before. Then we add a submit button with a mailto: link to get this triggering an email in the users default mail program. All fine so far.

Then we look at adding images. This seems to currently have a round-about fix, where you add a button to the form which you can have JavaScript set a background image on. Kind of a horrible way to do it, but ho-hum. This then runs into the problem that Acrobat Reader would only let you append PDFs to the button, and Pro defaulted to PDF format (although you could change this). Not user friendly.

Okay, then we’ll switch instead to PDF forms big brother, Adobe Livecycle. Hang on, why isn’t the designer for this in the Adobe CC subscription ? We need to pay further to get PDF forms working properly. At least there’s a 30 day trial available at https://www.adobe.com/devnet/livecycle/downloads.html

So now we make some basic changes (such as the form styling) to the livecycle format. We take another look at our submit button and find it can be a “Submit” or “Submit by email” type. However, if we try this we find it doesn’t do anything in reader.

Cue much hair tearing (and googling)

So the solution is

  • In livecycle set the button as type “Submit”
  • Set the Submit action as mailto:someone@somewhere.com
  • Set the Submit Format as PDF
  • Save the PDF
  • Open the PDF in Acrobat Pro
  • File > Save As Other > Reader Extended PDF > Enable More Tools (includes form fill-in & save).

Now when we click submit in Reader it goes straight to Outlook (or the default mail program) as a completed pdf attachment.

Success !