PDF form checkboxes go blank when emailed. Why?
December 27, 2013 3:53 PM   Subscribe

Updated a PDF form for a client. Now, checkboxes go blank when the form is emailed or saved. Why?

I recently created an updated PDF form for a client. The form is a page full of text fields and checkboxes.

The form works as planned on my end. I tested it in Preview and Reader. I can fill-in the text fields and check the boxes. The form emails complete from both Preview and Reader. And I can also save the completed form.

However, when my client tests the form, she can fill-in the form, but when she tries to email it from either Preview or Reader the checkboxes revert to their unchecked state. The text fields remain filled-in. The same happens when she saves the completed form.

I created the base form using Illustrator CS5, and added the text fields and checkboxes using Acrobat 9 Pro. I'm running Mac OSX 10.6.8. My client is on OSX 10.7. However, I tested the form on my wife's MacBook also running 10.7 and the form worked as intended. My client told me tonight that one of her customers used the new form and it went blank for them, too. I don't know what OS or software they were using.

Has anyone encountered an issue like this? I'm stumped as to where to begin. The previous form this one replaced worked perfectly, and I made it using the same setup.
posted by Thorzdad to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How are you checking them? I fill out these PDF forms at work and I just put an x where a check mark would go. Have you tried that?

(I am totally ignorant of how this all works other than that so if that is a stupid answer just look the other way.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:14 PM on December 27, 2013

Check your MeMail.

I create PDF forms, but cannot comment further until I see what you are working with. There could be any number of issues.
posted by lampshade at 4:54 PM on December 27, 2013

I run into this all the time, losing annotations that I make on PDF files with Preview when I email the PDF.

The ugly workaround I use is to flatten the PDF by converting it to Postscript and then back to PDF.

I'd love to know why I have to do this and how to avoid it.
posted by alms at 6:14 PM on December 27, 2013

(Thanks for the mail via email)

I checked your form. I think the base issue is a font sizing problem, but there are other problems too.

With the customer who had the issue, it is important to know what they are working with. If they are trying to use the PDF with a 3rd party reader, that could be a problem. Also, there is the Mac/PC issue in general. PDFs created on Apple computers can be problematic at times, particularly when using only Acro Pro as opposed to Live Cycle Designer. You also have to be careful with your font as not all fonts choices translate well across platforms.

There is more detail in the email. I will try to summarize in this thread later so the answer is recorded here in Ask.

Drop me a note when you have had a chance to check it out.
posted by lampshade at 6:14 PM on December 27, 2013

Ive done some pdf processing programming and have seen form issues occur when people use differing pdf readers, especially the built in one in chrome and not the native acrobat. Additionally some forms are really finicky and doesnt play nicely even within a browser that has the adobe acrobat plugin (but works if they download the form)

Ive built in browser detectors and force users to download if they dont have the appropriate adobe plugin or use some unknown reader to try and fill it in, but even that is hit and miss.

Damn PDF forms.
posted by edman at 6:32 PM on December 27, 2013

I routinely have to fill out PDF forms from work, and ran into this exact issue. The secret sauce for me was to fill out the form in Preview, then, from the File menu, select Print. At the bottom of the Print dialog is a PDF dropdown; from that dropdown, select "Save as PDF". Yes, even though it's already a PDF document, going through this process seems to "lock" it. It will no longer be an editable doc, but it will retain all of it's filled-in fields when emailing.

I notice that the newest version of Preview has another item under the File menu: Export as PDF. This may work as well, with a fewer menu contortions.
posted by dinger at 6:36 AM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

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