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I have a series of PDF's that are contain a form that must be filled out completely. The form also has a submit button which will save and send the form via email. The intended use case is for the PDF's to be downloaded from an ASP.NET website, filled out and then sent to an admin via email.

  • When the form is opened up in Acrobat Reader, everything works as expected. The user has a good experience and can generally see what fields they missed, save the form and send it on its way.

  • Now, the problem. Forcing the PDF to be downloaded by setting the content disposition headers is easy. But from there, we run into problems. When downloading from Chrome, clicking on the downloaded file icon will open up the PDF in the browser, which renders the submit button useless (just doesn't work) and creates a frustrating and confusing experience. There is also the possibility of the PDF opening in Windows 8 mode, which results in the same frustrating behavior as the browser.

here ARE instructions in the PDF to make sure you use Acrobat Reader in Desktop mode, but as we know there will be a certain subset of users who will not understand, be prohibited from doing so, or just not read the instructions.

We have considered a few options: zipping up the PDF (annoying), changing the extension to something Adobe will recognize but override the default handlers (or that is the hope) and creating a FAQ section (seems obvious either way)

Has anyone else encountered this challenge and how did they solve it?

  • I won't make this an answer since it's incomplete, but have a look at setting the "content-disposition" values in your HTTP headers. I believe this can be set to a value of "attachment" (or similar) that forces a download rather than opening in a browser. – user5482 Sep 21 '15 at 17:30
  • THanks, i actually mention that we did that in the 2nd bullet. However, it still does not get us to 99% reliable behavior. When the PDF downloads in Chrome, if you click on the downloaded file from the bottom downloads bar, it will still open in Chrome. – Taylor Ackley Sep 21 '15 at 17:35
  • .. d'oh, sorry. I think I am still half asleep and didn't take that part in. I will give this some thought. – user5482 Sep 21 '15 at 18:22
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    The "best experience" is still bad when you're forcing users to download a third party app for just a form. It is better to generate and download a PDF from a webpage/form, but probably best to just send the data immediately from the webserver. – jazZRo Sep 21 '15 at 19:42
  • @jazZro Believe me, i'm with you on that, but budgets dictate otherwise. – Taylor Ackley Sep 21 '15 at 20:23
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The best experience for this case is don’t use a form-centric PDF, use HTML forms. Your form-centric PDF is not part of the World Wide Web and doesn’t work on the majority of computing devices that are in use today. It will never be a good experience.

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The only best way I could come across to tackle this is to attach screenshots in your process when the PDF is downloaded.

So, after it's downloaded, you will need to show a screenshot that doesn't click on the PDF itself on Chrome but clicks the Up Caret next to it and chooses "Open in Folder".

From there, Right click on PDF and Open With: Adobe Acrobat Reader.

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