Editing PDFs

Ng, Wey-Han meehoon at pd.jaring.my
Mon Jul 21 22:24:43 PDT 2003

Quoting "Declan. Moriarty" <declan.moriarty at ntlworld.ie>:

> On Mon, Jul 21, 2003 at 12:04:53PM -0600, Stephen Bosch enlightened us
> thusly
> > I always wince when I hear this -- many people want to do this, but
> in
> > fact there's already an Adobe PDF-compatible format designed to do
> > this -- Adobe Forms. The nice thing about the PFF is that there is
> > space in the protocol for modifiable blanks and the like.
> What are you telling me? That the form should have been created
> differently?

More or less. There is a slightly different format from pdf that is called 
Adobe Forms, pff in short. Though I can't tell you more details apart from it 
exist. I have fill out forms posted by the US gov in pff, but have no idea 
what tools you can use to create it. Maybe search for it in the Adobe site, 
they should have at least some information about it.

> > >Gs I have, and Acroread. Gs supplies pdf2ps, and ps2pdf, as well as
> > >pdfopt, which optimises the things sizewise, I gather. So I could
> go
> > >this route: pdf --> ps --> editor --> ps --> pdf --> pdfopt, but
> you
> > >who know me will realise that I, my fonts, or locales would fall
> over
> > >somewhere on that route ;-).  I presume there is a wsyiwsg ps file
> > >editor somewhere in linux?

What do you mean your fonts or locales would fall over? If you mean some 
characters in your filled in text is left blank (meaning instead of "meaning" it 
would print "m an n " after you have filled in "meaning" with your app), then 
it is the problem with lazy download fonts. This is the problem with using 
softfonts and because it makes no sense to download fonts your document 
will not use, the print driver will only download font information for any 
character when it encounters it in your document.

If you really need to edit your ps document, you might want to type a line of 
all the possible character you will use to fill in the blanks set to the same 
fonts you want it to be and make it white. So the fonts information will 
be "downloaded" when you print to the document and therefore available 
when you try to use it and will not show up as a funny line in your form. Just 
remember that line will have to come before the blanks you intend to fill or 
it will not work.

> Er, I did look at postscript code. I got page after page of it when a
> certain print program was loaded (mentioning no software by name :).
> And you are right - it is very messy.

Let's not forget that postscript is a programming language and not a 
document format and I suspect pdf is similar in concept but somehow made 
portable. It is messy because what you see in the postscript file is 
instruction to the printer to draw lines/dots/whatever on the piece of paper. 
Programs like gs translate it to a soft paper that ghostview can use to draw 
on the screen but at this point the document would have lost most of it's 
structure and formatting information.

> Everything can write to ps. They call it printing; can nothing read it?

Read it? Yes. Manipulate/edit it? Maybe but difficult. There are a number of 
reason why it is difficult to edit. The two off the top of my head is:

1. Formatting information is not always captured in ps/pdf file only shapes 
are captured (a character is consider a shape in ps/pdf). Even though the 
text can be extracted easily, all association to the structure of the document 
is not. For example, how can one tell if that line is just a line or if it is the 
bother of a table?

2. Font set might not be complete due to the lazy download I have 
mentioned above. So because of #1 formatting information might not be in 
the document, it might not be apparent which fonts to use. Furthermore, font 
substitute might make resulting document look really different. Which is not 
what you want for a form filler, right?

> Can gs output an editable format (like rtf)?

See above.

> When I googled selectively I got nothing: nada; Zero. When I googled
> less selectively, I got tripe. There's a lot of tripe on the Internet.

I would expect so. :>


PS: Who can tell if I have done this before. :D


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