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Help: PDF Applications and Submitting Forms

PDF Applications for Submitting Forms

There are several PDF tools one can use to fill out and submit a form.

  • PDFpen and PDFpenPro support submitting forms in HTML, XFDF, and PDF formats. They do not support submitting forms in FDF format. A user can download the free demo of either application and use it to fill and submit a form.

  • Preview does not support submitting forms. Forms created in PDFpenPro will show an introductory page explaining this and offering a download link for PDFpenPro.

  • Adobe Reader supports submitting forms in HTML, FDF, and XFDF formats.

  • Adobe Acrobat supports submitting forms in HTML, FDF, XFDF, and PDF formats.

  • Nuance Reader supports submitting forms in HTML and FDF formats. When XFDF is specified, Nuance Reader will submit in FDF format.

Basic Form Data Collection and Processing

Once a user clicks the submit button on the form, the data entered into the fillable fields is packaged in XFDF format and sent to the designated location, i.e. a URL or an email address. To setup the submit button, see Creating PDF Forms. Please note that XFDF is the only available option with the submit button.

When a user submits a form via email, you, the form creator, will receive an email with an XFDF file containing the filled content of the form. View this data by appling it to the original form. Do this by opening a blank copy of the form, then running the script: ”Process XFDF“. Download it from here:



Of the available formats, XFDF is the least proprietary and the easiest to post-process. It would be great if a simple comma-separated value (CSV) or tab-separated value (TSV) format were available, but these are not part of the PDF specification and therefore cannot be offered.

Data Formats

  • XFDF (XML Forms Data Format) is very flexible because it's basically just the form contents wrapped in XML. This makes it easy to parse with other tools.

  • FDF and PDF are used with forms which are submitted within the Adobe ecosystem. Post-processing FDF files with anything other than Adobe products is difficult and not recommended.

  • HTML is handy if one already has backend form processing scripts and wants to adapt them to handle PDF forms. Otherwise, it is neither as regular nor as easy to post-process as XFDF.


XFDF Specification:


FDF Specification:


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