How to create pdf with pages loaded from multiple seperate pdfs?

Here is the scenario.  I have a large database of pdfs in location 1.  In location 2 I have a large database of pdfs whose pages consist of the pdfs in location 1.  As of now, when I modify the pdfs in location 1, I have to find all the documents in location 2, that used the now modified pdf, and update each of them.

If that wasn't clear let me try again.

Location 1 - thousands of single page pdf documents
Location 2 - thousands of multiple page pdf documents (each page is a single document from location 1)

I would like the pages of each pdf from location 2 to "open dynamically" the pdfs from location 1.  I do NOT want to simply append the pdfs from location 1 as this creates the following problem.  Say a pdf from location 1 is modified.  Now when I open a pdf from location 2 that contains the "copy" of the pdf that was just modified, I see the old copy.  I DO want each page in each pdf in location 2, to "load" from location 1, thus ensuring that any changes made to the pdf in location 1 are seen when opening the corresponding page in location 2's pdfs.

I know I have seen this in manuals for microcontrollers, so it is possible.  They used it to load several pages within their pdf from another manufacturer to ensure they have the most recent documentation.
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Karl Heinz KremerCommented:
Will the pdf files ever be moved or copied?
scorbinAuthor Commented:
The pdf files in location 1 (single page documents), get updated frequently, but remain in the same location with the same filename.

The pdf files in location 2 may be moved or copied at anytime.  However, this should be acceptable since their pages should individually load from seperate network or web locations.
scorbinAuthor Commented:
Anyone have any thoughts?  Is my question clear, or should I try again?
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Karl Heinz KremerCommented:
The question is clear, it's the answer that's not so clear :-)

I'm not aware of anything that you can buy off the shelf, which means that you either have to program a solution, or pay somebody to create a solution for you.

I can see this done in two different ways (and as far as I know both solutions require the full version of Acrobat):

1. With form elements. You can create an interactive button programatically that takes it's button face or icon from an existing PDF file. For this to work, you would add basically blank pages to your "container" document. On every page you would then create (programatically at the time the document is opened, not manually) a button that shows only an image and not text label. The image is taken from one of your "content" documents.

2. There is an obscure feature in the PDF spec that you could use to implement this behavior: A reference Xobject can reference a page from an external PDF document. This XObject can then be placed like any other resource in a PDF file on a page in any scaling/orientation you want. I think Acrobat 7 does support this feature, but I've never seen a PDF file that used this feature, so I cannot confirm this. AFAIK there are no tools available to create such files, so you would have to create such a tool yourself (or have somebody create it for you).

Do you still have one of these micro controller documents around? If so, I could take a look to see how it was done.

As an alternative, you could come up with a process that would automatically recreate your container PDFs when one of the content PDFs changes. There are again several ways you can do this. The easiest would be to just recreate all of them, regardless of which content file was modified. Another approach would be to store some rules about which container files depend on which content files. This can be as simple as a Makefile (this concept is used to build software - the makefile contains the dependencies for the project: If file abc changes, which modules need to be rebuilt?), but you could also utilize a database for this. Creating PDFs from individual pages can be done very easily with a tools like pdftk (

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scorbinAuthor Commented:
I found this:

But it still doesn't do exactly what I'm looking for.

I'll have to look into the XObject stuff a little more, I haven't seen it used before either (as far as I know).  The problem with creating a program that recreated my container PDF is that all the containers are stored in a database with strict permissions.  I can only modify these pdfs at certain times.  The container PDF's are used in spec sheets, which in turn are part of a large controlled database in Lotus Notes.  So, my solution really needs to be such that the contents of the pdf are updated on each opening.

I am familiar with most options as far as CVS and makefiles are concerned.  I may have to result to a script run on document open to append a list of files, then on close run another that removes the files that were added.

Do you know of any good documentation on XObjects and/or their use in pdfs?

Karl Heinz KremerCommented:
The only documentation is the PDF reference. You can download it from here:
scorbinAuthor Commented:
Well... khkremer.  That'll have to be good enough.  I'll dish out the pts.  If you ever find another solution feel free to post it, or email me.  Thanks for your efforts, I'll be sure to post a solution if I find one also.
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