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How to generate bulleted lists in PDF language to display in Adobe Acrobat Reader?

Posted on 2007-04-08
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Last Modified: 2012-06-21
I'm writing a C program, which translates user input of text into PDF file, which can be displayed in Adobe Acrobat Reader. The user input contains bulleted lists.  The lists have the following types of bullets:

1). For Unordered Lists:
Disc: Solid circular bullet
Circle: Open circular bullet
Square: Solid square bullet

2). For Ordered Lists:
Decimal: Decimal arabic numerals (1–9, 10–99, … )
UpperRoman: Uppercase roman numerals (I, II, III, IV, … )
LowerRoman: Lowercase roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, … )
UpperAlpha: Uppercase letters (A, B, C, … )
LowerAlpha: Lowercase letters (a, b, c, … )


My question is: What is the best way to generate bulleted lists in PDF? I think there might be the following four options:
a). It may be done using some existing PDF syntax, which I think I might have found in PDF Reference manual Version 1.7 published by Adobe, but the syntax might be designed for use of Document Interchange, because it's in Chapter 10. Document Interchange - Section 10.7 Tagged PDF. Thus I'm not sure if it's the syntax that I can use.
b). I may draw these bullets line by line, and then fill in color if necessary. For example, I can draw square bullet by drawing its four sides, then fill it with color. But it would be difficult to draw circle using PDF language.
c). I may embed pre-drawn GIF images for those bullets into PDF file.
d). I can simulate bullet images "Circle" and "Square" using letters 'O' and "." on keyboard because letter 'O' looks like a circle and period character '.' looks like a square in Adobe Acrobat reader. Unfortunately, the simulated Circle is not strictly circular, and there is no way to simulate "Disc" using any keyboard character, unless I use ASCII characters between 125 and 256, which are graphical characters, but they are not supported on all platforms/systems.

Here is my opinion:
For options b) and c), it would be hard  to adjust positions and sizes of bullets when the corresponding texts are scaled. Option a) might be a better choice, but I'm not sure that's the correct syntax to do it and I need some code examples to learn how to do it. Option d) might be the easist way to do if there's a better way to simulate the unordered bullets using keyborad characters. I don't have trouble in creating bullet symbols for Ordered List, because they are all standard keyboard characters.

Thank you for your help!
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Question by:starkman
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Expert Comment

by:John4343
ID: 18878751
I'm working on the same problem.  I did find that in Acrobat Pro text fields can be added to the form then filled in under program control (I'm using ABCpdf from VB .net).  A text field can be multi-line and support rich text formatted.   See http://blogs.adobe.com/loridefurio/2005/12/controlling_for.html 

Anybody know a good tutorial on setting up bulleted lists in rtf?

Why oh why is html formatting not supported.....
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Expert Comment

by:John4343
ID: 18878868
I just tried cutting & pasting some rtf text into a text field and it just displays as entered without formatting!!!
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Author Comment

by:starkman
ID: 18883972
It's good to know the Rich Text thing, however, it is only supported in Interactive Forms / AcroForm. Since there is no forms used in our PDF file, I cannot make use of Rich Text feature, but thanks for the information, which may help me in the future.

I just discovered a workaround, which is to simulate the three kinds of bullets in Unordered Lists using standard keyborad characters. I noticed that period character '.' and lower case 'o' look differently in Acrobat Reader with different fonts:
1). Period character '.' appears as Disc (solid circular bullet) when Times font is used, but appears as
Square (Solid square bullet) when Helvetica or Courier font is used.
2). Lower case character 'o' appears nearly the same as Circle (Open circular bullet) when  Helvetica or Arial font is used, but appears as zero '0' when Times font is used.

So I'm going to simulate the three kinds of bullets in Unordered List as follows:
Disc: Solid circular bullet  -- use period character '.' with Times font
Circle: Open circular bullet   -- use lower case character 'o' with Helvetica font
Square: Solid square bullet  -- use period character '.' with Helvetica font

Although the simulated Circle bullet is still not strictly circular (its vertical length is very slightly longer than its horizontal length), but is very close and the difference is hardly noticeable. I may look for some improvement later to make it look more close to circle, such as using some text stretching, if someone knows how to improve or other ways of solving the problem, please let me know.

Thank you for the help!



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