Can I do this with Adobe Pro

Posted on 2012-09-11
Last Modified: 2012-09-11

I'm trying to set up an improved, digitized and low-cost Accounts Payable solution, and want to know if I can do the following steps with Adobe Pro. I've taken a look at Nuance products and so far, they've fallen slightly short of the mark.
- First step - batch OCR: take a folder of pdf files (origin:print-to-pdf and paper scans) and turn them into searchable pdfs.
- Second step - add form: add a pdf form page as the first new page of each of the files. This form would contain text box, drop box with database feed and a signature box. I want people with Adobe Reader to be able to fill the form, sign the form and save the form.
- Third step - data retrieve: take of folder of filled and signed forms and extract the form data (not the whole pdf text, just the form data) into some sort of workable format (database, csv, excel)

These steps can be achieved through GUI or scripting, as long as they can be mostly automated.

Can this be done? Can this be done without Livecycle? Can it be done by myself, with vb / vba and googling experience?

Thanks for your input,

Question by:nutsch
    LVL 44

    Accepted Solution

    Yes, this can be done without Livecycle. You can do all the forms related stuff with AcroForms (the other forms system built into Acrobat). I don't know how good you are in taking information that you find online to create a working solution, so I wont comment on if you can do this ;)

    Which version of Acrobat do you have? Acrobat Pro provides (the name changed with Acrobat X, but the functionality is still available) batch processing, or actions (in Acrobat X). This allows you to process a whole directory full of PDF files. Running OCR on these files during a batch sequence is possible. For files that got printed to PDF, you don't even have to do that - the textual information is already stored in a way that can be extracted (as long as you used a tool that actually puts valid font information into the PDF file, there are some bad programs out there, but if you stick to the big name products, you wont have a problem).

    You can also add your forms page as part of the same sequence/action.

    The only step that you cannot automate is to save the file as a reader enabled PDF (which would enable somebody with just Reader to fill in the form and save it). This step needs to be done manually

    The last step - collecting the data - can be automated again. You can either do this in Acrobat, or in your own VB/VBA program - depending on how complicated the output format will be. Acrobat allows you to create a simple output file. If you want the full gamut of Excel options, you can do this as a VBA program. Take a look at this blog post that I wrote a few years ago, it describes how to read form fields from VBA:

    How much experience do you have in automating Acrobat?
    LVL 39

    Author Comment

    I have no experience in automating Acrobat, but I have done extensive automation in excel with interfaces to SQL, SAP, NAV, etc.
    LVL 39

    Author Comment

    The only step that you cannot automate is to save the file as a reader enabled PDF (which would enable somebody with just Reader to fill in the form and save it). This step needs to be done manually

    Would that be manageable through some sort of sendkeys automation? Are there enough key shortcuts to allow for that?

    LVL 44

    Assisted Solution

    by:Karl Heinz Kremer
    If you feel comfortable enough in Excel, I would say download the SDK and play around with it. You can find it here:

    Regarding the sendkeys suggestion - it may be possible. Take  a look at how you would do it manually, and see if you can automate that:
    Alt-F <-to open the File menu
    a  <- to select the "Save As" menu
    x <- to select "Reader Extended PDF"
    f <- to select the correct menu item
    <return> <- get rid of the popup dialog
    here you have to enter the filename - don't know if that can be automated via sendkeys
    LVL 39

    Author Closing Comment

    Thanks for your input. I'll download adobe x pro, get to work seeing what it can do, and come back to complain if I don't get it to work the way you say it would ;-)

    Funny aside, I stumbled on your blog post earlier this week when I tried to automate data retrieval from a pdf, only to release that I didn't have the right license.

    Thanks again,


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