Using "raw" FDF to insert an image with pdftk.exe

Posted on 2014-02-28
Last Modified: 2014-03-13
We are currently using "raw" fdf, such as the following:

<< /V (51)/T (field_146) >>
<< /V (STRING)/T (field_148) >>
<< /V (7353)/T (field_149) >>
<< /V (HELLO WORLD)/T (field_150) >> 

to populate form fields on a PDF form, in conjunction with the pdftk.exe  executable. We
also have a certain image (which will change in nature for each separate PDF generated) that needs to be inserted as well.

I was trying to insert it as the image on a button (AP, or APRef, was it????) but evidently that isn't going to work unless I make it some kind of "template", which I hope I can do with this raw FDF and pdftk.exe.

Any ideas? I would think this should be simple and straightforward enough to do with the raw FDF, especially since the image is in a ready PDF file itself.
Question by:jristov
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LVL 54

Assisted Solution

by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE 2015&2016
Joe Winograd, EE MVE 2015&2016 earned 500 total points
ID: 39895682
I've used PDFtk Server (which is the PDFtk.exe command line executable) in many programs and it has always worked well, although I've never used any of its FDF features. My first thought would be to use the <generate_fdf> operation, which is documented here:

If you have tried this and it doesn't work, how is it failing? Regards, Joe

Author Comment

ID: 39896271
Well, I tried the generate_fdf option to produce an fdf from the PDF file containing the image, and got only an empty output, as follows:

1 0 obj
/Fields []

/Root 1 0 R

I'll go ahead and try it a few other ways and report what I find.....
LVL 54

Expert Comment

by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE 2015&2016
ID: 39897394
Sounds good. In the meantime, I'll try some experiments on my end.
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Author Comment

ID: 39910260
OK, some success: using the flatten option with pdftk, we were able to get the image and the text fields onto the form at the same time like we needed. Since you pointed me in the right direction, I'm willing to give at least some points; however, we also have a new difficulty.

We would really like the finished PDF to have a button on it that can be clicked to Activate printing, but as you know after you've <Flattened> the form fields in the final product they're no longer interactive. Know of any way we can get around this?
LVL 54

Accepted Solution

Joe Winograd, EE MVE 2015&2016 earned 500 total points
ID: 39910837
It's no problem to add a button to a flattened PDF. I just tested it in Acrobat X Standard...created a button on an image-only PDF and set the button's action to File>Print — worked perfectly! Are you OK with using Acrobat to do it? If not, I'm sure there are other products besides Acrobat that can do it, but PDFtk cannot, AFAIK. Regards, Joe

Author Comment

ID: 39910899
Unfortunately I don't mean using Acrobat Professional to manually put on a button. It must be a part of the PDF that has already combined the image and the regular PDF, after flattening, and must happen in some automatic way similar to pdftk.

Though, I haven't tested every possibility yet, I admit.
LVL 54

Expert Comment

by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE 2015&2016
ID: 39915024
I know of two libraries that can do this — ByteScout and iTextSharp. I've used the ByteScout library to extract text from PDFs and it works well, but I've never used it to add a push button into a PDF form. However, based on my experience with the text extractor, I think it's worth a try:

For the iTextSharp libarary, here's a link that discusses it:

Note the reference to Chapter 8 of the manual:

I haven't used iTextSharp, but it's a well-regarded PDF library that is very popular with programmers. Regards, Joe

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