University of Oregon

Concatenate fields in a Fillable form

Recently someone referenced an old blog post: use data from one field to populate other fields in an acrobat fill-in forms and asked me how to concatenate multiple field values into one.

So I put together a sample pdf.


Create an interactive pdf with expanding text-fields from scratch

I posted about Making text fields grow to accommodate text last month and here in the office we’ve found that it would be nice to have the process documented step by step.

Posted the first expandable field interactive pdf

I worked with Judy today and we posted our first interactive pdf with expandable fields that expand to fit the text.
The first one is a simple one: Performance Improvement Plan Worksheet.
It has been enabled for Acrobat Reader so users can save their content but in testing this I noticed the Apple’s Preview application can’t load the document. I’m guessing it isn’t programmed to understand dynamic pdf’s, But even though Preview is the default PDF viewer, Acrobat Reader is free and works great!

PDF: making text fields grow to accommodate text

  • Note: 2-11-15 I updated this post today, noting an important difference between the 2 samples.
  • Note: 5-5-14 I updated this document today, adding another sample below.
  • Note: 1-25-11 I updated this document today, adding another quote from the original article and a quote about saving as a dynamic PDF.

Creating a dynamically expanding pdf is something that I’ve tried several times over the last two years with no success until now.
Google results are littered with the sad stories of others attempting this and being shut dow n.
I even contacted the instructor of the advanced Acrobat Pro/Live Cycle Designer course, to no avail.

The goal is to create a form that includes expandable text areas and when the they expand the rest of the content adjusts to accommodate them. Ideally these fields would even allow content to break across pages.

Along the way I would frequently find encouraging check boxes or form properties like “expand vertically” or “dynamic” vs. static pdf; nothing quite worked.
The check the box to allow text to vertically expand by itself is great, unless you want to print the form… the content that goes past the text box, is hidden and a plus sign denotes that something is there… Pretty much useless…

Last month I found an article by Stefan Cameron ( that described some script that allowed fields to grow horizontally to a max width. It seemed reasonable enough and I was impressed, but when I tried to apply the code to a vertical growth it merely expanded over the top of the content below it.
At that point I started creating code that capture the position and height of the previous element and move everything down the page when ever a text field expanded. That code didn’t go anywhere fast and it seemed like it was going to be a nightmare to find all the necessary functions and tags to achieve it.
I’m glad I abandoned that project.
Adobe provides examples of inserting new fields in documents and that the adjacent content in those documents moved out of the way as the fields were inserted. So I knew there was an internal function that allowed for some document flow, but what was it?
This week I was inclined to try again and upon revisiting Stefan Cameron’s site I found something that caught my eye: flowable layout. It seemed possible that we could achieve our goal.

Dynamically retrieve a protected pdf

My goal is to present the viewer with the latest course catalog pdf from our eLearning system.

Users can already log in and search for courses or drill down to a course and it’s details but there’s no overview readily available.

Administrators can open the latest course catalog in the client community.

Since we subscribe to all the courses I feel comfortable posting that catalog for our users.

But I don’t feel comfortable doing that by hand.

Enter php’s cURL.

  1. Open the page and determine the file to be downloaded.
  2. Download the file
  3. set the mimetype and return the file to the user

Simple right? Yes indeed, once you have your tools in order.

Print to PDF

Here’s the PDF printer that I use when I’m on PC: PDF Creator Version .96. It’s open source and let’s you combine multiple documents into pdf’s as well. (more…)