In this chapter…

…we introduce the concepts necessary to understand and use FDFMerge Pro.

What is FDFMerge Pro?

FDFMerge Pro is a server-based, command-line tool that merges form data with PDF form templates to automatically create filled-out forms. FDFMerge Pro takes form data in Forms Data Format (FDF) files. The form data can be stored in a database, and written to FDF files programmatically. Templates allow FDFMerge Pro to spawn as many pages as needed to accommodate the data.

If you are running on Windows or Mac OS X, and are not familiar with the command line, refer to Command Line Introduction for more information.

PDF forms and FDF files

PDF forms

PDF forms are interactive documents you create by inserting form fields into existing PDF documents. FDFMerge Pro supports the following form fields:

  • Buttons
  • Radio buttons
  • Check boxes
  • Combo boxes
  • Text boxes
  • List boxes
  • Multi-line text boxes

Note: FDFMerge Pro does not support signing Signature fields. Signature fields can be signed using Appligent’s SecurSign application.

FDFMerge Pro identifies the form fields by the name you assign to each form field. Refer to Adobe’s online help for information about creating and using forms.

Form Data Format (FDF) files

A Form Data Format (FDF) file is a text file that contains data for PDF Forms, and instructions on which templates to use. Data is associated with each form field by the name you assigned.

An FDF file or set of files may be generated from information contained in a database or gathered from data submitted on a web page. This kind of conversion requires user-written scripts (for example, using Perl, Visual Basic, or JavaScript), to transform the raw data into one or more FDF files. We recommend using Adobe’s FDF Toolkit to work with FDF.

PDF Templates

A PDF template is a page in a PDF file that you have assigned a name. Since we’re working with forms, the template needs form fields to accept the form data. The template can also have graphics, logos, and any boiler plate text you need.

You can create a template without form fields, such as a cover page. It can be included in the final document, but will not accept any data.

For example, you could create a template for a tax form, or your corporate expense reports. To create a template:

  1. Scan or create the form and convert it to PDF.
  2. Place form fields on the form. Make sure to name them appropriately.
  3. Assign a name to the page. One PDF file can contain many templates.
  4. Save the PDF file.

Search Acrobat’s online help for “Templates” for more information and detailed instructions.

Merging data and forms with FDFMerge Pro

FDFMerge Pro reliably combines form data with PDF templates to create new, filled out forms, in a high volume production environment. The figure below shows a typical FDFMerge Pro workflow. In it, your script would:

  1. Read the raw data from a database (or other source).
  2. Transform the data to FDF. You can use Adobe’s FDF Toolkit for this.
  3. Call FDFMerge Pro, supplying the generated FDF file.

FDFMerge Pro will then:

  • Gather the templates specified in the FDF file.
  • Merge the form data with the templates to create a new form.
  • Add as many pages as needed to accommodate all the data.

FDFMerge Pro flow diagram

In this guide

The remainder of this guide covers:

  • General Options describes the general command-line options available to FDFMerge Pro.
  • Form Data Files is an in-depth look at FDF data files and PDF templates.
  • Usage provides examples of running FDFMerge Pro.
  • Applying Standard Security describes how to apply standard Adobe Acrobat security to the output file.
  • Command Line Introduction provides a brief introduction to using command-line software on Windows and Mac OS X operating systems.
  • Troubleshooting is a list of common errors and solutions to check if you are having problems with FDFMerge Pro.
  • Support tells you how to contact us in case you have any problems working with our software.