A shout-out to Adobe

I had a couple of additional comments from Adobe staff on the last blog post about the fun with Adobe Reader, etc.

On the borderline humorous note – I still think “now you see it, now you don’t” deserves some dance-beat slap-chop action.

My core point with the original post wasn’t supposed to be complaining about Adobe. Although, I ended up doing that. The core point that I originally set out to make is that there’s a lot of moving parts in these pieces of software. Problems manifest themselves in unexpected ways. And it’s frustrating all the way around – from the developers that write this stuff, to folks like me that have a fairly long history using tools like these, and doing my own development, to peers that are still supporting a user base that uses these tools. This time just happened to be a pretty dramatic visual indicator that was fun to poke fun at.

On the serious note, while the problem manifests itself within Acrobat and Adobe Reader – I think it’s safe to say that this is an Apple problem, not an Adobe problem. Maybe underneath there’s some missed email or missed technical meeting, or missed communication, or whatever that excuses what is most likely an incomplete Apple implementation, or maybe not – Apple got to the point it was “good enough for them” and shipped. I say this both from the comments from the John and Leonard, combined with being a long time OS X user, and I know how this goes.

To recount and add a better problem description (as John was right to point out : “…descriptions of things that were done can sometimes obscure the question.” ). I’m going to totally put words in John’s mouth and say my original problem description sucked. (In slight defense, I wasn’t reporting a problem, just the manifestation, but that’s not really germane).

The PDF file with the interactive forms, from what I can tell from the properties, was originally produced in Adobe LifeCycle Designer 8.0 (which btw, I had never really heard of, I don’t run in the Adobe Enterprise software circles anymore, if I ever did). The file I received was likely “saved as” from Apple Preview. (The document properties show the PDF Producer as Mac OS 10.5.7 Quartz PDFContext). I’m still not real sure which of the modified options impacts the error message that I’ll need Acrobat (or Pro/Extended) to save the form with the fields filled in – but the save from Preview certainly impacts the original document properties on the PDF file. Going and finding an original, that wasn’t “saved as” from Preview and opening it in Reader doesn’t give an error that I can’t save the PDF with the forms filled in.

Original properties: Original PDF properties

Modifed properties: Modified PDF Properties from Preview

(p.s. Adobe – one nitpick – I don’t know how you coded that dialog box, but screen capturing that was a harder than it should have been, It was modal over every Reader window, and SnapzPro couldn’t get a handle on the window to just capture the dialog itself).

I’m going to completely accept Leonard’s comment as the basis for the “now you see it, now you don’t” error.

The bottom line seems to be this: If you expect in your organization to be able to produce, fill in, save, and roundtrip PDF files with interactive forms? Do not use Apple’s Preview application.

I really appreciate the Adobe staff for taking the time to comment on these posts. I know that getting the flack for what is most likely Somebody Else’s Problem here is frustrating. And I probably shouldn’t have reporting anything without really digging into the problem (again, I didn’t really care about the problem in and of itself).

Your comments say a lot about you, and what Adobe is encouraging here, and it makes advocates out of the rest of us for your process and your products. I certainly wanted to highlight that and set the record straight from my end.

Adobe, I love you and all, but reader not so much

An Adobe support rep commented on the last post about the fun with fillable PDFs

You get mad props for commenting really, that’s awesome. While I think it’s a bit of an excuse (hey, I’ve used it, been there done that) I totally grok the incompatibilities between the interpretations of the PDF standard.

Just for kicks, I even downloaded the 8.6MB PDF file and went to go look at the section on forms just to see how onerous it was (section 12.7 it looks like). I’m totally glad I don’t have to program reference implementations of that. But I think people that programmed postscript are like those people that understand sendmail configuration files – that is, not like the rest of us mere mortals.

Look, I don’t mind PDF files. It’s better than dealing with word docs – particularly for read-only conent. And I like Photoshop, and I adore Adobe Lightroom. But just a minor recommendation – pimping Adobe Reader as a solution? you just don’t really want to go there. I mean have you used Adobe Reader on a Macintosh recently? Really?

But hey, since you went there. Why not? I have always avoided installing Adobe Reader on the Macintosh at home, because it’s historically been slow, bloated, and frustrating. But it’s been awhile, so why not try it again? Maybe it will solve things.

Surprisingly 9.1.0 is a bit snappier. That was pleasant. But I tried importing that file I was working on… and well, the experience was no better than using the full CS3 Acrobat:

Maybe this is all Preview’s fault. You know, you and Apple, you don’t always see eye to eye, what if I just use Reader end-to-end?

Oh wait, I get this:

Adobe Reader Warning

Well, at least that dialog is not 751 pixels wide like this one:

Cannot Save From

So preview lets me save the file with the text in it, but Reader doesn’t, Reader 9.1 and Acrobat CS3 both have this disappearing form text problem, maybe it’s the source PDF, maybe it’s whatever.

I do this like once a millenium, so it’s not like I care. I think it’s mostly funny. And and bit of Fail! And borderline frustrating when I support others that blame my systems for things like this 🙂

p.s. Ben’s right, this totally needs a little hip-hop treatment.

Let me tell you how I hate technology today

So it’s 2-thousand-freaking-9 right?

So I have to fill out a position description / banding form for the University. As a nice change from the last time I did this a few years back, it’s a “form fillable” PDF file. (or whatever the term is, it’s not like I do much desktop stuff anymore.). Instead of a word doc, thank goodness.

I’m thinking “sweet”. I know at one time, form-fillable PDF’s couldn’t be saved with the text in them from Preview on the Macintosh, but I know they can now. Awesome.

So I crank up Preview, fill my text in, and get to a signature line. Doh! The last thing I want to do is print it out, sign it, scan it, convert back to PDF. Sigh. I can just scan my signature, I need that anyway. Put the scanned image into Preview right?


Well, I own a copy of the CS3 suite, so I have a somewhat backdated version of Acrobat, but I figure “hey, I’ll open that filled in PDF in Acrobat, and just paste my signature in. I bet Acrobat will allow it”

And yes, Acrobat does. Cool.

Only, all… my…. text…. is…. gone. Damnit!

But no it’s not, if I click in the field – it’s there! WHAT?!?

Sigh. So I saved it with the image, opened in preview, text was there, emailed it to my colleague, text wasn’t there. SIGH. I then opened in Preview, “Printed to PDF” to get something that can be sent back over.

In retrospect, I should have just faxed it to myself, signed it, scanned it, and faxed it back to myself. The RIAA’s aversion to digital media and workflow has NOTHING on the enterprise apps from Adobe, et. al.


Catch a truman by the…

It starts with a normal chase:

Winston closes in:

They head into the turn:

Truman stretches for all he’s worth:

Truman gets a little wide-eyed, problem in the rear suspension?

And finally the camera realizes why:

Let’s get a close up on that shall we?

Yep, a little problem in the tail there.

New! Improved! Now with even more questionable, but great taste

Broken Intarnets

So, after a few-years-flirtation with fame and fortune and plastic dinosaurs running their own domain has come to an end, and the dinosaurs are back here, to their original home on the web – because, well, they brighten up the place. And who wants to type “conversationswithplasticdinosaurs.com” anyway? (ok, so I know you don’t type it, but I did on the iPhone once, and that was quite enough).

So – update your links to all your favorites and remember:

Parody, satire, and humor are core values to the human experience.

And so are dinosaurs.

And plastic.

(man, this intro so needs theme music)

Actually the dinosaurs exist to give me an outlet to be marginally funny.

The key word is “marginally”

A big thanks to Ben MacNeill for the initial gift of the dinosaurs. And for James for making me register the domain name before he did and became a domain squatter and making me go to some group of lawyers with legal pads and labeled folders to take it back from him. [Ed. – yes I copied this from the old site. I said “marginally funny”]

And thanks to organizations everywhere (including mine) and all the content running over the series of tubes we call the Internet for the ongoing inspiration. You guys rock!

(Hello Wisconsin!)

(whoops, wrong ending credits – we’ll get that corrected shortly)

Candid snapshot

I’m trying to slowly work through several years of photos and get them uploaded – when I came across this candid snapshot of my laptop relaxing in the chair a few years back.

Interesting reading – who knew that’s what Macs do when relaxing?