Why Master PDF Editor doesn’t fully support XFA-based PDF forms?

XFA (XML Forms Architecture) or XFA Forms are a technology developed by Adobe Systems. XFA provides dedicated templates within fillable fields, which determine the form’s appearance and layout. Usually, XFA documents are created in Adobe LiveCycle.

In Master PDF Editor, you can view XFA-based PDF forms, but they cannot be edited.

The application also allows converting static XFA to a normal PDF. To do it, select Tools > Settings > Forms and enable Convert static XFA into normal PDF when opening file.

To make sure that this is an XFA document if it is not editable, follow the steps below:

  • Open Document Properties. In most cases, you will see LiveCycle Designer in the Producer field.
  • In the text editor, open the document and search for XFA. You will most likely be able to find XML structures.

XFA is an external specification where the appearance of a form is determined by the XFA template itself. It has never been publicly released, limiting its support primarily to Adobe Software. This restricts its compatibility with other platforms or tools.

There is a practical need for PDF editors to be able to view XFA forms since they can be integrated with such systems as SAP to manage various document-related processes such as creating purchase orders, invoices, and HR forms. Besides, the governments of Europe and North America provide documents to be filled in such a format.

XFA forms are usually saved internally in PDF files or as XDP (XML Data Package). The parts of an XFA form are comprised of a set of XML documents. The template is the most vital document since it includes the appearance of XFA fields such as page dimensions and buttons. In other words, it provides the structure and style of the forms. The datasets play an important role in the fields within the template.

AcroForms are an original technology used for creating interactive page-oriented PDF forms. It allows adding text fields, checkboxes, radio buttons, and dropdown menus to PDF documents, facilitating user interaction and data collection. Acroforms receive data in FDF (Forms Data Format) or XFDF (XML Forms Data Format). PDF 1.7 supports two different methods for integrating PDF data and forms:

  • AcroForms (also known as Acrobat forms, traditional PDF forms), introduced and included in the PDF 1.2 format specification.
  • Adobe XML Forms Architecture (XFA) forms, introduced in the PDF 1.5 format specification as an optional feature (the XFA specification is not included in the PDF specification, it is only referenced).

Difference between AcroForms and XFA:

  • AcroForms represent a legacy form technology, often referred to as traditional PDF forms (1998). XFA forms are web pages that can be saved as PDF documents (2003).
  • XFA is similar to interactive PDF forms introduced in PDF 1.2 which is also known as AcroForms.

Key characteristics of XFA forms:

  • XFA forms are based on XML and use a separate XML structure to define the form elements and their behaviors.
  • XFA decouples data from the template, enhancing data structure flexibility and enabling separate form data packaging.
  • XFA forms can include dynamic content and complex layouts.
  • XFA supports web interactions, such as HTTP and web services (WSDL). This allows creating, manipulating, and transmitting data between the client and the server.
  • XFA works with other XML structures.