Preview/Adobe reader PDF incompatibilities

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by macstatic, Sep 16, 2014.

  1. macstatic macrumors 65816


    Oct 21, 2005
    PC-using friends keep complaining that I'm sending empty PDF documents when I've in fact filled in and saved a PDF form using OSX's own Preview. Checking with Adobe Reader on the Mac platform I can indeed confirm this, so is this a bug which can be fixed, or has it already been fixed with more current versions (I'm still using OSX 10.6.8. Snow Leopard)?

    I believe I did find a workaround though: Instead of sending the filled-in form, which still in Preview, select "Print", than "Print to PDF" which I believe should create a new PDF file as you see it, but it won't be editable any longer.
  2. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    I'd bet its because you're using such an old version of OS X/Preview that its doing something that the newer pc versions of acrobat are having issues with.
  3. MisterMe macrumors G4


    Jul 17, 2002
    PDF is a "standard" that each developer implements differently. If PDF fillable forms are important to you, then you should use Acrobat Pro. Period.
  4. onekerato macrumors regular

    Jun 6, 2011
    PDF is not a single standard but has several versions. For example, Preview on Mac OS X supports up to version 1.4 of the PDF specification (

    Forms, embedded multimedia etc are features added in PDF version 1.5 and later. That is why Preview doesn't save filled form PDFs correctly (since it downgrades to version 1.4). When you print to PDF on Mac OS X, it always creates a new PDF of version 1.4 (even on OS X Mavericks.)

    BTW, PDF version 1.5 was released 10 years ago, so clearly Apple has no intention to support new PDF features in Preview. However, there are many 3rd party apps to work with PDF forms - search for "PDF form" on the Mac App Store.
  5. campyguy macrumors 68040

    Mar 21, 2014
    Portland / Seattle
    Not getting into the types of PDF files, Preview will not work for what you're looking to do. The "forms" reside on a data layer - PDF files are layered in the vein of Photoshop/Illustrator. By "saving" you're essentially "flattening" the PDF into a image layer within a PDF file. The age of your OS and its variations Preview will not change this.

    If you're looking to exchange files with form data you will need to invest in an application that writes to that data layer. Two options are Acrobat Pro - which I use, and it's not cheap, or PDFPenPro, which I have owned and it's far cheaper. Since you're on Snow Leopard you may not get all of the latest features - 10.7/8/9 offer more "hooks" into the OS than 10.6 did, but you should be able to get editable forms on both ends (creator/client, not Mac/Windows).

    Don't blame Apple - we get Preview at no cost, but it's a glorified "Reader" app that doesn't have a lot of resource overhead that Reader has. Reader is more capable than Preview, but neither gets the ability to create forms - you have to pay for that ability. Smile Software has a standard and pro version - for forms you'll need the Pro version. It's on the App Store, but you don't have access to the App Store...
  6. macstatic thread starter macrumors 65816


    Oct 21, 2005
    But I do have access to the app store in 10.6.8! The fact that many apps demand a minimum of 10.7, 10.8 or 10.9 on the other hand is a different matter.
    Anyway I'm planning to upgrade to Mavericks once I've got some issues ironed out.

    Bummer :confused:
    It's a pity the ability to enter data into web-forms isn't just blocked then. Most non-computer savvy people wouldn't know that a web form they've filled in on the Mac (using Preview) won't be readable on a PC.
    At least I now know why.

    Do I really need Acrobat Pro (and not just Adobe Reader)? I thought Reader would allow for filling-in PDF forms, but not creating them.
    PDFpen/PDFpen Pro seem like nice apps, but like Acrobat Pro a little pricey for this one little problem (Preview is great for just about everything, but I find it misleading and irritating that they allow for filling in forms when there's a "but... they won't be readble by everybody".

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