As of 2021 the Acrobat Reader 9 (from 2013) is still the best way to open “interactive” PDF documents on Linux! By “interactive” I mean a PDF document with a form fields to fill and some extra logic triggered by filling these fields. To be more specific, I’m referring to PDF files using “AcroForm” extention. In such file the text “AcroForm” can be found somewhere inside when opening as a plain text:
<</AcroForm 57 0 R/Extensions<</ADBE<</BaseVersion/1.7/ExtensionLevel 3>>>>/Metadata 33 0 R/Names 58 0 R/NeedsRendering true/Pages 47 0 R/Type/Catalog>>
You can read about “AcroForm” in Wikipedia or here. What is important is that these “interactive” PDFs are not XFA PDFs. This was really confusing for me, as many claim PDFs with a form to fill are certainly XFA so they should be handled by some Linux PDF readers like Evince or that LibreOffice Draw can open it as a vector graphic. And this doesn’t work at all.
It looks that “AcroForm” thing is not a common standard, but something made exlusively by Adobe company. And this perfectly explains why only a PDF reader from Adobe can handle them without problems.
The problem is sometimes one has to open and fill a form provided as “interactive” PDF (“AcroForm”). The most obvious thing to do is to follow a general advice often given by sites providing such PDF file: “use a free Adobe Reader software”. So one goes to Adobe web page and looks for Adobe Reader. The first move is to try latest version available…
The latest one is called “Adobe Reader DC” and there are rumours that it can be installed on Linux using Wine or PlayOnLinux. Unfortunately this didn’t work for me at all.
The problem here is that Adobe dropped Linux support for its Adobe Reader program just after version 9.
Use Adobe Reader 9. Use the latest available in the 9.x serie which is 9.5.5. The old way of installing this on Linux doesn’t work on Linux Mint 20.1 – so don’t try the approach I’ve presented in my post “How to install Adobe Reader 9 on Ubuntu 14.04“. Now the procedure is:
- Go to Adobe FTP server ftp://ftp.adobe.com/pub/adobe/reader/unix/9.x/9.5.5/enu/ and download the DEB file (AdbeRdr9.5.5-1_i386linux_enu.deb).
- Install some packages by this command (as given by this how-to, maybe not needed as GDebi installer can resolve dependencies?):
sudo apt install gdebi-core libxml2:i386 libcanberra-gtk-module:i386 gtk2-engines-murrine:i386 libatk-adaptor:i386
- Then install the DEB file – right-click on the file and select the first menu-item (something like “install with GDebi…”).