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Completing an AcroForm


Use the pdf endpoint to fill-out a pre-existing PDF form with values and save the resulting PDF.


The DynamicPDF Cloud API provides an easy way you can complete pre-existing PDF forms. In this tutorial, you complete a PDF Acroform using the pdf endpoint. Before beginning, we assume you already have a rudimentary understanding of Adobe forms. To create a form, you would use a product such as Adobe Acrobat Pro to create a PDF and add form fields that end users can then add values to and save as a completed form. But you can also complete a form programmatically.

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Adobe provides a good introduction to Acroforms (PDF forms basics).

In today's world, it seems nobody completes paper forms anymore. Instead, they download a PDF form and complete it in Adobe Acrobat and then save the completed form. However, organizations often automate completing a form programmatically rather than requiring a person to fill out the form manually. This tutorial uses the DynamicPDF Cloud API's pdf endpoint to fill out a PDF form. We first use the pdf endpoint directly as a POST request using cURL. We then use one of the DynamicPDF Cloud API's client libraries.

Adobe PDF Acroforms#

Let's demonstrate how to automate filling out an Acroform using the pdf endpoint. We show using the pdf endpoint to complete the first ten fields of the IRS W-9 (Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification) form - fw9AcroForm_18.pdf.

Required Resources#

To complete this tutorial, you must add the Fill an Acroform sample to your samples folder in your cloud storage space using the Resource Manager. After adding the sample resources, you should see a samples/fill-acro-form-pdf-endpoint folder containing the resources for this tutorial.

SampleSample FolderResources
Fill an Acroformsamples/fill-acro-form-pdf-endpointfw9AcroForm_18.pdf, instructions.json
  • From the Resource Manager, download fw9AcroForm_18.pdf and instructions-acroform.json to your local system; here we assume /temp/dynamicpdf-api-samples/fill-acro-form.
  • After downloading, delete instructions.json from your cloud storage space using the Resource Manager.
ResourceCloud/Local
fw9AcroForm_18.pdfcloud
instructions.jsonlocal
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See Sample Resources for instructions on adding sample resources.

Obtaining API Key#

This tutorial assumes a valid API key obtained from the DynamicPDF Cloud API's Environment Manager. Refer to the following for instructions on getting an API key.

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If you are not familiar with the Resource Manager or Apps and API Keys, refer to the following tutorial and relevant Users Guide pages.

W9 Form Example#

Let's review the form we wish to fill-out with values. The following is the W-9 tax form. It contains several fields that you can complete after opening the PDF which you can then save as a new, completed PDF.

Figure 1. IRS W9 form PDF.

In this tutorial we will use the following subset of fields to illustrate using the pdf endpoint to complete a W9 form. The fields we use are as follows.

topmostSubform[0].Page1[0].f1_1[0]topmostSubform[0].Page1[0].f1_2[0]topmostSubform[0].Page1[0].Address[0].f1_7[0]topmostSubform[0].Page1[0].Address[0].f1_7[0]topmostSubform[0].Page1[0].Address[0].f1_8[0]topmostSubform[0].Page1[0].f1_9[0]topmostSubform[0].Page1[0].f1_10[0]topmostSubform[0].Page1[0].EmployerID[0].f1_14[0]topmostSubform[0].Page1[0].EmployerID[0].f1_15[0]
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If you do not have access to a PDF's fields using Adobe Acrobat, note that you could get these fields using the pdf-info endpoint. See Extract PDF Metadata Using the pdf-info Endpoint.

Calling API Directly Using POST#

Completing a form and saving it as a new PDF requires using the pdf endpoint. The pdf endpoint uses an instructions JSON document you send to the endpoint. The endpoint then processes the instructions to create the resultant PDF. When you call the pdf endpoint directly, you must create an instructions document. When you use one of the DynamicPDF client libraries, then the client library hides the complexities of creating the instructions document from you.

Let's call the endpoint directly using an instructions document. But first, we examine the schema for creating an instructions document and then create the document.

Create JSON Instructions#

A JSON Instructions document tells the pdf endpoint how to create a PDF. To generate the JSON instructions, you need to know the task you wish to perform. Here, we want to fill out a PDF form, so we must know the field names.

  • Obtain the list of field names for the PDF form you wish to create.

After obtaining the field names, we create the JSON instructions. However, before we do, let's briefly examine the relevant portions of the schema used to construct the instructions document for this tutorial.

Review the JSON Schema#

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Refer to JSON Instructions Schema in the Users Guide for more details on the Instructions schema.

  • Notice a the schema's type property that takes a dlex, pdf, or image as an enumeration. Because we want to complete a PDF that is a form, we assign the type as pdf.
"type": "array","items": {    "type": "object",    "properties": {    "type": {        "type": "string",        "enum": [ "dlex", "pdf", "image", "multipageTiff" ]    },
  • Also notice the formFields array field used to specify each form field.
  "formFields": {    "type": "array",    "items": {      "type": "object",      "properties": {        "name": {          "type": "string"        },        "value": {          "type": "string"        },        "flatten": {          "type": "boolean"        },        "remove": {          "type": "boolean"        }      }    }  },

Filling out a form requires creating instructions containing the resource type (PDF) and its filename and the field names.

info

Note that using one of the DynamicPDF Cloud API's client libraries allows you to avoid creating an instructions document.

Create Instructions Document#

  • Create the following JSON instructions for filling out the form.
  • Add the reference to the schema, the author, and title as top-level fields.
  • Add an array named inputs that contains the input's type, resourceName, startPage, and pageCount.
  • Add another array named formFields and for each form field on the PDF, add an element with the field name and field value.
  • First specify the reference to the schema and then determine the metadata to capture.
  "$ref": "https://www.dynamicpdf.com/schemas/pdf-creator.instructions.scheme.json",  "author": "Andrew Cochran",  "title": "My PDF From REST API",
  • Next determine the inputs to the instructions. As we are filling out a single form, the inputs array consists of a single input specifying the type and resourceName.
  "inputs": [    {      "type": "pdf",      "resourceName": "samples/fill-acro-form-pdf-endpoint/fw9AcroForm_18.pdf",    }  ],
  • Add the form elements to the formFields array. The complete instructions document follows.
{  "$ref": "https://www.dynamicpdf.com/schemas/pdf-creator.instructions.scheme.json",  "author": "Andrew Cochran",  "title": "My PDF From REST API",  "inputs": [    {      "type": "pdf",      "resourceName": "samples/fill-acro-form-pdf-endpoint/fw9AcroForm_18.pdf",    }  ],  "formFields": [    {      "name": "topmostSubform[0].Page1[0].f1_1[0]",      "value": "Any Company, Inc."    },    {      "name": "topmostSubform[0].Page1[0].f1_2[0]",      "value": "Any Company"    },    {      "name": "topmostSubform[0].Page1[0].FederalClassification[0].c1_1[0]",      "value": "1"    },    {      "name": "topmostSubform[0].Page1[0].Address[0].f1_7[0]",      "value": "123 Main Street"    },    {      "name": "topmostSubform[0].Page1[0].Address[0].f1_8[0]",      "value": "Washington, DC  22222"    },    {      "name": "topmostSubform[0].Page1[0].f1_9[0]",      "value": "Any Requester"    },    {      "name": "topmostSubform[0].Page1[0].f1_10[0]",      "value": "17288825617"    },    {      "name": "topmostSubform[0].Page1[0].EmployerID[0].f1_14[0]",      "value": "52"    },    {      "name": "topmostSubform[0].Page1[0].EmployerID[0].f1_15[0]",      "value": "1234567"    }  ]}
  • If following along, and you wrote the instructions in a text editor, save the file as instructions.json.

cURL Command#

Now we use the instructions.json in our cURL command to call the pdf endpoint.

  • If you haven't already, then create the /temp/dynamicpdf-api-samples/fill-acro-form location on your local system that contains the JSON instructions document.
  • Ensure the instructions.json file is in /temp/dynamicpdf-api-samples/fill-acro-form.
  • Construct a cURL command that uses HTTP POST and specifies the pdf endpoint, the authorization header (the API key), and the JSON instructions document.
curl -X POST https://api.dynamicpdf.com/v1.0/pdf  -H "Authorization: Bearer DP.V9xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx"-F Instructions=@C:/temp/dynamicpdf-api-samples/fill-acro-form/instructions.json -o fill-acro-form-output.pdf
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Note that we do not specify the path to the fw9AcroForm_18.pdf document, as it resides on the cloud in your cloud storage space. Instead instructions.json contains all the information needed to process the PDF. However, you can also specify local resources. For an example demonstrating using a local resource, refer to how DocumentC.pdf is handled in the Merging PDFs tutorial.

  • Execute the command and the completed PDF is downloaded and saved.

Figure 2. The W9 form with the form fields completed.

Calling Endpoint Using Client Library#

To simplify your development, you can also use one of the DynamicPDF Cloud API client libraries. Use the client library of your choice to complete this tutorial section. Each client library tab contains tutorial steps particular to the selected language.

Complete Source#

Access the complete source for this project at one of the following GitHub projects.

LanguageGitHub Users Guide ProjectExample Class FileLocation/Package/Namespace
C#https://github.com/dynamicpdf-api/dotnet-client-examplesProgram.csnamespace CompletingAcroForm
Javahttps://github.com/dynamicpdf-api/java-client-examplesCompletingAcroForm.javacom.dynamicpdf.api.examples
Node.jshttps://github.com/dynamicpdf-api/nodejs-client-examplesCompletingAcroForm.jsnodejs-client-examples
PHPhttps://github.com/dynamicpdf-api/php-client-examplesCompletingAcroForm.phpphp-client-examples
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Click on the language tab of choice to view the tutorial steps for the particular language.


In all four languages, the steps were similar. First, we created a new instance of the Pdf class, which abstracts the pdf endpoint. This Pdf instance holds the merged PDF after processing. We then loaded the PDF into the Pdf instance using the AddPdf method. We then created eight FormField instances and, in the constructor, set the field name from the PDF form and the field's value. Next, we added the FormField instances to the Pdf instance's FormFields collection. And then called the Pdf instance endpoint and saved the results as a PDF on the local system.