Bradley M. Kuhn

PDF not so P

Bradley M. Kuhn at

On a Conservancy bookkeeping matter, someone who uses an Apple laptop with proprietary OSX (presumably) is trying to send me a filled-in PDF form. I get these errors from poppler/evince:

 ** (evince:9370): WARNING **: Unimplemented annotation: POPPLER_ANNOT_FREE_TEXT, please post a bug report in Evince bugzilla ( with a testcase.

 ** (evince:9370): WARNING **: Unimplemented annotation: POPPLER_ANNOT_FREE_TEXT, please post a bug report in Evince bugzilla ( with a testcase.
 Error: Unknown font in field's DA string

If I highlight the box to fill it myself, I see that he's typed in text, but I can't even replace the text myself.

The fillable PDF works fine if you start from evince to start.

I'm trying to figure out who to blame here. I suspect this is an issue with embedded fonts vs. non-embedded fonts, but I even tried loading it in inkscape asking it to replace any unknown fonts with system defaults, and that didn't help.

I ran out of time. The guy is printing and sending me a paper copy.

When this happens, it's hard not to feel like my software is to blame, because it's not the dominate one. It's just not fair to Free Software that we should have to feel it's our fault that our software doesn't DTRT. I think this feeds into our tendency to be captious about proprietary software: to prove we weren't wrong in the first place.

Dylan, sazius, Charles Roth, aether and 1 others likes this.

The state of filling in forms with free software is sadly far behind proprietary alternatives. I usually run a freeware PDF software in Wine to fill in government forms. Evince works more often than it used to, but still not every time.

It would be great if my government would produce and verify their PDFs with free software, but awareness is going to take time.

Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) at 2014-04-09T15:39:15Z

I know there are a lot of features implemented by proprietary PDF programs which are not in the PDF spec. Maybe an instance of that?

Nathan Smith at 2014-04-09T16:24:54Z

I would say it is probably missing the fonts. I worked in print for awhile and we always had trouble unless everything was rendered as outlines -and PDFs rarely are (especially the form-filling variety). Chances are it is referencing an MS font... I installed the MS fonts recently and it made so many sites look terrible. Never realized how attached to DejaVu Sans I have become!

Ryan Weal at 2014-04-09T17:24:02Z, Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) likes this.

Eh, era of filing bugs (and unfortunately not tax forms) like fortunately ended with the Czech Ministry of Finance started using HTML forms :)

mcepl at 2014-04-10T07:07:42Z