An exit-strategy for PDF formsMay 19, 2016
Google recently decided to phase out support for NPAPI-plugins in Chrome. This has some serious consequences if your organization still depends on fillable PDF forms. I’ll explain why in this blog post!
NPAPI is a cross-platform plugin architecture for web browsers. It was introduced in 1995 with the Netscape Navigator 2.0-browser and the following years all major browsers adopted the standard.
For a long time, proprietary plugins such as Flash and Silverlight enabled web developers to unleash their creativity and to build things on the web that were previously impossible. The last few years, the popularity of these plugins faded away in favor of open standards like HTML5.
Another interesting use-case for NPAPI-plugins are fillable PDF forms. Many governments and organizations still use interactive PDF forms that depend on the Adobe Reader-plugin to function correctly.
Because of the deprecation of NPAPI in Chrome, these interactive forms will not open anymore in Google’s browser.
And Google is not the only vendor that discontinued plugin-support. Microsoft also announced to drop NPAPI-support in Windows 10 for its new web browser, Microsoft Edge.
Sure, these web browsers still have a built-in, lightweight PDF-reader. But they cannot handle the XFA-structure that is used in interactive PDF forms, and they lack other important enterprise features such as support for digital signatures and DRM.
It's also important to realize that your forms don’t work on a mobile device. Adobe stated in a blog post that the mobile versions of Reader do not support interactive PDF forms, and they will not provide this support in the future.
Users that try to open your PDF form on a mobile device, will see nothing more than a cryptic error message:
How does this affect your users?
If you are a creator of PDF content and you use fillable PDF forms in your organization, then you need to know that a growing percentage of your user-base will not be able to open your forms in the browser.
Currently only users of Microsoft's and Google's latest web browsers are affected. But it's very likely that other browser vendors will follow the same path.
PDF forms served us very well, but the writing is already on the wall... It’s time to move PDF forms away from the front-end.
As an alternative we suggest to use modern and open standards such as HTML5 and XFORMS as the foundation for your on-line forms.
With Scriptura Engage Electronic Forms, we enable form-developers to build forms that work great on all major browsers. On mobile, and the desktop! Drop us a line if you want more information.