Placing a Dynamic PDF417, QR or Data Matrix Barcode on a PDF form?

I read posts on the LiveCycle and Acrobat forums, and one of the more common issues is “how can I print dynamic 2D barcoded forms with Adobe Reader.” The frustration of people that post this question is palpable: you can feel that they have torn out their hair trying to get this to work, given up in frustration and done the forum post as their final hope. One of these appeared last week on the Designer forum; it prompted me to write these blogs rather than a one-off answer. I’ve posted answers to many of these questions, but the time has come to address these issues in a set of blog posts so that they are available long-term, and hopefully before people become frustrated.

The ability to have barcodes appear on and dynamically change in the printed form output was added in Acrobat 6, then embellished in Acrobat 8. Since that time,  people have been simultaneously enthralled with the technology and confused by the implementation. There is something magical about waving a scanner at a page and then getting 100% reliable data directly input into a system.

I’m starting a set of blog posts on the topic of dynamic 2D barcodes in PDF… how to design, fill and print, and then decode and integrate them into your business processes. The goal is to make this technology accessible to mainstream form designers as well as their document processing workflow coworkers .This should prevent the frustration as people try to learn Adobe’s technology from a historical perspective and end up pulling their hair out. The first three topics will be (I’ll be updating this with links as the content grows)

  1. A general overview and description of usage scenarios supported today without special products or J2EE application servers. It does require Adobe’s Reader on Windows or the Mac, though.
  2. A market overview of libraries to decode 2D barcodes available for developers.
  3. How I test barcodes with my smartphone.

I will find other content and experts for posts as items come up by request.

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6 thoughts on “Placing a Dynamic PDF417, QR or Data Matrix Barcode on a PDF form?”

  1. This is a spectacular feature of Acrobat. The licensing for the reader extensions is a bit more difficult to understand.
    One issue I encountered is the translation of an @ symbol in the PDF417 to a > character.

    1. This feature has always been a hit, but is not well understood. The licensing is relatively clear. All of the barcode functionality works fine if you’re in full Acrobat. There are no licensing restrictions there. If you want to deploy forms that will print barcodes based on the data entered in the form, your form needs to have been reader-extended by a LiveCycle server of the Adobe PDF Java Tooklit with Reader Extensions; it can’t be reader-extended by Acrobat Pro, as Acrobat does not have this reader-extensions right (see my past blog on reader extensions (you want right 9, barcode plaintext, in the table near the article’s end).
      Also, based on your comment, I have also cleaned up some ambiguities in scenario 2 of this blog post barcoded forms.
      I’ll test the character translation. That’s a problem I’ve not heard of, but I will test and report it.

  2. I just tested the full ASCII set 32-126 in an acroform with PDF417 and the “@” character came through unblemished. Is that what you’re running, or is it something different, such as an XFA form?

  3. My issue is that the pdf417 string sees ‘{‘ but returns ‘}’ and vise versa. This was on two different barcode scanners. Very hard to notice. Did you test this character?

  4. We are generating barcode and convert it into pdf using Crystal Report for .NET Framework 2.0.
    The pdf is opened with Adobe reader XI / FoxitReader 4.3.1. And it is printed with Avery Dennison AP 5.4 300DPI.
    When the pdf is printed with Adobe reader XI, the barcode cannot be read with barcode reader, but when it is printed with FoxitReader 4.3.1, barcode can be read with barcode reader.
    I’ve compared the two printed barcodes and found Adobe printed the lines thicker and the characters wider. Thus, two lines sticked together and become 1 line. As result, it cannot be recognized by barcode reader.
    Could you explain why did this occur and how can I fix it in Adobe? Are there any settings I can change to solve it?
    decode data matrix barcode in .net

    1. Without examining the problem pdf in person, I can’t really begin to speculate about what could be causing the problem. but you might want to look into possibly tweaking how you generate the barcode and convert it using Crystal reports. Because while you might be able to fiddle with Acrobat’s preferences or print settings to make this problem go away on your computer, you can’t count on other people viewing this PDF to do the same on their end.
      Can you send us this PDF to examine?

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