Stefan Cameron on Forms
Building intelligent forms using Adobe LiveCycle Designer

'AcroForm Objects' Category Archive

Invalid Flashing Fields 2.0

A colleague of mine here at Adobe pointed-out today that the use of the AcroForm Document object’s getField method wasn’t necessary in the script I used for my original Invalid Flashing Fields sample.

There’s an alternative which uses xfa.form.resolveNode in the app.setInterval script. xfa.form.resolveNode takes a SOM Expression and returns a reference to an XFA node. What’s more is that this API call can be made from within the context of the AcroForm Scripting Object Model.

The app.setInterval script therefore changes from this:

moFlashTimerID = app.setInterval(
  "var f =  this.getField('" +
    GetAcroFormFieldName(oField) + "');  " +
  "if (color.equal(f.fillColor," +
    "{ f.fillColor = [" + moAcroFieldFillColor.toString() + "]; }" +
  "else" +
    "{ f.fillColor =; }",

to this:

moFlashTimerID = app.setInterval(
  "var f =  xfa.form.resolveNode('" +
    oField.somExpression + "');  " +
  "if (f.ui.oneOfChild.border.fill.color.value == '255,0,0')" +
    "{ f.ui.oneOfChild.border.fill.color.value = '232,232,232'; }" +
  "else" +
    "{ f.ui.oneOfChild.border.fill.color.value = '255,0,0'; }",

Also note the changes in the way the color values are compared and assigned (whereby the newer version uses more familiar XFA script rather than the AcroForm script from the first version).

Since the use of the AcroForm Scripting Object Model should always be secondary to using the XFA Scripting Object Model (because AcroForm objects are, after all, in a separate Object Model which may change separately from the XFA Scripting Object Model), I wanted to highlight this alternative which makes more extensive use of the XFA Scripting Object Model than the first version did.

Download Sample [pdf]

Minimum Requirements: Designer 7.1, Acrobat 7.0.5.

Posted by Stefan Cameron on August 15th, 2006
Filed under AcroForm Objects,Scripting,Tutorials

Tracking Mouse Clicks

I just recently received another comment from Zack. This time, he was wondering about how one would go about tracking mouse clicks on an image field.

I had never attempted to do that so I took it on as a challenge and thought I would share the results in this post.

I knew from the start that XFA alone wasn’t going to be able to handle this simply because (to my knowledge) it doesn’t provide any information as to the position of the mouse pointer when an event occurs. The most logical place I thought would’ve provided the information — the Event Pseudo Model (the xfa.event object available in all XFA events) — didn’t live up to my expectations. Thankfully, XFA at least provides a Click event so that I could know when the image got clicked.

The next logical place to look was in Acrobat’s Scripting Object Model (in the AcroForm Objects). In the Acrobat Document object, I found what I was looking for: the mouseX and mouseY properties which provided the location of the mouse with respect to the document window.

The last thing I needed was information about the dimensions and location (within the Acrobat Document Object’s coordinate space) of the image field and the Acrobat Field object’s rect property would give me just that.

The combination of the XFA Click event, the Acrobat Document object’s mouseX and mouseY properties and the Field object’s rect property was just what I needed to get this to work.

Of course, I soon discovered that I had another problem to figure-out: The behaviour of an image field in a PDF form running in Acrobat is that when clicked, it opens a browse dialog that lets you pick the content for the field. Unfortunately, there isn’t any way to suppress that dialog other than making the image field read-only or by using a static image object but then both alternatives prevent the Click event from firing. So I needed some clever way to capture a mouse click over an image (whether it was a field or a static object) and I decided to use a button with a transparent fill and no border (so it was essentially transparent). Since buttons are fields just like image fields, the mouseX, mouseY and rect properties would still be available for the button and if I sized the button to fit the image and placed it over-top, I would essentially end-up with an HTML <map>.

Download Sample [pdf]

Minimum Requirements: Designer 7.1, Acrobat 7.0.5.

The first challenge was getting an instance of the Acrobat Field object which represents the button using the

method. That was easily accomplished by using the script I provided on my AcroForm Field Name Generator article.

The next problem to be solved was the fact that the default behaviour, in Acrobat, for a button when it’s clicked is to invert its content area. Since I was trying to hide the button, I needed a way to suppress the inversion so that clicking on the button would give no visual feedback to the user. That way, it would give the impression that the user was actually clicking on some sort of hyperlink on the image itself. That was easily solved by using the highlight property of the Acrobat Field object representing the XFA button in its Enter event (had to be Enter and not Initialize because Initialize is too early in the form’s initialization process for the association between the XFA button and it’s Acrobat Field counterpart to be established): =

The last problem was with respect to calculating the coordinates of the hot spots on the button that would trigger a reaction (in this sample, I was just going to set the value of a text field somewhere else on the form to reflect the area that was clicked). The problem there was that while I had the mouse location and the button’s dimensions all in the same coordinate space (Acrobat Document), the coordinates were specified with (0,0) set to the document’s lower left corner.

While this may not seem like a big deal to some of you, it really messes me up when (0,0) isn’t at the top left corner (with the maximum (x,y) set to the bottom right corner). I guess that’s a result of years of writing code for Windows where an MFC CWnd’s coordinate space places (0,0) at the top left corner. Anyway, after lots of hair pulling, I finally figured-out how to properly calculate the hot spots in this strange — no, alien — coordinate system.

Zack, if you have any other questions, please post a comment.

Posted by Stefan Cameron on August 4th, 2006
Filed under AcroForm Objects,Scripting,Tutorials

Invalid Flashing Fields

So what’s the use of learning about new toys like AcroForm Objects and AcroForm Field Name Generators if you don’t take the time to play with them? Today felt like the right day to do just that and I came-up with a sample form where invalid fields flash red until the user has entered valid values into them. Only once all fields are valid can the form be submitted.

Update: Check-out the newer version on the new Invalid Flashing Fields 2.0 post.

Download Sample [pdf]

Minimum Requirements: Designer 7.1, Acrobat 7.0.5.

Note: A basic understanding of AcroForm Objects is required for this sample.

The sample form works like this: When the user clicks on the Submit button, there’s a script which looks at all fields on the form and validates them for valid content. In this particular form, the only requirement is for the fields to be filled (i.e. have non-null values). If all fields are filled, the form is them submitted however, if there’s at least one field which isn’t filled, the first-found non-filled field is set to flash red until the user has filled it.

Since XFA doesn’t natively support flashing fields, this is all done using the Acrobat app, Document and Field objects, discussed in greater detail in my previous post on AcroForm Objects, as well as my AcroForm Field Name Generator code.

When a non-filled field is found, the Submit button’s script will get the AcroForm Field object name for the invalid field and use it to generate a small script which will run every time an Acrobat Timer object expires. This timer is created in the following block of code:

moFlashTimerID = app.setInterval(
    "var f = this.getField('GetAcroFormFieldName(oField)');" +
    "if (color.equal(f.fillColor," +
    "{ f.fillColor = [" + moAcroFieldFillColor.toString() + "]; }"

    "else" +
    "{ f.fillColor =; }",

In this block of code, the Acrobat app object’s setInterval method is used to create a timer which will continously expire at a specific interval (in this case, every 500 milliseconds, or 0.5 seconds) and every time it expires, it’ll execute the code specified in the first parameter. Since the timer’s code will execute within the context of the document from which the setInterval method was called, the this keyword will represent Acrobat Document object pertaining to the form. The GetAcroFormFieldName method can then be used to get the AcroForm Field object name pertaining to the invalid field (oField) which is then passed to the Acrobat Document object’s getField method. From there, the AcroForm Field’s fill color is compared to red: If it’s already red, it’s set to a light gray color; otherwise, it’s set to red.

It’s important to note that the setInterval method returns an Acrobat Interval object which can subsequently be used to cancel the interval timer in order to get the field to stop flashing red once the user has filled it with a value. This object is also required in order to ensure the timer is stopped when the form is closed if the user ever decides to close the form while an invalid field is flashing (see the code in the root subform’s (form1) DocClose event).

Updated: August 15, 2006

Posted by Stefan Cameron on June 18th, 2006
Filed under AcroForm Objects,Scripting,Tutorials

AcroForm Field Name Generator

So you’ve read my previous post about AcroForm Objects and now you’re wondering what you do with that stuff. Those more adventurous might even have tried to use the method to do something cool.

If you’re going to do things on the application or the document without attempting to affect a specific field, it’s pretty straight-forward: You just call methods on the app (Acrobat Application) or (Acrobat Document) objects. Getting an AcroForm Field object, however, isn’t as simple as you may think because of the naming conventions used when the Acrobat Form objects are created, based on the XFA Form objects.

Let’s say you have a field, named “MyField”, parented to the second page, named “Page2”, of your form, named “form1”. For some reason, you need to access that field’s pertaining AcroForm Field object. If you tried"MyField")

you wouldn’t get very far because the actual name of the field is:


Basically, each AcroForm Field object is named with a verbose form of the XFA SOM Expression of its pertaining XFA Form object (also known as a Fully-Qualified SOM Expression).

To help with generating the correct AcroForm Field name for a given XFA Form object, I thought I would write a little bit of script which outputs the Fully-Qualified SOM Expression (which is the AcroForm Field name) for a given XFA Form object:

// Returns the fully-qualified name for the specified object.
//  This means the name always specifies the index.
//  Therefore, if the name is specified, it's "name[index]".
//  If the name isn't specified, it's "#className[index]".
function GetVerboseFieldName(oNode)
  // Unnamed nodes have default names which their class name
  //  ("subform", "field", etc.) with a "#" prefix.
  //  Unfortunately, won't return this if the node
  //  doesn't have a specific name. It'll just return an empty
  //  string. Also, oNode.index will be undefined. If it weren't
  //  for oNode.index being undefined in this case, we could've
  //  done something like
  //  SOM = "#" + oNode.className + "[" + oNode.index + "]"

  //  but we'll have to use the somExpression property instead
  //  and extract the name out of it because this will return
  //  the "#" name with the correct index.
  // Since somExpression returns the name and index for the
  //  object in all cases (whether the name is specified or
  //  not), we can use the following syntax in all cases:

  var nPos = oNode.somExpression.lastIndexOf(".");

  // If the field has a name, check to see if it has any periods in its name.
  // If that's the case, they'll be escaped with backslashes and we need to
  //  look for another period.
  if ( != null && > 0)
    while (nPos > 0)
      if (oNode.somExpression.charAt(nPos - 1) == "\\\\")
        // we found an escaped period, keep looking
        nPos = oNode.somExpression.lastIndexOf(".", nPos - 1);
        // stop looking since we have an unescaped period

  if (nPos >= 0)
    // get everything after the last "." to the end
    return oNode.somExpression.substr(nPos + 1);
    // in this case, the SOM expression is a single name (unlikely
    //  but theoretically possible)
    return oNode.somExpression;

// Returns the Fully-Qualified SOM Expression for the specified field.
function GetFQSOMExp(oField)
  var sFQFieldName = GetVerboseFieldName(oField);
  var oParentNode = oField.parent;

  // The absolute root of the XFA Object Model is the xfa object
  //  which contains a single form object, which then contains
  //  what the Hierarchy palette shows as being the "root
  //  subform" ("form1" by default). So we stop when we reach
  //  xfa.form.
  while (oParentNode != xfa.form)
    sFQFieldName = GetVerboseFieldName(oParentNode) +
      "." + sFQFieldName;
    oParentNode = oParentNode.parent;

  return sFQFieldName;

You can now take this code and either place it directly inside the event in which you need an XFA Form object’s pertaining AcroForm Field name and call it directly or you can place it in a form-wide Script Object where you can access the code from anywhere.

With this code, changing an XFA Button object’s highlight property such that it gets an outline rectangle when clicked (as opposed to the default which is an inverted fill color) is as easy as this (in JavaScript in the button’s Enter event, assuming you’ve placed the above code directly inside the Enter event): =

Beautiful? I think so. Get the Acrobat JavaScript Scripting Reference and go crazy! Just remember: This functionality is only available when your form is loaded in Acrobat.

Updated: February 14, 2007 — Added support for objects with periods in their names.

Posted by Stefan Cameron on June 14th, 2006
Filed under AcroForm Objects,Scripting

AcroForm Objects

Today I thought I would tackle the subject of AcroForm Objects — objects available via scripting in the Acrobat Form Object Model — because they offer unique possibilities for your forms when they’re running in Acrobat in the PDF format.

Just to be clear, AcroForms are specific to Acrobat and therefore this functionality doesn’t apply when rendering your forms to a target other than PDF (e.g. when using LiveCycle Forms to render your XFA Forms as HTML).

First, let’s explain what XFA (XML Forms Architecture — a W3C Submission) does: It lets you describe a form, using a defined set of rules that govern an XML structure, which can target many different clients (e.g. PDF, HTML, etc.) — as long these clients support the XFA format. Today, the Adobe LiveCycle Designer targets PDF out-of-the-box and, along with LiveCycle Forms, targets HTML.

The fact that XFA is always translated into a format which can be understood by a client with which a user interacts in order to fill a form and possibly submit its data to a receiver means that the scripts you write in your XFA forms get executed in the target client application (such as Acrobat or a web browser). If the target client also contains a Scripting Object Model — like Acrobat does — there may be ways that you can take advantage of specific functionality exposed by the client which is hosting your XFA forms.

This brings us to the topic at hand: Acrobat’s Form (AcroForm) Object Scripting Model. If you’re designing your form only to target PDF (or you add code to your form to detect when your form is being hosted by Acrobat using, for example), you can get access to the Acrobat app, Document and Field objects, amongst others, and do some really cool things like have a field with invalid data start flashing red when the user attempts to submit the form’s data.

When writing scripts in an XFA form, you have access to the special object. This object gives you access to methods which are specific to the application hosting your form (such as Acrobat, a form server or a web browser). For example, the

property tells you the name of the application hosting your form at the time the script is interpreted. If your form is being viewed/hosted in Acrobat, this property will return “Acrobat” while it’ll return the name of the browser if it has been served to a web browser. Furthermore, it’ll return “Presentation Agent” if the script was flagged to run on the server and the server application serving the form to PDF or HTML is Adobe’s LiveCycle Forms product. also gives you access to other properties and functions such as // displays a dialog box on the screen // turns the form's validations on/off with a single call

but take note that not all functions and properties are available on all hosts (e.g. since a server host can’t display a dialog which requires user input, the function is only supported on client hosts like Acrobat and web browsers).

You can obtain more information on on page 185 of the Adobe XML Form Object Model Reference.

Acrobat app Object

Since the scripts you write in functions and events within an XFA form are interpreted by and executed within the context of Acrobat’s Scripting Engine, you have access to a special object called app. This object gives you access to the collection of active documents and plugins, amongst other things, and lets you display alert messages

app.alert("Hello world!");

and even set Acrobat into full screen mode with a red background!

app.fs.backgroundColor =;
app.fs.isFullScreen = true;

Note that while isn’t an object provided by the XFA Scripting Object Model, it still exists within the context of your scripts because the scripts are ultimately interpreted and executed within Acrobat. You can get more information on the app object in the Acrobat JavaScript Scripting Reference.


This is a special object which exists only via the XFA Plugin which executes XFA scripts on XFA object events inside Acrobat. Whenever an event occurs (such as the click of a button or a field gaining input focus), your script has access to the xfa.event object which gives lots of important information about the event.

For example, if you want to know the value that was selected in a list box or a drop down list in order to change the state of another object on your form, you would script against the list box’s or drop down list’s Change event. If you used the following code to get the value of the item that the user selected:


you would get the previously-selected value because the object’s rawValue property isn’t updated until after the Change event has occurred. In order to get the information you need, you must use the following code:


which will give you the value of the item the user just selected.

xfa.event also gives you access to a very useful property called target: In Acrobat, this property specifies the Acrobat Document object (which contains the Acrobat Field object which wraps the XFA object whose event is being scripted). This means that you can get at the Acrobat Document object for the “active document” just by using:

(Note that you don’t need — and shouldn’t use — the “xfa” prefix when accessing the “” property — I don’t know why yet but you’ll have trouble using it if you use the “” syntax.)

Using this information, you can: *= 2; // increase the zoom level two-fold = zoomtype.fitW; // zoom to page-width level = zoomtype.fitH; // zoom to page-height level

or you can use the getField method to get an Acrobat Field object and do some more interesting things.

You can get more information on the Document and Field objects in the Acrobat JavaScript Scripting Reference.

Putting it all Into Perspective

To tie this all together, I’ve drawn-up a simplified version of the Scripting Object Model the way I picture it in my head:

Scripting Object Model (simplified)

This image illustrates how things work from the perspective of a script running within an XFA Event or an XFA Script Object Function (note that you don’t have access to the xfa.event object there unless you pass it into the function by calling it from an XFA Event). You can see how, from the XFA object, you can get to the:

  • Acrobat app object (directly);
  • Acrobat Document object (via or the app object);
  • Acrobat Field object (via the Document object);
  • object (directly).

Hopefully this post will have given you a general idea of the Acrobat-specific tools at your disposal when you’re writing XFA scripts using the JavaScript language. Please note, however, that changes may occur to the way XFA Form Objects are hosted within Acrobat in future releases and therefore using the AcroForm Object Model should be a last resort if an XFA equivalent simply isn’t available.

Updated: August 30, 2006

Posted by Stefan Cameron on June 10th, 2006
Filed under AcroForm Objects,Scripting