Department of State, Adobe Reader: DumbSeptember 28, 2006
I have been filling out a ton of forms for the Department of State, for a legal process I’m going through. Most of the forms are readily available as normal PDFs I can download, paste into OmniGraffle, and fill out easily. Today I had to get a particular newly-instated form which was made quite differently from the others.
This form, when I open it in Preview, appears normally for an instant before white boxes appear on top of all the informational text. If I try to open it directly in OmniGraffle, it tells me that the document is secure and I can’t open it without authentication. If I open it in Adobe Reader, ugh, it looks fine. But:
- I can’t export it to a normal PDF that I could actually use.
- When I open the file, when I first put my cursor in a field, and in a notice at the top of the screen, it warns me that I’m not allowed to save the PDF with any of the blanks filled in.
When I tab into the second field, it asks me if I want to learn about autofill. No. I didn’t tab into the field because I wanted to learn about autofill. I tabbed into the field becase I wanted to type something in.
Adobe Reader asks me if I want to download “critical updates”. I say no. It starts downloading them anyway.
If I put the cursor over any part of the form, it shows a huge single-line help tag that extends from the extreme left of my screen all the way off the right edge, with some kind of explanatory text about the thing I’m hovering on. I don’t know what any of these security features are supposed to accomplish. If I’m allowed to open a document in the application of my choice, am I threatening national security or something? Is saving a copy of the document, for my records or in case I need to change something, a threat?
As for the user experience, some other people have recently questioned why Adobe just doesn’t seem to care. Why is it so difficult for huge, rich companies to get right the things that tiny, independent companies do well every day?