Creating PDF Portfolios for Acrobat DC using the Datalogics PDF Java Toolkit

Creating PDF Portfolios for Acrobat DC using the Datalogics PDF Java Toolkit

Sample of the Week:

Joel Geraci

As I mentioned in my previous post, Adobe Acrobat DC was released last week. It’s got a snappy new interface that makes using more advanced functionality of Acrobat more discoverable and easier to use. Another important aspect of Acrobat DC is having the experience on mobile be more similar to the desktop experience and with forms and commenting, they’ve absolutely accomplished this.

Unfortunately, PDF Portfolio with interactive Flash-Based user interfaces are pretty much dead. As long as the Flash Player is installed, Acrobat DC on the desktop can play a PDF Portfolio created in Acrobat X or XI but users can no longer create PDF Portfolios using select one of those interactive layouts. While disappointing, this is understandable given the fact that Flash isn’t available on iOS. Adobe had to make some difficult choices with Acrobat DC and making PDF Portfolios work consistently across platforms, devices, and removing their dependency on Flash is a decision I highly support.

The good news is that the new PDF Portfolios look a lot like the PDF Packages from the Acrobat 8 days. That means tools that were meant to create or manipulate PDF Packages will also allow developers to work with Acrobat DC’s Portfolios… including the Datalogics PDF Java Toolkit.

The  Datalogics PDF Java Toolkit sample CreatePDFPackage demonstrates how to create a new PDF Portfolio or “Collection” as it is referred to in developer tools. The sample shows how to…

  1. Create a new blank Cover Sheet which is the container PDF that the files in the Collection are attached to. You probably want to create your own custom cover sheet with your own branding. In that case, you simply open your cover sheet and add files to it rather than creating a new page as the sample does. This is the page that appears when the PDF viewer doesn’t understand Portfolios.
  2. Embed some files in the Collection and assign metadata to make it easier for the user to find the files they are interested in.
  3. Create the Schema. The schema specifies the columns in the Collection interface, shown in table form in Adobe Acrobat when you view the Collection.
  4. Set up what columns should be used to sort the rows in the Collection.

The current version of the sample shows how to pass the metadata that you want to associate with the Collection item along with the item itself because you can attach any file type to a Collection and not all file types make it easy to get to their metadata. However, if you know that you are only going to be adding PDF files or images to the Collection, the sample can be easily modified to pull the metadata from the PDF or image files themselves and Acrobat DC respects all of the metadata fields added to the Collection schema. This means that developers can use the  Datalogics PDF Java Toolkit to create PDF Portfolios that contain as many custom metadata fields as they need. These custom fields can then be displayed and used for sorting properly in Acrobat DC even though Acrobat DC isn’t capable of creating them.

View and download the CreatePDFPackage sample or get all the samples and documentation by requesting an evaluation of the Datalogics PDF Java Toolkit.

2 thoughts on “Creating PDF Portfolios for Acrobat DC using the Datalogics PDF Java Toolkit

  1. Are PDF Portfolios Dead for Mobile Devices?
    Can you tell me if Acrobat DC PDF Portfolios are practical for mass distribution and viewing on mobile devices, especially for Android?
    I was a big fan of highly customized PDF Portfolios in the Acrobat 9 & X era. Now I am trying to get plain-vanilia PDF Portfolios to work in mobile devices, especially Android. It seems futile.
    *** PDF Portfolios will NOT open and view in any popular mobile browser?
    Or is there a way to making that happen? (I tried ‘share links’ from Google Drive, OneDrive, and DropBox but instead of viewing the PDF Portfolio, there only appears a message telling the visitor to download the PDF file to view it on their device.)
    *** PDF Portfolios will only open and view in Acrobat Reader for Android?
    I tired several popular PDF Viewer apps for Android. None of them could open a PDF Portfolio. Or am I missing something?
    I suspect I am spinning my wheels on trying to use this once-great technology (on desktops) for distribution and viewing on Android devices. Am I correct? OR CAN THE PDF JAVA TOOLKIT HELP IN SOME WAY?
    Thank you for your attention and time.
    Sincerely, Preston

    1. Preston:

      I share your pain. You’re not missing anything. PDF Portfolios have been nerfed in the current Adobe products and were never taken seriously by the other viewer developers.

      At this point, PDF Portfolios don’t even behave consistently across Adobe Viewers of different versions on the same platform. The cool looking Portfolio Layouts are Flash based and after Acrobat 10.1, require Flash to be installed as well as Reader/Acrobat, but with Flash not being supported on iOS, Adobe pretty much abandoned development of the Custom Portfolio SDK and have fallen back to a slightly updated Acrobat 8 like experience; a list. A list of attached files should also be the fallback for browsers, mobile viewers, and non-Adobe viewers on the desktop that have never been able to display portfolio layouts. Some handle attachments well. Some don’t… actually… many don’t. Ok… most don’t.

      But even if the viewer does properly display a list of attached files, the user is still left with the – at this point now – somewhat misleading cover page that tells them they have the wrong viewer and that they will get a better experience using something else… for the most part, that’s not even true anymore.

      So… Here’s the good news. The PDF Java Toolkit can absolutely help… and you’ve got a few good options.

      1. Leave it a PDF – Developers can use the toolkit to remove the “collection” dictionary, which is about a megabyte for just the basic Portfolio interfaces, and replace the cover sheet with something more reasonable given today’s environment. This will let the viewers treat the PDF as a regular PDF with attachments.
      2. Merge the attachments – Developers can extract the attachments and then combine them into a single PDF (not a collection) and add bookmarks at the start of each section. This will only work if all of the attachments in the Portfolio are PDF files though you could make non-PDF files attachments to the new file.
      3. Burst the Portfolio – As a last resort, developers can extract the attached files into separate PDFs and create either an annotation to hold the metadata or a new cover sheet that shows the metadata, which would also make it searchable. Then distribute the set via a cloud-based file sharing service like Dropbox,, or any of the other services that make sharing sets of files easy.

      Please respond with which solution would work best for you or if you have any other ideas. I’m curious what you think of these solutions.

      Full Disclosure: I was an Evangelist at Adobe when PDF Portfolios and the Portfolio SDK were being rolled out and have created custom layouts for many customers. I’m very sad to see them die.


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