Have you ever been asked to fill in a PDF form given not as editable electronically? The frustrated respondent may print out the form, fill in the fields — either by hand, or with a typewriter (!) — and then transmit the result as a fax. A more persistent respondent looks for a free program that enables annotating the form and preserving an end-to-end electronic format.
One way is to “Open and edit PDF files in OpenOffice“. This way invokes the Draw program — not the Writer word processor in OpenOffice (or LibreOffice). The PDF Import extension converts the field labels as well as entry fields. The import tries to match up the field label fonts, but there may be some shifting.
Another way uses Jarnal — the Java Notetaker and PDF Annotator. This feature was demonstrated in a Jarnal demonstration video, some time after the basic pen-based sketching features.
Jarnal is a cross-platform application written in Java, that runs on Linux, Windows and Mac.
I subsequently discovered that Xournal offers similar features and is simpler to install as an Ubuntu app.
Xournal is also written in Java, and thus also installable on Linux, Windows and Mac.
Both software projects are open source, and have similar features. Why choose one over the other?
- If subsequent editing of sketches is important, the native file format for Jarnal is SVG. Scalable Vector Graphics is an open web standard that continues to rise in popularity, and SVG is editable with the open source Inkscape product. Xournal .xoj files are gzip-compressed XML files, and the work on export to SVG seems to have not progressed since 2010.
- Xournal is ready-to-install on Linux through the Ubuntu Software Center, while Jarnal requires a little more expertise to configure.
- The Xournal interface is more refined, with the more current release in 2012. There are updates on the Jarnal wiki, but the release schedule is not as clear.
In the world of free software, it’s nice to have options.
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