Adobe PDF Library Technical Documentation

Adobe PDF Library

The Adobe PDF Library contains a powerful set of functions for developing third-party solutions and processes around Adobe PDF.

The PDF Library is based on the core technology of the Adobe Acrobat line of products and offers complete functionality for generating, manipulating, rendering, and printing PDF documents and is intended for use specifically by OEMs, ISVs, system integrators, and enterprise IT developers.

The library enables PDF functionality to be seamlessly embedded within applications. It also provides reliable, accurate and Adobe-supported implementation of the latest PDF specification.

What is the Adobe PDF Library?

What is the Adobe PDF Library?

The Adobe PDF Library provides the core PDF manipulation functionality of Adobe Acrobat® software in an API format.

It is suitable for embedding basic Acrobat functionality such as creating, editing, assembling, and printing PDF documents from within third-party applications. The PDF Library provides technology that can be fully integrated with another application. Use the Adobe PDF Library when you need to integrate Adobe PDF functionality with your solutions in a client and/or server environment.

The Adobe PDF Library does not provide access to extended Acrobat functionality such as digital signatures, annotations, or plug-ins. If you require these advanced features, you will need to license the Adobe Acrobat Pro Bundle instead. Developing with Acrobat requires users to have a copy of Acrobat on their computers. Whenever feasible and practical, you should use Adobe applications such as Adobe Acrobat, Reader® and LiveCycle® ES to support PDF capabilities in your solutions. To develop plug-ins for Acrobat and Reader, please use the Acrobat Pro Bundle.

The Adobe PDF Library Advantage

The Adobe PDF Library helps remove the burden of understanding and maintaining support for the underlying PDF standard, allowing developers to focus their core competencies on building robust business solutions. PDF files created with PDF Library are high quality and standards based, using the native technology found in Adobe Acrobat. The library can read any valid PDF file created by other sources, and it will remain current with future versions of the PDF specification.

The SDK also provides rich support for the core PDF manipulation functionality in Acrobat. In short, Adobe PDF Library helps developers and enterprises save time and money.

The Adobe PDF Library provides access to a wide range of PDF functionality, including functions allowing applications to do the following:

  • Create
  • Print
  • Edit
  • View and render
  • Assemble documents
  • Linearize and optimize
  • Use fonts
  • Compress
  • Use forms
  • Extract content
  • Use layers
  • Search and index
  • Determine pre-press workflows

Adobe PDF Library and PDF Viewers

The Adobe PDF Library and PDF Viewers

The PDF Library shares much of the same source code as the Adobe PDF viewing applications (Acrobat Professional, Acrobat Standard and Adobe Reader). There is a large degree of overlap between the functionality provided by the PDF Library Software Development Kit (SDK) and that of the Acrobat SDK. They differ in providing access to the Acrobat user interface:

  • The Acrobat SDK is meant for the plug-in environment, and allows you to control and interact with the Acrobat user interface
  • The PDF Library is intended for interaction between PDF content and other applications, such as high volume batch processing and PDF generation applications. It does not export methods for creating or managing Acrobat UI elements—that is, the AcroView (AV) layer of the core API

The Adobe PDF Library now supports the Linux 64-bit platform in addition to the Linux 32-bit platform. The support for IBM AIX and Solaris has been discontinued. The following table specifies the supported platforms, operating systems, and compilers for Adobe PDF Library development.

Operating system
Windows 32-bit and 64-bit
Windows Vista (64-bit), Windows XP (32-bit), Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit)
Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 SP1
Linux 32-bit and 64-bit
Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS® 4.0
gcc 4.1.0
Mac OS 32-bit
Mac OS Leopard 10.5
Mac OS Snow Leopard 10.6
Xcode 3.2

Adobe PDF Library FAQ

Adobe PDF Library FAQ

Is there a new version of the Adobe PDF Library that matches the Acrobat X product line?
Yes. Adobe PDF Library X is based on the same underlying PDF technology and code base as the Acrobat X family of products. Additionally, PDF Library X can create and consume PDF 1.7, the version of PDF generated by Acrobat X.
What are the new features in Adobe PDF Library X?
Adobe PDF Library X supports the following major new features:

Full compatibility with Acrobat X software

Support for Linux 64-bit platform

Leopard (Mac OS X v10.6) compliance

Improved editing of PDFs and reduce content loss

Better precision APIs while editing PDFs

Rendering large pages with better precision

Removed 27 spot color limitation in print workflow

Improved print output to bring it closer to Acrobat

Can I use the Adobe PDF Library with server-based applications?
Yes. The Adobe PDF Library is an ideal solution for integrating PDF capabilities with server applications. Using the Adobe PDF Library, your applications can dynamically generate, access, manipulate, and print Adobe PDF documents in server environments. An application developed using the Adobe PDF Library can run without Acrobat or any other Adobe products.

I have developed a plug-in for Acrobat X. Can I use it in a server environment?
You must have Acrobat X running in order to run the plug-in. Generally speaking, Acrobat cannot be used on a server. Please refer to the Acrobat X End-User License Agreement to review license restrictions on using Acrobat X in a server environment.

Can I use my Acrobat/Reader plug-in with PDF Library?
No. The Adobe PDF Library does not support Acrobat/Reader plug-ins.

Can I use the Adobe PDF Library in a multi-threaded environment?
Yes. Applications can safely use the Adobe PDF Library in multi-threaded environments. The library also has excellent memory management capabilities and an in-memory file system for high-volume PDF processing applications.

What platforms are supported by the Adobe PDF Library X?
The Adobe PDF Library X is available on a wide range of platforms, including Microsoft® Windows (32- and 64-bit), Mac OS (32- and 64-bit), Oracle® Solaris (SPARC® 32- and 64-bit, x86 32- and 64-bit), Linux® (32- and 64-bit), IBM® AIX® (32- and 64-bit), HP-UX (Itanium 32- and 64-bit, PA-RISC 32- and 64-bit), SGI™ IRIX™.

Can I use the Adobe PDF Library to convert Microsoft Office documents, such as Word and Excel, to Adobe PDF?
The Adobe PDF Library does not offer the ability to convert Office documents to Adobe PDF. You need to use Acrobat X software.

Can I use the Adobe PDF Library to generate Adobe PDF output from my application?
If you have layout and source data for output pages, you can output Adobe PDF files using the Adobe PDF Library by creating the PDF objects directly.

Is developer support available? If so, what does it cost?
Yes. The Adobe PDF Library is fully supported by Adobe, with dedicated support teams. Support and maintenance fees are paid at the same time as your licensing fees. In addition, Adobe ships new maintenance releases on a regular basis and provides major feature releases synchronized with major Acrobat releases and revisions of the Adobe PDF specification. As with license fees, support fees are based on the number of platforms/servers licensed.

What documentation is available for the Adobe PDF Library?
Adobe provides extensive documentation for licensed Adobe PDF Library users, including an Adobe PDF Library Overview, Acrobat and PDF Library API Reference, and PDF Reference for PDF version 1.7.

What fonts can I embed using the Adobe PDF Library?
The Adobe PDF Library provides full support for embedding and subsetting TrueType, Type 1, and OpenType® fonts. Single-byte, double-byte, and Unicode font support allows third-party applications to be localized in a broad range of languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Japanese, and Korean.

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