Why Data Capture Is the Key to Your Forms Processing Workflow
Having the right data can make or break an organization in today’s competitive business landscape. Instead of making decisions based on intuition and personal experience, companies increasingly look to data trends and future projections when developing strategies to reach their near and long-term goals.
Developers looking to break into new markets and fend off competitors need to deliver applications that help customers gather and manage data more effectively. Integrating robust data capture capabilities into forms processing workflows is a good place to start.
The Importance of Data Capture
Although organizations dedicate substantial resources to their data analytics platforms, these tools can only be effective if they have ready access to accurate, high-quality information. That’s why those investments need to be paired with equally sophisticated data capture methods that ensure consistency and reduce errors. Quality data capture tools allow organizations to extract information from files and route them efficiently as they enter a document management system. This ensures that relevant data is gathered instantly while the files themselves are stored for quick and easy access at a later time.
Without some form of data capture system in place, organizations must sort through multiple file types and manually transfer information into the appropriate systems. This process not only takes valuable time, but is also prone to human error in the form of mistakes like transposed figures, missed keystrokes, and simple oversight. Even a minor mistake can easily contaminate data and undermine decision-making. The amount of time and resources needed to review datasets for discrepancies can also have a negative impact on performance and efficiency.
This layer is responsible for parsing and interpreting the data that describes the various elements of a PDF file. It serves as something of a translator that allows the browser to recognize and present the contents of the PDF.
Once the core has parsed the PDF data, that information is passed along to the display, which then renders the document’s elements as HTML5 canvas elements that can be read and understood by the browser or web application.
After the PDF data has been rendered to a canvas, it can be passed along to the viewer, which serves as the main interface for users to view the document and interact with it. For most users, this is usually the only layer of PDF.js they will encounter when they open and view documents.
Benefits of PDF.js
One of the motivations behind the creation of PDF.js was to find a solution to plug-in readers, which were vulnerable to code-injection attacks. The lightweight PDF.js can be incorporated into an existing application’s code base, which makes it easier for developers to manage PDF viewing within a secure environment.
At just under 4 MB, the PDF.js library doesn’t place a heavy burden on an application. It’s small enough to be incorporated quickly and uses very little memory when it’s running. That makes it ideal for web-based applications that put a premium on performance.
Breaking the dependency on external PDF reader software was a game changer for developers. It meant that they no longer had to worry about whether users would be able to view documents. While most computers had some way of viewing PDFs, it wasn’t necessarily a certainty for all devices when PDF.js debuted in 2011.
By providing an integrated viewer within their web applications, developers could finally ensure a consistent viewing experience. Since every PDF reader functioned slightly differently, there was always a chance that a document may not display the same way everywhere. External readers and plug-ins also tended to pull the user away from the application and make them use a different interface. Keeping viewing strictly within the application helped to create a much better user experience.
Limitations of PDF.js
Although developers have been leveraging the versatile functionality of PDF.js for many years, the open-source library is not without its limitations as an “out-of-the-box” solution.
Limited PDF Support
One of the longstanding issues with PDF.js is the fact that it doesn’t support the full PDF specification. While most files display just fine, there are occasionally issues where it cannot support a particular font, confuses graphical layers, or simply fails to display some element of the document. Numerous performance tests over the years suggest that anywhere between one and three percent of files exhibit such problems.
Subpar Text Rendering
The PDF.js display layer renders graphics, shapes, images, and objects onto a canvas for easy viewing, but it uses a separate HTML layer to render text. That’s because rendering the text along with the rest of the image would make it impossible to select and search the text itself, which is a key functionality many developers require. Unfortunately, the basic text rendering tools of PDF.js don’t provide fast or especially accurate search performance. They also tend to distort at higher zoom levels, which can severely impact readability.
Struggles with Large Files
Large PDF files contain a great deal of information, especially if the file has a lot of pages or contains complex visual elements. While PDF.js generally handles basic documents well, it struggles with larger, more sophisticated files. Most of the time, this translates into long loading times, but it can also impact search, zoom, and browsing performance.
Lack of Mobile Responsiveness
Today’s web-based applications need to be able to provide a consistent user experience across multiple devices and screen sizes. Since it was developed before mobile devices became so ubiquitous, PDF.js doesn’t provide a responsive interface that adapts to different screens. While a PDF.js-based desktop viewer will work on a mobile device, it will not support vital touchscreen controls like pinch-to-zoom. This makes it difficult for developers to control what the user’s viewing experience will be at all times.
Since it was originally designed to be an integrated viewer for a web browser, the core features of PDF.js are narrowly focused. It handles viewing well in most instances, but doesn’t provide much more in terms of functionality. There is no native support for annotation markups or eSignature, and the included viewer lacks a customizable interface. This presents some challenges for developers looking to incorporate more extensive PDF capabilities into their applications.
Fortunately, the open-source status of the PDF.js library makes it an ideal platform for innovation and improvement. Developers looking to quickly integrate PDF support into their applications can turn to solutions like Accusoft PDF Viewer that build upon PDF.js to deliver enhanced capabilities and performance.
One of the easiest ways to improve PDF.js is to build a new viewing layer that supports a broader range of functionality. Adding features like a responsive user interface that adapts to mobile touchscreens and support for high-resolution displays makes the library a more viable option for modern web applications.
Other improvements, such as expanding support for existing PDF standards, enhancing search speed and accuracy, and optimizing rendering performance, require changes to the core and display layers. For developers that don’t have much extensive experience working with PDF rendering, this can be a daunting challenge, especially if they’re just looking to integrate a viewing solution into their application.
Turning to a ready-made solution that’s easy to integrate can save developers valuable time and resources, allowing them to keep their dev cycle on track. While they could build their own viewing solution using the open-source PDF.js library, they will likely face challenges when it comes to adding the features and tools their application requires. Even if they can build out the features they need, the resulting code may not be optimized for performance, especially if it’s drawn from various ad hoc open-source solutions.
A Better PDF.js Viewer Is Here
Developers looking to find an ideal solution for their application’s PDF viewing needs don’t have to make a trade-off when it comes to balancing simplicity and performance. Accusoft PDF Viewer was designed to deploy easily and quickly to web applications with just a few lines of code and provide high-quality, responsive PDF rendering.
Building on the established framework of PDF.js, the free-to-use Accusoft PDF Viewer SDK delivers high-speed search capabilities and out-of-the-box support for mobile touchscreens. As a client-side integration, it allows developers to control the viewing experience without having to depend upon external software for PDF viewing.
Download the Accusoft PDF Viewer today to test its capabilities within your web application. With no complex server configurations, it deploys quickly and easily to provide optimized PDF performance with a small footprint.