Embedded JavaScript: applications or games in a PDF – is that possible?

The official PDF specification provides various dynamic content, including embedded JavaScript. This allows smaller applications or games within a PDF document to be realized.

From Adobe’s PDF document reference, the file type supports not only text and graphics but also interactive components. JavaScript is one of them, but the default library used does not match that for the browser. Adobe’s Portable Document Format files may contain limited applications or games. A prerequisite for their functioning is that the feature is implemented by the reader used.

Embedded JavaScript:Breakout in a PDF

Google’s Chrome browser is such a reader, even though it only provides some of the APIs for JavaScript within the file format. Using an embedded version of the classic Breakout game, GitHub user Omar Rizwan demonstrates the power of JavaScript within a PDF file. His breakout.pdf file is available on GitHub.

The limited implementation of JavaScript for PDFs in Chrome, according to Rizwan, leads to some limitations in the development of such files. While calculations can be performed easily, Rizwan describes the handling of inputs and outputs as rather cumbersome. Full implementation of the Adobe JavaScript API would allow for more advanced capabilities such as database access, resource imports, or manipulatable 3D objects.

Learn more about using JavaScript within PDFs in Rizwan’s GitHub repository called horrifiyng-pdf-experiments . Adobe’s full specification of the format and the reference to the JavaScript for Acrobat API are available online.

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