Adobe XFA forms do not work, no really, Adobe sucks

Our friendly tax collector has automated their personal inefficiencies into a relatively efficient system called SARS e-viling.  This amazing system allows you to confess your tax sins, after which they will perform their happy little calculations and tell you whether you owe money or not.

A few years ago, their site worked on anything that ran “flash”, but lately their site doesn’t work in more and more browsers – it did however work in Google Chrome.

Once the tax man knows your height, weight and how much he can hit you for, his e-viling site says “Download your assessment” or something, and provides a .PDF file called GetNotice.pdf.  I downloaded the file and discovered that … it doesn’t work.

Inside the PDF is the following text:

To view the full contents of this document, you need a later version of the PDF viewer. You can upgrade
to the latest version of Adobe Reader from
For further support, go to

That’s it.  You can follow the links to your heart’s content, but one thing you will not find is … anything to use this amazing file on Linux (never mind BSD and more esoteric operating systems).

The reason for this is that the PDF includes XML Form Architecture Forms (XFA Forms).  Adobe, in their infinite wisdom, added this extension without telling anyone how it works outside of Adobe products.  Things that used to work (PDF’s) now suddenly do not, unless you happen to use Adobe’s latest and greatest offering. Of course, everyone wants to install Adobe’s software, don’t they? so the form extensions have no backward compatibility, except to tell you they have no backward compatibility. To see what they say as a document that you don’t want to edit, you have one choice, and only one choice, and that is to install whatever it is that Adobe is offering.

Now this is why Adobe sucks: they used to provide this program for Linux.  With this edition of their bloated software, they could tell the folks who forked out the big bucks for the Adobe form designer that their forms and stuff work on all sorts of platform.  Now they have stopped supporting Linux.  That’s interesting.  However, you cannot get the old software that did work.

Don’t worry though if you are running Windows XP – an operating system that nobody loves anymore (except armies of botnet herders) – Adobe will support your malware infested system with fresh application software forever, even though your operating system software is teetering on the edge of oblivion, and has already been abandoned by its manufacturer.  For this operating system, they supply their software, but for a current version of Linux, they have removed their support.  You can’t even download the one that worked.

This means that it’s broken, and it’s not getting fixed.  They broke it on purpose.  Since they did it without a word about why or what, I can only assume that …

  • Adobe hates Linux because they can’t control it
  • Adobe’s only programmers that care about Linux have been shifted out of the way
  • Nobody at Adobe knows the difference between Linux and Android
  • Adobe executives said that they will not provide free software for free operating systems
  • Adobe sucks.
  • Adobe hates me personally.

What am I supposed to think?  It’s not like there’s a statement on their download page about the truth of the matter.

Adobe Software is protected by international copyright law

Adobe Software is protected by international copyright law

I was reduced to downloading the Windows version and running that under Wine, but it failed to install (Windows installers do this all the time, although more so under wine). The installation actually seemed to be going swimmingly, but it stopped after installing pretty much all the files. As its last official act, it deleted everything it installed, and then explains that it’s my fault somehow.

I did find something that works though: PDF XChange Editor running under Wine 1.7.18.  I should have done this first, without messing about with Adobe’s junk.

PDF XChange Editor

PDF XChange Editor

It’s not free, as in Free Software, but it is free as in Beer. and for a document that is produced by the tax man, I don’t care to care about the difference.

The insult of this all is that:

  • The actual PDF does not contain any information that requires a form – it’s not a form – it’s a document.
  • SARS say they don’t give a hoot about my medical aid contributions and expenses.

Did I mention how I feel about Adobe?

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