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Eagle Project Workbook is exclusionary

Did anyone else have a high school chemistry teacher that made them type lab reports triple space, courier 12 point, 1 inch margins? Students without typewriters were provided a graph-paper notebook and roughly the same spacing requirements.

BSA could insist the reports be in ASCII. Then, if scouts (or their parents) wanted, they could add mark-up tags that correspond to (the BSA Digital Design System) and upload it to a digital design generator. From there, for a fee, the scout could be mailed a professional print of his plan and report … suitable for courts of honor, etc …

In fact the minimum requirement need not be ASCII. Character recognition being as good as it is these days, scouts could write their report on pen and paper, take a photo of each page, and upload for the same result.

Although I support the idea of moving away from the mandatory Acrobat interface to the PDFs (and have agitated for it unsuccessfully), I’m not sure about handwriting conversion via OCR. There are some scouts in my unit that would make an MD’s charting seem like a Palmer’s Guide to Penmanship. I think that learning to handwrite documents neatly would be good for them (and for me, if I’m being honest), but I’m not sure that offering a handwritten option for the Eagle project report with an expectation of successful OCR would be fruitful.

Referring to your lab notebooks comments, @Qwazse, we all just got carbon-copy grid paper notebooks and were told to write neatly. Anything that fell below the teacher’s standard was returned ungraded (if we were lucky). Repeat offenses were returned with very poor grades.


Acrobat, even with the limitations discussed here, has been a standard for document sharing for nearly 30 years.

If you go with an ASCII (shudder) file, or ask people to do their own markdown language, you’re gonna get a huge mess filled with errors. The LAST thing anyone wants to deal with is having to answer a Scout’s “What do you mean my project report didn’t print RIGHT? I turn 18 tomorrow!” comment, and I think you’ll get way more issues like this by moving away from Acrobat than you will have Scouts that cannot access a PDF file.

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Heck, I just learned that the PDF file format has actually been an ISO standard for a dozen years! ISO 32000…

My experience is working for a fortune 50 company in large capital projects for over 20 years. It seems like every 5 years or so we change forms for different parts of the appropriation request process. Some forms are free-format word forms, others are locked down excel files with macros very much like the Acrobat form in that they are unforgiving and very rigid. So to me, this process of somewhat crummy forms is very consistent with “the real world”. I have had it where I prepare a project package only to find “oh, this will be rejected as you need to use the current form”. I then find out the current form was sent out via email months ago and not yet on the internal website.

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This is not ISO standard PDF. This is Adobe proprietary PDF that can only be processed by Adobe Reader, and only on Windows and Mac. Not Linux, not Android. Since I only have access to Linux and Android, I as the Scoutmaster CANNOT read them, nor can my current Chartered Organization Representative. It’s not just a problem for the Scouts.

It’s not just unforgiving. It’s not just difficult to use. It is unreadable. When I open the document, it simply says “Error: This form requires Adobe Acrobat Reader DC for Mac or Windows”. I’m a Scoutmaster, and need to read, review, and sign many of these each year. It’s a significant problem for me every time. Imagine if you, say, didn’t read English and had to review an Eagle project proposal. :wink:

ISO 32000 is titled " Document Management - Portable Document Format" was released in 2008. PDF has not been a proprietary format for over 10 years now…

That doesn’t fix your access issue, but it’s not because PDF is a proprietary document format.

Well, you could have your Eagle candidate print them out on paper for your review and signature, or another member of your committee…

As others indicated the workbook is NOT iso compliant and in fact has active measures to not be.

The more I think about it - the more I think the right format for the workbook would be markdown. There are a number of good reasons for this starting with the fact it divorces the presentation from the content. In fact, this very post sort of proves my point because it is written in – markdown.

From there a means could easily be provided to covert the text into a nice looking document. In fact, it would be close to trivial to provide a web site, and cross platform executable to then print a nice rendition.

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I think that what @PaulClarke is getting at is that, while PDF that is compliant with the standard can be opened in multiple PDF viewing/editing programs, and is platform independent, this document is not able to be opened by anything other than Adobe Acrobat. There may be different reasons why, for example document security settings or proprietary components embedded into the document. From a user perspective, that looks like a “proprietary” format. I can’t state that it’s not compliant with the ISO standard because I suspect there’s a section that addresses how to handle document security within the ISO framework.

As long as we’re throwing out ideas, I’d love to see the document created in LaTeX (mostly because I’m not quite enough of a Nerd to manage to do it in TeX). :^)

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I doubt it has anything to do with protecting IP or trying to make a buck. Acrobat works for the vast majority of users (I checked – 2020 ain’t the year of Linux on the Desktop)

Source: StatCounter Global Stats - OS Market Share

Putting the form in a fillable Acrobat file prevents stuff from being accidentally removed or changed, and results in a pretty lightweight file for data transfer – we do that all the time for work.

So, as @edavignon said earlier, it comes down to resource allocation and priorities. So the question becomes, if you have 40 hours of dev time in a week, do you want it used to fix this, or to work on the laundry list of issues in the new activity logs? Spending time working on one thing means the time isn’t spent working on something else, after all, and someone has to defend the priorities they’ve set.

It appears that the Eagle Project Workbook can be edited in Foxit Reader without trouble. I added an additional picture and phase using Foxit Reader then opened it in Adobe Acrobat Reader DC. Note: I did not do an exhaustive test.

You can find the free Foxit Reader at https://www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf-reader/

It is supported on the following platforms:

  • Windows 7
  • Windows 8
  • Windows 10


  • macOS 10.13 or higher


  • Ubuntu Desktop 14.04 ~ 16.10
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server 6.x (64-bit) ~ 7.x
  • SUSE 12 Linux Enterprise Server
  • OpenSUSE 13.2
  • OpenSUSE Leap 42.x

For users utilizing the Active Directory Rights Management Service, the following systems are supported:

  • Ubuntu Desktop 14.04 ~ 16.10
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server 6.x ~ 7.x
  • OpenSUSE 13.2
  • OpenSUSE Leap 42.x


  • Verified as Citrix Ready® with Citrix XenApp® 7.13

It would be pretty simple to create a program where a scout and their leaders could log-in a fill out the workbook and save on their account. This would enable scouts and leaders to see and work on their books at any time.

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Regarding Foxit Reader, the OS Feature Matrix https://www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf-reader/comparison.html shows that “Form Filling” is not supported on Linux, and there is no Android client.

Yep, and it could even be something like Google Docs/Sheets: browser-based, thus cross-platform. (And free.)

Yeah. BSA should put some of their developers on it. It could be an extension of scoutbook.

Since it would only be used by 4% of all Scouts, such a program, to replace a simple form, may not be a good use of limited resources. Very few Scouts or adults in Scouts use Linux. So, this affects even less than 4%.


It would make it easier for scouts so hopefully it might increase that number. Plus it would be extremely easy to program.

Also about 8% get Eagle now due to lower membership numbers and easier requirments.