Creating Adobe Acrobat PDF Forms

One of the many uses of PDF files is to offer a way for people to gather information via an interactive form. Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional has some nifty features for creating such forms, distributing them and tracking responses.

One of the main advantages of using PDF forms, as against, web-based forms is that the PDF will always look the same regardless of which operating system or web browser is being used.

When it comes to delivering PDF forms, there are more options than with a web-based form. You can email the form to your audience or perhaps include it on a CD or DVD.

The ability to create forms has long been a feature of Adobe Acrobat. However, Acrobat 8 Professional takes form creation to a new level in terms of ease and sophistication.

Acrobat has traditionally been a “magpie” application, relying on other applications to create all of its content. Now, however, forms can be created in Acrobat based on a wide variety of pre-created templates: invoices, timesheet, expenses etc.

As with previous versions of Acrobat, forms created in other packages can be used as the starting point for an Acrobat form. Acrobat 8 Professional will even automatically recognise the form layout and generate form fields automatically.

You can also use a printed form as the basis for an interactive PDF form. Just choose the Scan From Paper option when creating your new form.

After you have created the basic form and perhaps had Acrobat automatically generate your text fields, you can add all the usual form controls, such as check-boxes, radio buttons and combo boxes. Then, to complete the form, you can add a submit button.

Traditionally, only a full version of Acrobat would allow you to fill out a PDF form and then save the form data to disk. With Acrobat 8 professional, if you click on the “Advanced” menu and choose “Enable Usage Rights in Acrobat Reader”, people filling out your form with Acrobat Reader will be able to save their form data and email it back to you.

You can send your interactive PDF form to any number of users by clicking on the “Form” menu and choosing “Distribute Form”. You can select a series of emails from an Outlook address book or just enter recipients manually.

Acrobat 8 Professional now contains a facility for storing each of the returned form in one place, called a dataset. As you open each returned form, a dialogue box appears prompting you to add the form data to the dataset.

To complete your project, after you have received back all the forms you distributed, you simply open the Acrobat dataset and click on the export button to save it as a .csv file. You can then import this file into Microsoft Excel or Access for storage and/or analysis.