Questions

Creating Forms

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Creating Forms

rgoers
I have a specific client who needs some fillable forms created.

I recreated the forms in MS Publisher, and printed them to PDF. I was going to use Adobe's Form Designer (Acrobat 7 Pro) to insert the fields. Little did I know... the filled forms would NOT be savable when using Adobe Reader. That stinks! They are definitely going to want to save (and reuse) partially-filled forms.

Anybody have any good recommendations for a quick and easy way to create (less than 50) custom forms that are fillable and save-able? This is for an electrical contractor. Most of the users are less than computer saavy, so these need to be fairly dummy-proof. They are going to want to print forms on-site, and also either email/fax/mail originals back to the main office. They would also like to be able to view filled forms remotely.

I was considering using ScanSoft's PaperPort, but that might be too complex for users to navigate (though it would have a very good document organization engine associated with it).

Anyone???
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    Toivo Talikka

    Your requirements sound like a simple web application is just what you need.

    Last year I wrote a Customer Invoice application for an IT support company, to be used by the technicians who fill in a timesheet and billing form at the end of the job while they are on-site. The application requires a login name and password, it then asks a few key questions and dynamically loads the correct form with drop-down selections, text fields and a Submit button. The contents is validated, the calculations are performed and the invoice is presented on the screen in HTML format for preview. If it is all right, it is then rendered as PDF for printing. The PDF file is also sent by email to the IT support company with the customer contact details in a vCard file. The form can be reproduced from the fields in the database, when required.

    The environment is Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP (LAMP). The application can easily be enhanced to work with mobile browsers, or WAP. That type of flexibility might be exactly what your electrical contractor wants.

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    Tony Hopkinson

    to create editable pdf forms, usually for hosting in another app.

    You can do it in word if they've got office. templates.

    Otherwise it's writing an app of some description.

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    rgoers

    These are very complex forms... dozens of fields, and have to be laid out like the ones they're used to. Web forms would be too complex, especially for the off-site user who is used to paper forms and completely inept when it comes to computer usage. I'm serious when I say he has trouble sending email from MS Outlook. Something I could put in a folder, have him click on, tab from field to field, would be prefect. Acrobat would fill the bill... IF the Reader could save filled forms.

    I also looked at Word templates, but... WOW!!! It would be HOURS of work creating just ONE form that way. As I mentioned, there are dozens of fields, and they're in a quite complex layout. I used Publisher to recreate the first few forms, because Publisher is so much more flexible with positioning than Word.

    Purchasing a reasonably priced application is no problem. I have a small budget to work with. I have been playing with FormDocs. That's more of what I'm looking for.

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    Toivo Talikka

    Web form is largely what you describe, using the tab to get from field to field. The added benefit of having a server application is to validate each field and check any inconsistencies or missing information. Meaningful warnings and error messages can facilitate a positive user experience. Some validation can even be done in the browser, or rather javascript, before the form is submitted.

    When you store the information from a web form to a database and not to another document, the information is easily available in different reporting formats and can be forwarded to other back-end applications without any duplication of the data entry.

    If you are concerned about the web form looking completely different from what the user is used to, the fields can be positioned on the web form using stylesheets (CSS) with a high degree of accuracy, to replicate the paper form, if so required.

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    rgoers

    Tovio - It sounds like your solution would work, however it is out of my realm of expertise. I'm afraid I'm not a very good web programmer. :-(

    My background is in electronics and imaging science. This job is something I'm doing to help my father-in-law with his business. We're talking a small business; 6 or so office workers, none of them very skilled. They have third-party job management software that would not interface easily with any other data input. In other words... filled in forms would be fat-fingered into the management system program. Yes, I know it is low-tech, but what else would you expect in Florida???

    I like your solution. In a "normal" environment it would probably work very well, but I'm dealing with an organization which just this month bought a comprehensive job management s/w package. It was Quickbooks and hard-copy up to this point.

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    mtrevino57

    While this may not allow you to reuse the forms you have created in PDF, You could use a "PDF writer" program to "save" a completed form using a new filename. Since these PDF writers typically show up simply another printer, you can create a new PDF file containing the completed data and maintain the original form for entering new data. I use cutepdf to print/create the new PDF files but there are several of these types of programs out there, and alot of them are Free.

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    rgoers

    Well, I stuck it out with Word forms tools, and it actually came out pretty well. Thanks for everybody's ideas on this one.

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    0 Votes
    johnsnow

    edited by moderator

    Message was edited by: beth.blakely@...

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    0 Votes
    bertiem

    Edited by moderator

    Message was edited by: beth.blakely@...

  • +
    0 Votes
    Toivo Talikka

    Your requirements sound like a simple web application is just what you need.

    Last year I wrote a Customer Invoice application for an IT support company, to be used by the technicians who fill in a timesheet and billing form at the end of the job while they are on-site. The application requires a login name and password, it then asks a few key questions and dynamically loads the correct form with drop-down selections, text fields and a Submit button. The contents is validated, the calculations are performed and the invoice is presented on the screen in HTML format for preview. If it is all right, it is then rendered as PDF for printing. The PDF file is also sent by email to the IT support company with the customer contact details in a vCard file. The form can be reproduced from the fields in the database, when required.

    The environment is Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP (LAMP). The application can easily be enhanced to work with mobile browsers, or WAP. That type of flexibility might be exactly what your electrical contractor wants.

    +
    0 Votes
    Tony Hopkinson

    to create editable pdf forms, usually for hosting in another app.

    You can do it in word if they've got office. templates.

    Otherwise it's writing an app of some description.

    +
    0 Votes
    rgoers

    These are very complex forms... dozens of fields, and have to be laid out like the ones they're used to. Web forms would be too complex, especially for the off-site user who is used to paper forms and completely inept when it comes to computer usage. I'm serious when I say he has trouble sending email from MS Outlook. Something I could put in a folder, have him click on, tab from field to field, would be prefect. Acrobat would fill the bill... IF the Reader could save filled forms.

    I also looked at Word templates, but... WOW!!! It would be HOURS of work creating just ONE form that way. As I mentioned, there are dozens of fields, and they're in a quite complex layout. I used Publisher to recreate the first few forms, because Publisher is so much more flexible with positioning than Word.

    Purchasing a reasonably priced application is no problem. I have a small budget to work with. I have been playing with FormDocs. That's more of what I'm looking for.

    +
    0 Votes
    Toivo Talikka

    Web form is largely what you describe, using the tab to get from field to field. The added benefit of having a server application is to validate each field and check any inconsistencies or missing information. Meaningful warnings and error messages can facilitate a positive user experience. Some validation can even be done in the browser, or rather javascript, before the form is submitted.

    When you store the information from a web form to a database and not to another document, the information is easily available in different reporting formats and can be forwarded to other back-end applications without any duplication of the data entry.

    If you are concerned about the web form looking completely different from what the user is used to, the fields can be positioned on the web form using stylesheets (CSS) with a high degree of accuracy, to replicate the paper form, if so required.

    +
    0 Votes
    rgoers

    Tovio - It sounds like your solution would work, however it is out of my realm of expertise. I'm afraid I'm not a very good web programmer. :-(

    My background is in electronics and imaging science. This job is something I'm doing to help my father-in-law with his business. We're talking a small business; 6 or so office workers, none of them very skilled. They have third-party job management software that would not interface easily with any other data input. In other words... filled in forms would be fat-fingered into the management system program. Yes, I know it is low-tech, but what else would you expect in Florida???

    I like your solution. In a "normal" environment it would probably work very well, but I'm dealing with an organization which just this month bought a comprehensive job management s/w package. It was Quickbooks and hard-copy up to this point.

    +
    0 Votes
    mtrevino57

    While this may not allow you to reuse the forms you have created in PDF, You could use a "PDF writer" program to "save" a completed form using a new filename. Since these PDF writers typically show up simply another printer, you can create a new PDF file containing the completed data and maintain the original form for entering new data. I use cutepdf to print/create the new PDF files but there are several of these types of programs out there, and alot of them are Free.

    +
    0 Votes
    rgoers

    Well, I stuck it out with Word forms tools, and it actually came out pretty well. Thanks for everybody's ideas on this one.

    +
    0 Votes
    johnsnow

    edited by moderator

    Message was edited by: beth.blakely@...

    +
    0 Votes
    bertiem

    Edited by moderator

    Message was edited by: beth.blakely@...