Zen and the Art of Offline Data Capture

Whenever, I meet with developers on how to use LiveCycle technologies (or PDF in general), I usually run into: the user fills out the data here … and the PDF is generated here. Generating a PDF for printer friendly output is good, but that’s not all a PDF can do. A PDF can capture data and save you a lot of time and overhead.

So take a traditional web-based application where a user needs to fill-out a form. Look at the over-head that is behind the web form: User Management for the user to save/retrieve a form, Load Balancing during peak-usage, complexity if the user wants to forward the form to another user, and Availability if you want to add a second form to your web-application without down-time.

Enter the world of off-line submission, provide the end user a fillable PDF; this will allow an anonymous user to fill, save, and forward the PDF to another individual (via e-mail or USB drive). When the user is done, have the user e-mail the filled PDF back to your server. The e-mail might take a few hours before reaching your server, but who cares? The end-user isn’t waiting on a spinning hourglass to stop. If you need another form, then create a new PDF and publish it. A new PDF doesn’t necessarily have to be created by the developer of your Web Application team. Another group can create the PDF as long as both of you agree to an XML Schema. See, a nice decoupled system, when was the last time you can leverage a User Interface from another team?

Not all clients implement this solution in exactly the same way as above, some have the need to submit a 200 Megabyte PDF. In this case e-mail would not work and would have to revert back to an HTTP submission, they will loose some benefits but also gain some as well. Hopefully, the reader gets some new ideas in solving some old problems.

So, if you want to prototype the solution, then the LiveCycle products you would need: LiveCycle Forms to pre-populate and extract data, LiveCycle Reader Extensions, this will allow (amongst other things) a PDF to be saved locally with Adobe Reader. And finally LiveCycle Designer that helps you create your PDF.