Posts in Category "LiveCycle"

Drag and Drop support in Guide Builder

Did you know that the Guide Builder tool included with LiveCycle Designer not only supports drag and drop from the Designer canvas but also from the file system?

I’ll start with drag and drop with LiveCycle Designer.  In Guide Builder the form hierarchy is provided to allow a user to pick form objects that they wish to appear in their form guide. While this hierarchy provides a quick way to see all the objects on a form they may not be easy to find particularily on a larger form.  In these cases it may be easier to pick objects directly from the design view canvas in LiveCycle Designer.  With Guide Builder running switch back to Designer and pick the fields you want to include in your form guide.  Next, drag and drop these fields on top of Guide Builder.  When a panel is selected these fields will be automatically added to that panel otherwise a dialog will appear asking you where you would like the fields to be placed.

If that wasn’t cool enough Guide Builder also supports SWC, CSS, XML and XDP file types being dragged form the file system.  How each of these files is handled depends on what view Guide Builder is currently in. 

When in the Edit Guide view any guide definitions found in XML or XDP files will be imported into the current guide.  Any SWC files that are dropped onto Guide Builder will be added as custom library components for the currently selected guide.

When in the Customize Appearance view any SWC or CSS files that are dropped onto Guide Builder will be used as a custom style for the currently selected guide.

For more information on using Guide Builder look up Using Guide Builder in the LiveCycle Designer ES Help.

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Introducing Form Guides

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It has been way too long since I last updated this blog.  Now that I back for what I hope to be much more frequent updates regarding LiveCycle, Flex and rich Internet applications I decided to give my blog a fresh new look as well.

Over the past year I have been on the team that has been actively developing the new form guide functionality released with the LiveCycle Enterprise Suite.  In particular I have been developing the new Guide Builder tool that is included with LiveCycle Designer.  Now that LiveCycle ES has been released this post is the first in a series I plan to write over the next couple of months that covers the new form guide technology and how it works.

Form guides are Flash Player compatible wizard-like panels that help guide people through a data capture experience which are rendered using LiveCycle Forms ES.  While the form guide technology is included with LiveCycle Forms ES, there is also a tool called Guide Builder included with LiveCycle Designer ES that enables form guides to be defined from existing PDF and XML templates.

Imagine you have a document-based PDF form.  While this form is very capable of collecting data it may not be the most intuitive experience for a novice user. Such a form is still required however for going offline, collecting signatures and printing.  Also, if the form has been already imported into LiveCycle Designer additional scripting may have been added. Form guides enable a user to take their document centric forms and apply a new skin or user interface to them while still maintaining the same underlying data model.  In fact, the data model is shared between form guides and the PDF so one could actually enter data in either and see instantly in both renderings of the form!

Providing a different skin to an exisintg PDF form is ony the first step in form guide generation.  Form guides also provide a wealth of new features not available when simply filling out a document-based PDF.  Navigation can be added, sections of the form will dynamically appear as a auser enters data and answers questions, transitions can be added and interactive content incorporated into the final application as well.

 

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Guided Activities highlighted at Adobe MAX

After the Blue Man Group performed during the opening general session at Adobe MAX on Tuesday we were treated to a number of demos of new products coming soon from Adobe.  Near the end of all the demos Ben Forta did a demo of creating a Rich Internet Application from a document created in LiveCycle Designer.  Since time was running out this demo got very little stage time but was quite compelling nevertheless. Basically what Ben’s demo showed was that using Adobe products one could take one of the millions of PDFs out there, import it into LiveCycle Designer, specify the layout of the RIA by selecting fields in the Designer, and then rendering the updated XML form template using LiveCycle Forms as a compiled and integrated Flex application.

WOW!!!  Without even having to open Flex Builder a business user will be able to create applications that leverage the Flex Framework from within LiveCycle Designer and have LiveCycle Forms handle the actual generation.

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Hanging out at MAX

I have been in Las Vegas for a few days now for the Adobe MAX developer conference and have kept quite busy.  Getting a reliable Internet connection has been difficult at times though.

Since arriving on Sunday I have been working on finalizing my LiveCycle Forms workshop which I am presenting on Tuesday and Thursday.  I also have spent some time at the LiveCycle pavillion (be sure to stop by if you’re at the conference) and attended a few sessions with the rest of my free time.  Oh, I’ve also managed to check out some of the Las Vegas strip and nearby casinos just so you don’t think I haven’t been outside yet.

So, after my first full day at my first Adobe MAX conference I must say that the experience has been very rewarding.  Be able to meet people that use LiveCycle or are interested in using it is great!

For Wednesday I will spending my time between the pavillion hall and will also be atending Matt Butler’s LiveCycle session.  I am also going going to update my workshop content before Thursday based on feedback I received today.

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Guided self-service applications

Guided self-service applications allow customers to access information and perform routine tasks without requiring any interaction with a representative of an enterprise. They can also reduce operational costs through decreased paperwork and lower call center activity. Users can be given relevant information in the context of the transactions they are trying to complete and even have real-time collaboration with a representative when required. Examples of guided self-service applications are product configurators, online banking and e-commerce.

Rich Internet applications (RIA), such as those created using Adobe Flex 2.0, are an ideal candidate for creating a guided self-service application for the web.

Adobe Flex 2.0 can simplify complex, multi-step processes in a single, dynamic interface that provides a higher level of service to customers, resulting in deeper loyalty and higher-value relationships. An RIA built using Adobe Flex can also provide in-context prompting through audio and video integration providing the real-time collaboration required by self-service applications.

While a guided self-service application is an excellent means for effectively capturing data and providing a superior user experience, a complete Enterprise solution will also require the ability to archive signed documents, provide output that can be printed and offer the ability to go offline. An RIA cannot satisfy all of these requirements on its own but it should be able to integrate easily with additional server solutions in order to gain this additional functionality.

Adobe LiveCycle products are able to produce documents that can be signed, printed, archived and filled offline by dynamically generating PDFs that can be viewed using the Adobe Reader.

A RIA created using Adobe Flex and an application created using Adobe LiveCycle can then be integrated into one complete solution.

Want to learn more? Attend Adobe MAX during October 24 – 26 in Las Vegas and be sure to check out some of the Adobe LiveCycle sessions.  In particular there is an Adobe LiveCylce Forms workshop that will show how to create and integrate a guided selef-service application using Adobe Flex and Adobe LiveCycle Forms.

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LiveCycle Forms at Adobe MAX

All of the LiveCycle products are being featured in a number of different sessions at Adobe MAX this year.  Whether you are interested in designing forms, capturing data, developing a workflow or are curious to see what is coming in the next release there is something for everyone no matter what their level of LiveCycle experience is.

This is the first year that LiveCycle technology is being showcased at Adobe MAX and along with all the valuable sessions, attendance at this event will also provide you with access to a number of evangelists, product managers and developers of the LiveCycle products.

If that is not enough reason to attend I will also be presenting a workshop at Adobe MAX on combining Adobe Flex and Adobe LiveCycle Forms to create a guided self-service application.  This is one session that should not be missed by Flex and LiveCycle developers!  I will be posting more details specifically about my workshop soon.

Visit the Adobe MAX website to register and to get more information.

See you October 23-26!

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A brief form server history

I was reading a posting recently on FlexLive.net about how Live Cycle has yet to cross the technology chasm. This got me thinking about Live Cycle Forms and in particular its form server component. Did you know that this core piece of LiveCycle Forms is now seven years old?

The form server began as a research project back in 1999 in order to leverage the power of another fledgling technology called XFA. The idea was that with form templates being defined in XML one could dynamically generate forms for a variety of clients. The form server was first released as ReachForm and marketed as the easy way “for people to access and submit forms online using the Internet”. The major feature of ReachForm then was its ability to generate form content for any browser from a single XFA definition. One could even generate multi-page HTML applications complete with client and server side scripting!

The form server was originally a Windows only COM-based solution written in Visual Basic. As a result it was a Windows only solution but could also be accessed by non-Windows platforms using SOAP.  Over the next four major releases new transformation formats were added (including PDF!) as well as digital signature support and higher performance.

Today, COM is long gone and has been replaced by Java and J2EE. Some old features have been dropped but new ones have been added as well. Even still, while its implementation is vastly different the underlying architecture and core capabilities of the form server has largely remained the same.

My point here is that while LiveCycle does indeed have a chasm to cross the chasm itself keeps moving.  What makes a good technology great is its ability not only to cross the chasm-of-the-day but also manage to keep up with change. Technology is liquid and any great software must be able to mold and transform itself in order to meet the demands of technology. The form server has proven itself over the past seven years that its core architecture is able to keep up with the pace of changing technology in the enterprise and still deliver the same great results.

The form server technology that is now part of Adobe LiveCycle Forms has stood the test of time and will continue to be innovative well into the future.

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