Using an Acrobat 8 Form to collect data over the Web

_uacct = “UA-1416026-2″;urchinTracker();_uacct = “UA-1416026-1″;urchinTracker();A question from Liz made me think, humm, what’s for dinner, whoops, got off track there, actually the question was: “I understood the lesson you gave on creating forms and then distributing them. But what if my organization wants to create a form and post it to our Web site for people to download and complete, then mail back? Is there no way to do that? Must it be distributed via e-mail by me, the document/form creator?” This is a great question, and one that does not get enough discussion, so let’s go for it!


_uacct = “UA-1416026-2″;urchinTracker();_uacct = “UA-1416026-1″;urchinTracker();You know, we here in the Adobe Camp seem to get locked in on the Ad-Hoc based work flows. Or, workflow’s that are not planned out or enterprise wide! Acrobat forms and the Adobe Designer are good examples of this. I have even fell into this trap here in the blog and on the Podcasts. I have totally forgotten about the web based workflow’s, well thank you Liz for e-slapping me back to reality!Ok here we go, let’s lay it out, I want to create a form to collect some data, but instead of sending it out through e-mail, I want to post it on my web site and collect the data from there. Something we do every day! So for this one I am going to use a standard template in the Adobe Designer (sorry Mac Folks, I will post one later on how to do this on a Mac, I have to see if I can steal a Mac from one of the programmers!) put a link on a web site, fill in the form, then submit it, and collect the data in an Acrobat Package. For a reference see these two blog’s that relate to forms data collect Here and Here.

  1. Start up Adobe Livecycle Designer and select one of the standard templates, in this case I used the “Contact Information” template 1
  2. Next you will see a series of dialogue boxes that will ask you to fill in company data, logo’s, stuff like that you can bypass those or fill them in, I filled in the first two for fun2
  3. After a few screens you will get to one that asks you to add buttons to your form uncheck those as we will be adding a custom submit button latter.3
  4. Now you will see your form, go to Standard under the Library, and select HTML Submit Button place it on your form5
  5. Now that you have your button go to the object panel and add a URL that is where you what the data to come back to. Here I used my e-mail address, you can use a generic e-mail like data@something.com or have it post to your web site, the only problem with that is you have to manually combine your data (I’ll cover in another post), so the string you put on the URL block is (for e-mail) mailto:thuff@adobe.com exactly like that, but with your e-mail please!8
  6. Some notes on HTML Submit
  7. Submit to URL – Sets the location of a web-hosted server. You can specify the ftp, http, https, or mailto protocol.

To

Use this URL protocol

Example

Submit the package to an ftp site

ftp

ftp://ftp.gnu.org/gnu/GPL

Submit the package to a web server

http

http://myserver/cgi-bin/

Submit the package to a secure web server

https

https://myserver/cgi-bin/

Submit the package to an email address

mailto

mailto:username@domain.com

  1. Ok now save the form in Acrobat LiveCycle Designer to some where you can find it. And open it in Acrobat 8 Professional or Acrobat 3D version 8. Once you have it loaded in Acrobat, go to the Forms pull down and select Distribute From10
  2. Here is the only real difference from anything we have done before, instead of sending now, we Save and send later11
  3. We run through the Distribute Form wizard12
  4. Take care when setting the location for the forms collection, if you use a generic e-mail address, you may have multiple people opening these e-mail, these people must have read and write access to the data collection location!13
  5. This just gives your form a name and a place to save the workflow enable version. This form is also enabled for the Adobe Free Reader14
  6. You can add this to your forms library.15
  7. You can get to the forms library by going to Forms, and select Track Forms16
  8. This takes you to the forms/review tracker, a nice tool to help you keep up with your forms, reviews and it has an rss reader, here do this, click the blue RSS button, hit the green Subscribe Plus and click here or type http://feeds.feedburner.com/IDidntKnowAcrobatCouldDoThat that will let you keep up with this blog…Ok so that’s a little self promotion, sue me :-) 17
  9. I am not going to cover how to put a link on a web site as I am sure you have IT guru’s for that, but I added a link to my form on a mock web site18
  10. I am presented with the form in my browser or in Acrobat (it is according on how you have your preferences set), and once I have filled in the form, I can hit either of the Submit buttons19
  11. Since we said Submit by e-mail, we will open this dialogue box and ask the user to submit with their desktop e-mail or save to their computer and use another e-mail solution by attaching the PDF form to it.3
  12. Here is what I see in my in box, I have 3 forms returned back to me7
  13. All I do is open the e-mail, double click the attachment, and it will ask you if you want to add it to a data collection, you say yes, and if the collection directory has not changed, it will be found automatically or it will allow you to search for it.8

And that’s it! Data collection over the web, now that wasn’t too tough was it? My goodness it is late on a Saturday night, I still need to post some soccer pictures before I can go to sleep! And remember to keep some life in you life! Watch the podcasts!Keep a smile on your face this holiday, enjoy the gift of giving, help someone you don’t know!Tim