Form with Function, Part One: Working with Digital Forms

We don’t need to persuade you of the value of creating digital forms and surveys over paper forms handed out on clipboards. Paper is so 20th century.

You see online surveys on your browser from not-for-profits and airlines and political campaigns and banks every day, and pop-ups asking to improve their customer experience before you click the big “X” in the upper right corner. You probably file your tax returns using TurboTax, a practice the Internal Revenue Service has been encouraging for 25 years to make filings faster and more accurate. Since 2014, over 90% of IRS forms have been completed electronically each year. When you rent a car, the agent checks you in or out with a touch-sensitive tablet and asks you to initial the form with your finger on the screen. The Federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) of 2000 was designed to help replace paper business forms and documents with digital files by making electronic signatures legal and enforceable.

Types of Digital Forms

Two basic varieties of digital forms are available: HTML and PDF.

HTML forms are common and work well on browsers and mobile devices. Services like Survey Monkey are great, making it easy for individuals and businesses to create and distribute high-quality forms. But the free Basic plan for Survey Monkey limits you to 10 questions and permits no more than 100 responses per survey. An individual user license costs a lot more per month than a comparable license for Adobe Acrobat. As an alternative, you could create your own browser-based survey. That allows you to manage the design and format of your survey and keep complete control over the data returned by your customers, clients, employees, or prospects. But building your own HTML form requires web developer skills and a detailed knowledge of HTML formatting.

PDF form documents are another alternative to create digital surveys. They cost next to nothing and are easy to create. No technical skills are required, just a basic understanding of document design and Adobe Acrobat. You get to make all of the decisions related to the format, length, and content of your PDF form document. You can distribute and process as many PDF forms as you like, and all of the data you receive remains fully under your control.

Introducing Forms Extension for the Adobe PDF Library (APDFL)

Now, with the Adobe PDF Library (APDFL) and the new Forms Extension for APDFL (to be released soon), both provided by Datalogics, your ability to work with PDF forms increases exponentially.

The Datalogics Forms Extension for APDFL is a software module that allows applications built using the Adobe PDF Library to work with PDF AcroForm and XFA forms documents. When you install the Forms Extension, it becomes a seamless part of the Adobe PDF Library, and provides the APDFL user with all of the functions available in Adobe Acrobat for working with PDF forms documents. Please note that you must purchase or already own APDFL to get the extension.

That means that you can integrate all of the PDF forms features offered in Adobe Acrobat into your own software. With Forms Extension for APDFL, you can quickly process PDF forms in large volumes. Unlike working with Acrobat, you aren’t limited to manipulating one document at a time. Moreover, with Forms Extension and APDFL, you will find it easy to export the data from your PDF form documents to XML or other types of storage files formats. After you collect the responses to hundreds or thousands of forms/surveys, you can take the data from these form documents and import them into a database, where you can analyze and manipulate that data however you like.

Using Forms Extension for APDFL

Here are some of the features offered with Forms Extension for APDFL and the Adobe PDF Library:

  • Import data into dynamic and static XFA and AcroForm documents
  • Export data from these form documents to other files
  • Flatten dynamic and static XFA and AcroForm documents into regular PDF documents, including generating appearances for bar. When you flatten a PDF document, you are removing interactive elements, like form fields, and converting the form and its content into text.
  • Convert dynamic and static XFA forms to AcroForm

We are excited to show you the Forms Extension for APDFL and talk to you about how you can use this new asset within the Adobe PDF Library to expand your ability to efficiently collect and manage information from your customers, prospects, employees, students, and partners. Stay tuned for part two of this post, where we’ll go into more detail about using Forms Extension with XFA and AcroForms. Have questions or want to learn more about Forms Extension? Contact us today.

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