Adobe Solutions for Creating PDF Forms

As more and more companies are converting to a digital workflow, PDF forms are becoming more popular. PDF workflow has been used within the printing industry for years, so I find it interesting that it has taken so long to move into the standard business document and web form arena.

PDF forms offer a very convenient way to gather data from a user without the need for web developers to create a back end script using ColdFusion, ASP, ASP.NET, PHP or JSP. HTML forms require some form of server-side script to process the data. which also means an IT person must create the script in order to get a simple form working on the web. PDF forms do not require this step.

What about form creation? How can I create PDF forms? Adobe offers 2 solutions to this question. Adobe Acrobat used to provide 2 programs that installed automatically on your system when you installed Acrobat for PDF form creation. During the Acrobat installation process, a second program called LiveCycle Designer was also installed onto the system. Most people were not aware of this. LiveCycle Designer is a much more powerful program for PDF form creation, but the learning curve is much higher to learn the program.

Both Acrobat and LiveCycle Designer programs offer the ability to create PDF forms. The capabilities of the PDF forms that are created differ substantially however. Acrobat creates static PDF forms, while LiveCycle Designer can offer the ability to create truly dynamic forms. A static form cannot change the layout of the form once it is created. A dynamic form can completely change the layout of the form based on user actions. PDF forms created in Acrobat can take you to a certain point with your PDF forms, but LiveCycle Designer can really show the power of a PDF form.

Let’s say you presently have 5 different paper forms that request the same information from the user such as the name, address, phone, and email. It is possible to combine those forms into a single LiveCycle PDF form that allows the user to check a box to choose the specific form they want to fill out.

The PDF form is able to not only create the PDF form that shows only the fields for that form, but can rearrange the form field layout to provide an optimum layout for that specific form. Adobe Acrobat PDF forms do not provide that capability. They can show or hide fields, but not completely rearrange the entire form layout.

LiveCycle Designer offers the ability to create dynamic forms that can change the layout of the entire form even while the user is filling out the form. Adobe Acrobat forms only offer a static PDF form option. The fields are not able to rearrange themselves based on user actions. They can be shown or hidden but the PDF form layout itself is limited to the initial form layout.

Adobe Acrobat PDF forms store data as bit data behind the scenes, whereas LiveCycle Designer stores the PDF form data as XML data. XML data provides more flexibility both in form creation and PDF form workflow.

As of Acrobat XI, LiveCycle Designer is no longer included with the Adobe Acrobat purchase as they are completely separate product lines. LiveCycle Designer is designed to be used as the starting point for moving into a LiveCycle Designer Document Process using the Adobe LiveCycle line of products. Large organizations such as the IRS, Social Security and other organizations can completely control their document workflow using LiveCycle modules that can be purchased independently based on the needs of the organization.

LiveCycle Designer provides much more flexibility when using PDF forms, but it is now a separate product and installation from Acrobat. Both products create PDF forms, but the product to choose is based on the PDF form workflow you wish to use and provide within your organization. For assistance with PDF forms, contact Candyce Mairs at CMairsCreate.

Learn to work with Adobe Acrobat PDF forms