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Online PDF form

I want clients to be able to fill in forms online, and would like to be able to use a PDF rather than a Word document - any suggestion as to how can I do this?

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There are various options

To fully advise you we would require more information about your objectives.

You could use Adobe Acrobat together with their webservice at www.acrobat.com. Create the form and then distribute it, collect data and then use that data in other programs (rather than retyping). There's a good video overview here.

Alternatively, you could put the forms directly into a webpage and let users enter the data there, with the results of the form being automatically entered into a database for you.  You also then have the option of integrating with other online services to use the data collected - with, say, Mailchimp for contact information for example. Good forms services include www.wufoo.com and www.formstack.com.

Hope this helps.

Adrian Pearson
Business Technology Adviser

 

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04th Aug 2010 15:05

Google Doc's

Google Docs do a free version 

It is form that clients fill in online or via email & results get collated into to a spreadsheet

 

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Acrobat

I've been using Acrobat for years to generate PDFs with additional functions and recently started testing out the form distribution and file sharing capabilities mentioned by Adrian.  We want to move to secure file handling & authorisation (ie rather than relying on email & scanned signatures) however I have to say that I'm finding Acrobat.com a bit hit and miss.

Two test cases recently found the clients complaining at the slowness of getting onto the site and, for the first time today, I've tried to distibute a form and track forms currently out there and the whole process has ground to a halt, ie the "distribute" button does nothing and the tracker screen is blank.

The facilities offered, including online meetings & screen sharing, look brilliant but I am now doubtful over it's use in practice.  Adrian, have you or others you know made full use of it?

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Acrobat performance

Hi Paul

I haven't used acrobat.com in real world situations, I played with it when it first appeared and was impressed by the features. Of course, if they have performance problems then that totally negates the benefits.  I will do some research.

Regarding "email & scanned signatures", I recommend moving to www.echosign.com.  Never have to send out, and wait for the return of, paper documents again.

Adrian

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Background on Acrobat Designer etc

A few years ago, we did a series of PDF form tutorials: I've done a quick search and dug up the following:

An introduction to electronic formsThe 15-minute online formA better way to create electronic formsCreate a simple timesheet, Part ICreate a simple timesheet, Part II

If you click the PDF forms tag at the bottom of your original question, you'll be taken to a page where they're all in one place.

I should emphasise that the tutorials are a few years old now. Acrobat trainder Ian Campbell did a very good online webinar with us around using these features within the Adobe Connect environment, which greatly extends the collaborative possibilities.

Now that I've heard Google is offering similar capabilities, I'll definitely have a look. While it may not yet have as sophisticated a range of options as the Adobe tools, I suspect the price will be a lot more attractive for many high street practitioners.

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By happy
05th Aug 2010 18:09

Thank you

Thanks all for the suggestions.

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10th Aug 2010 08:10

Secure pdf forms

The best tool for creating pdf forms is Adobe Livecycle Designer.  This is included with Adobe Acrobat Pro (note: you need the pro version of Acrobat, not the standard).  You can get a free trial of Acrobat pro here:

http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobatpro/tryout.html

Livecycle Designer is a very powerful tool for creating forms - I had no idea how good it was until I used it for a project.  To be honest it blew me away.

As an example, I recently created a specialised Tax Return form for a top 20 UK accountancy firm.  The form is initially only a page or so long (nice and easy to fill in) but can dynamically expand to collect up to 1500 data items of optional information.  When completed the form submits the data to a secure server where the data is encrypted and delivered securely via email in csv format.  I've also developed a small program to convert the csv file into a format that can be imported directly into CCH.

I hope providing this example doesn't come across as overly promotional, I just wanted to give you an idea of what can be achieved.

Whatever you do, make sure that the data is transmitted securely from the client to you - especially considering it is probably financial information.  Regular email is not secure and with many online form providers your data is not encrypted in their databases which is a risk.  Lastly, if you use an online form provider based outside the EU, make sure they are "Safe Harbor" compliant, otherwise you may be contravening the Data Protection Act. 

Don't hesitate to contact me if you'd like to discuss the above.

Hope this helps.

Robert

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Robert Gowans
Sales, Marketing & Technology Consultant

-> 87 of the strategies, tools & tactics I use to generate new business for my clients

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12th Aug 2010 12:14

online PDF

Extravision www.extravision.com com can create an on-line form for you – if you’d prefer not to have to figure it out yourself, simply send the details (wording, questions, fields etc.) through and they will set up an on-line page for you. They can set it so that it sends you an email alert when people fill it out. You can use the same template to do follow ups. If it’s a long form that is more like a questionnaire they can produce real time graphical reports such as a bar chart to show results (eg. 23 per cent of people answered ‘a’ to question 9).

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12th Aug 2010 14:58

Why PDF???

Have a look at Zoho Creator. You can publish a web form and the results are stored in a database that you can download as a spreadsheet. Each time somebody fills one in you can have it automatically emailed to them as confirmation and you as well.

And it's free for small users. 

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Follow up from last week

Following up on my own experience above and Robert's excellent prompt.  I've just spent another hour playing with Acrobat.pro and, yes, it is quite mind blowing.

As I said, last week it froze on me (even after a re-booot), but today was OK.  When sending a form for completion you can send it with "open access" ie anyone knowing the url could get access to it however I prefer that because full security means the receipient generating their own Acrobat login which comes with some heavyish promotion, ie thay may ask what they are letting themselves in for.

Anyway, the receiver gets an email with the url which enables them to download the document, fill out or tick the boxes and submit back to me via acrobat.com.  The tracker screen within my acrobat software keeps track of all documents and retrieves the submitted form from Acrobat.com the results of which, as Robert pointed out, can be exported to csv.

Immediate downsides:

the 3 receivers I tested it with all said that there was a frozen period during download when the PDF was open on their screen but everything, even their curser vanished.  This I think is where the "doing" bit of the PDF is still being downloaded, maybe establishing a link with all the tick & text boxes on the form?  I don't know.

With one of the receivers they said that they were asked for their email address and then the form appeared in an email to be sent back to me.  This was because they didn't have Adobe reader 9 or above.  I'd have to check whether that's becasue of my PDF settings as I know I can create PDFs that can be read by reader 6 or later.  Anyway, no problem as I opened the attachment and it knew where it wanted to be saved and updated the data as if it had been submitted via Acrobat.com.

With regard to secure file sharing on Acrobat, again I'm not sure clients will be happy with the full login set up generating their own account and folders.  At the moment I'm using "Drop Box" which is so easy and actually does away with memory sticks between laptop, home & work machines for me, as well as files I want to share with clients.

Next step will be to try the online meeting/screen sharing facility.  I attended the one John S organised a few months back which was impressive and just what my Green ethos needs.

All in all it has it's fiddly bits and I'm a bit iffy about not being able to expand functionality without a North American address! but, seeing as I've used Acrobat.Pro for years and all this come free then I'll stick with it.

 

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13th Aug 2010 09:33

SecureDataForms.com

Hi Paul,

Just to clarify a little, I didn't use Acrobat.com to send/submit the complex tax return form I mentioned earlier.

Whilst I did use the software Acrobat Pro/Livecycle Designer to design/create the form,  it actually gets submitted and processed through SecureDataForms.com.

SecureDataForms.com is a service I created specifically for collecting sensitive data from pdf forms.  Unlike most other PDF/HTML form processors, SecureDataForms.com does not store the data unencrypted in a database.  It encrypts the data using a secure key that only you know and then emails it to you immediately.   This is an important consideration for financial data.

SecureDataForms.com is also a lot simpler for the person filling in the form:

1. You send the form attached to an email

2. They fill in the form and click the big submit button

3. You receive the data encrypted via email

I created this service specifically to support a project for a top 20 UK accountant. 

There's an introductory video at Secure Data Forms.

Hope this helps,

Robert

--

Robert Gowans
Sales, Marketing & Technology Consultant
 

-> 87 of the strategies, tools & tactics I use to generate new business for my clients

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Robert & John

Hi Robert - thanks for that and your service looks interesting.

From my point of view, what I'm exploring is two-fold, ie the ability create & send simple e-forms that can be easily completed and returned and also to store and share documents securely.  What I'm trying to get away from is emailing documents, not just for the security issues but also to get away from tennis matches with attachments and multi-versions of the same document, clogging up my (and their) servers and email archiving facilities.

When I say simple e-forms, this will be a one page checlklist (say with a tax return or a set of accounts) with a tick & coments boxes next to each item.  I can do this in minutes with acrobat.pro and have to say I do like the Acrobat.com feature of not actually emailing the form back & forth.

The ideal is obviously to dump a document, incorporating a checklist or authentication function, in a secure space and enable my client to have access to check, authorise &/or comment.  Again Acrobat.com enables this but it is very clunky and big brotherish.

An alternative provider (from which I get regular emails) is Lucey http://www.luceytechnology.com/.  This seems to tick all the boxes and incorporates online payments from clients BUT, it's yet more cost when I'm sure I can use free (or already bought) services like Drop Box (so cool!) and Acrobat.

John - Am wondering if AccountingWeb has had any other discussions &/or reviews of these facilities as it's clear that with the emphasis on secure documentation and maybe (as in the US) clamping down on email of sensitive documents this will be the way we do it in the future.

 

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