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Why every office needs a typewriter

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24th Feb 2006
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Simon HurstBeating forms into submission

Too often computers seem to make simple things complicated, so it's always refreshing to find an application that makes a difficult thing simple.

Forms are a bit of an occupational hazard in accountancy and anything that can make them easier to deal with is welcome. In recent years various government departments have made their forms library available on line ' allowing users to obtain the form they need without having to wait for the post. However, whilst these forms can be downloaded and printed out, many of them cannot be completed electronically.

The latest version of Adobe Acrobat Professional includes a simple but very effective alternative ' the 'Typewriter' tool. One click can convert an obstinately static 'print only' form to one that allows electronic completion. Even better, you can then 'enable' the form so that anyone with the free Adobe Reader ' whether inside or outside your organisation - can also complete it electronically.

The following two examples will give you the opportunity to see how easy it is to complete a form, as well as enabling the Typewriter tool in the first place:

A custom 64-8 with go-faster stripes

If you don't have Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Professional, here's an example of a form which we have already 'enabled' for you to try out in Adobe Reader. We've chosen the 64-8 'Authorising your agent' form from the HMRC website,

Note that you will need to have v7.0.5 or later of the Adobe Reader to use the Typewriter tool, as it is a new feature added after the program was first released.

You can find out how to download updates for both Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat by visiting our 'News and Updates' page. To find out which version of the software you are currently using on a PC, choose [Help, About].

Typewriter Tool enabled form

Click with the right-hand mouse button on the above link and choose [Save Target As] or [Save Link As], then save to a convenient location such as your Desktop. Now double click on the downloaded form to open it in Adobe Reader.

You should see the instructions for using the Typewriter tool at the top of the window.

Typewriter Tool

Give it a try. Click on the Typewriter tool button, then click in one of the form fields and start typing. Note that next to the Typewriter tool button itself are two 'Text Size' buttons to decrease or increase the font size,

Once you have completed one field, just click on the next one and start typing until you have completed all the information you need to enter. You can even press the Return/Enter key to continue typing onto additional lines (and use the two Line Spacing buttons to decrease or increase the distance between lines)

You can edit any text that you have entered ' just select some or all of the text and then make the changes you need; you can double click to select a word, or use Ctrl-A to select the entire entry. In addition you can use [Edit, Copy] and [Edit, Paste] to copy the text to another area on your form.

You can also adjust the position of your text block by first clicking away, then clicking on top; then just drag to wherever you need it (you will see a 4-head arrow).

When done, save the form using [File, Save] ' or [File, Save As] if you want to keep the original form intact. Even after closing the form, you can return at any time to edit or add further text.

How do they do that?

If you do have Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Professional, here's an example using a 'static' form which we will 'enable' for completion in the free Adobe Reader.

Note that you will need to have updated to v7.0.5 or later of Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Professional to use the Typewriter Tool, as it is a new feature added after the program was released.

You can find out how to obtain updates and/or download a 30-day trial of Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Professional by going to our 'News and Updates' page. At present the Acrobat 7.0 Professional tryout is not updatable to 7.05, but we suggest a workaround if you would like to tryout the Typewriter tool enabling feature. To find out which version of the software you are currently using on a PC, choose [Help, About].

As an example we will download the original 64-8 'Authorising your agent' form from the HMRC website, enable it for electronic completion, and save it in a shared location so any user can open it with Adobe Reader (version 7.05 onwards) and start typing.

You can go the HMRC website homepage and locate it yourself HRMC: it's in the Practitioner Zone ' look for Forms in the Library section, then 'Agent Authorisation', then 64-8'

Alternatively here is the direct link to it on the HMRC site (March 06): 64-8.pdf

If unavailable, you can download it from the AccountingWEB file area using the link below:

64-8.pdf

You should now see the PDF version of the '64-8' form open up in your browser. Note that at present this form only contains 'static' fields ' to add data, a user has to print out the form and then complete it manually.

We shall use Acrobat 7.0 Professional's new Typewriter tool to 'enable' it so it can be completed on screen using the free Adobe Reader.

First, use your browser's [File, Save As] (or [Save Page As]) option to save the PDF file to an appropriate location e.g. the Desktop. Close the browser, and open the saved static PDF form in Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Professional.

Now comes the easy bit. Click on the [Tools] option on the menu bar. Now click on the [Typewriter] option towards the bottom of the menu, and then on the option: [Enable Typewriter Tool in Adobe Reader]. Note - if you cannot see this option you do not have Acrobat 7.0 Professional with the requisite 7.05 or 7.07 update installed.

Typewriter Tool

You'll be asked to save the newly-enabled PDF file - in order to see the difference, you might want to call it something like 'tw64-8.pdf' so that you will have the original 'non-enabled ' file, and the Typewriter enabled file.

Now anyone in the world with the latest version of the free Adobe Reader 7.0 can open and complete the form without printing it out first.

Don't stop there

You're probably already thinking 'Does life get any better than this?', but there's more! If some of the information ' such as your own name and address is going to be the same whenever you use the form, you can pre-enter all the required information before you save the form. Then, whenever you need to use the form again, all you will have to do is open a copy of the form and enter the additional information.

In fact, you can probably think of even more applications for this simple, effective and very practical utility hidden in the depths of Adobe Professional. If you can, please post your suggestion as a comment below before 31st March and the most interesting entry will receive a copy of Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Professional.

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By acca_Laurence
02nd Mar 2006 14:10

A very useful tool
Seems a very useful tool. As well as being used for simple Revenue and Companies House forms one could use it:

1. To complete a tax return for say a trust or a pension scheme where you might not do enough of them to warrant purchasing an additional module from your software supplier but still want to give the client a professional looking document rather than a hand written return.

2. One could even produce corporation tax returns using this method as there is little computation involved.

3. Interestingly one does not need to start with a pdf file. A client may ask you to complete a paper form for him. This could be scanned into Acrobat and then typewriter enabled. Again the client gets to see a typed form rather than a hand written one.

4. One danger is that it is also possible for someone to use the technique to tamper with a document.

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By tomtrainer
02nd Mar 2006 16:42

Cost
How much does Acrobat Profesional cost? Isn't it quite expensive?

My scanner (and everyone should have a scanner these days) came with software that converts any form, paper or electronic, into a file that can be completed on-screen. I would have thought this would be a cheaper option.

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