Saving form input for future revision

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Saving form input for future revision

Postby Erin Paseka » Wed Jun 14, 2006 3:05 pm

A web dev issue not directly related to templates and coding...

Non-HTML forms have been a back-burner headache for me (Grad Studies) for a long time. Although it is my hope/delusion that someday (we're talking years) forms like our master's degree Memorandum of Courses will be HTML-based, accessed via WAM and hooked up to databases, we're nowhere near being ready for that. For now we're still in "download this and fill it out" territory.

In the beginning, there was plain Word, and it was bad. Going from plain Word docs to protected Word forms helped, but that still forced users to own M$ Office. And we got too many "I can't make this grey box go away" calls. Also, even with protected forms, students managed to distort them in ways that aggravated our staff, like making a 2-page form into 6. So we went to PDF, which costs users nothing and has a rigid page layout, and now we have PDF forms that the user can download and type into.

The problem is that they can't save it, close it, and revise it later. A student can spend an hour filling out a PDF Doctoral Program of Studies, then print or print/save it as another PDF, but if the advisor sees it and says to change one little tiny detail, the student has to redo the whole thing. Not user friendly, and we know it.

As universal as PDFs have become, I'm amazed that they (as far as I can tell) offer no way to save form input re-editably. Without falling back to Word or leaping ahead to database-connected web forms, can anyone here suggest a solution?
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Postby saltybeagle » Wed Jun 14, 2006 3:59 pm

I actually think there's some way to make the PDF such that it can store the data itself, separate from the PDF... It's FDF (forms data format) if I recall correctly? You build the PDF, then in Acrobat Pro overlay all your form fields, and export the form data as an FDF file. With that, I think you can actually make the FDF file downloadable, and inside the FDF tell it to render the form data using the PDF on your server. So when they open the fdf file it pulls the latest PDF from your server for layout & positioning, and they fill out all the form details... and I think they can save it?

Of course this was like 4 years ago when I did this. I may have to make a phone call to IS-Telecom and see if what I'm remembering is true or not.
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