About forms

A form is the document that a user views or interacts with. It is derived from a form design that you create using Designer.

Forms typically collect or present structured data and are the front end to a business process. Designer creates forms and documents that can be merged with business data and rendered in a number of file types, including PDF documents, HTML, Flash (SWF file), and printing for PostScript and Zebra (ZPL) printers.

Forms can capture or present information in three different ways.

Interactive forms

Forms can be designed to capture data directly from end users. Users fill the form and select options online, and return the form data according to some prescribed process. These forms are known as interactive forms. You can author interactive forms that the user fills using Acrobat Professional or Adobe Reader, or you can author forms for Forms Generator that the user fills in a web browser.

Interactive forms have many benefits over paper-based forms:

  • Although interactive forms may look like traditional paper-based forms, they eliminate cumbersome and time-consuming effort required to process paper forms. Using interactive forms to provide business solutions makes sense in the worlds of the Internet and enterprise-wide computing.

  • You can deliver interactive forms through Internet, intranet, or email. You can automate the document exchange process, store forms in reliable formats, and protect document content and integrity.

  • Interactive forms allow you to streamline your data collection process. An interactive form can collect and integrate data into your existing core data collection systems, thereby extending their value. The form might integrate data directly to your data collection system or use a program on the server, such as a CGI script,an ASP page, Java Server Pages (JSP), or servlet.

  • Using interactive forms, you can also establish online forms-based workflow processes using built-in logic to route the form electronically from one user to the next. Interactive forms can also support assistive technologies, such as screen readers, so that you can extend the form to users with disabilities.

In the simplest scenario, end users only require Adobe Reader to electronically fill the form and send the form data to the originator of the form or print the form and send the paper copy of form and data to the originator. If you have purchased Forms, the interactive form can be in PDF or HTML. In this case, users open and fill the form using a web browser.

Interactive forms typically include data entry features such as selection lists, drop-down lists, check boxes, automatically generated calculations, validation messages, digital signatures, and Submit and Execute buttons. Form authors can use built-in FormCalc functions and custom scripting by using JavaScript™ to extend the functionality of interactive fields. Interactive forms can include command buttons so that users can save the data to a file or database or to send the data by email to a specified address. In addition, validations can be added to ensure the accuracy of user-entered data. The form can provide feedback such as messages to prompt for specific types of data.

Non-interactive forms

Forms can be designed to present information to end users. The data can come from a variety of data sources, such as databases, web services, or enterprise content management systems. The end user views the form already prepopulated with data. The end user cannot modify the data in the form or add new data to the form. These types of forms are known as non-interactive forms . A typical scenario for these types of forms involves Forms as part of the solution. Forms merges the form design with data and renders the form, prepopulated with data, to the end user. A classic example of a non-interactive form is a credit card statement or telephone bill.

In yet another scenario, a form might be designed to initially present information to the end user, and then provide the capability for the end user to supply additional information and send it to the initiator or server for further processing.

Print and fill forms

Another type of form is the print-and-fill form. The form author creates a form design in Designer and typically saves it as a PDF. The end user opens the form in Acrobat or Adobe Reader, prints the form, and fills the form manually. The form is then returned to its originator by fax or land mail.

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