What are the best methods for providing downloadable editable forms

Posted on 2007-07-27
Last Modified: 2010-04-06
Looking for some ideas on how best to provide online forms that can be downloaded and edited easily. Currently we use protected Word docs which form fields etc. We've also use PDF froms and some times as well. We have also used Word Docs with VBA macros like wizards,  which lead the user through the content with a selection of VB forms with textboxes and drop downs. In some case we use HTML forms aswell.

I'm wondering what other methods are there and what are the pros and cons.
Question by:Sparky191
    LVL 11

    Accepted Solution

    I prefer PDF just because the PDF viewer is free, and PDF's are cross platform compatible. Word requires the end user have M$ Office installed, which can become a headache.
    The cons to using PDFs is YOU have to purchase Acrobat, and the end user cant save the form after editing it, unless they too have purchased Acrobat. It's been a while since I've dealt with that, so someone correct me if I'm wrong.

    You could also ask for the form information online, then have the end user submit that information. Once submitted you could store that information in a database, then dynamically build the PDF on the server, and stream that to the end user. That's how I would personally do it.
    LVL 1

    Author Comment

    From our experience users are more likely to have MS Word than Acrobat Reader, and the recent version of reader are large and slow. I'm using Foxit now instead. The inability to edit is a major drawback though. Cross platform ability is nice. The numbers aren't worthwhile. Thanks for the feedback, I didn't realise about the editing limitations of PDF.
    LVL 11

    Expert Comment

    TY for the points. I hope you are able to implement the proper solution.

    LVL 1

    Author Comment

    Theres no perfect solution as far as I can see. Theres a few options.

    1) You have manual forms user prints and fills in.
    2) PDF or Word forms
    3) Word VBA automated forms/wizards
    4) A web application with online forms that generated documents/saves to database.

    In my opinion it becomes a question of resources available and if the return is worth the effort and ongoing support and development.

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