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Convert paper forms to digital format with Adobe Suite

Malevolo asked
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Last Modified: 2010-05-19
I have 6 paper forms (one page each) which need to be be filled out one at a time. One of those forms contains 95% of the information that is required to fill out the remaining 5 forms.

I would like to digitally recreate these forms in Adobe Acrobat format (or possibly with another application) so that I will have one resulting PDF. The PDF should contain all 6 forms/pages. Additionally, I'd like to have the PDF set up so that when I fill out the first page (which containts the majority of information for all other pages too), the remaining pages populate themselves based on the information on the first page. At that point, I'd like the ability to go down to the other 5 pages and fill in whatever other remaining lines of data that weren't already supplied.

What is the best approach to creating a file of that sort. Can I do this all with Acrobat 8 Professional, or do I need Adobe Designer as well?
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Technical Director

you can create all this in CS, but you may want to use a mix of applications. You will need a scanner too.

Not knowing the layout it is tricky to comment on the exact order of events. Depending on the form layout you may want to choose Illustrator or even something like Word to create the bare bone document.

As most forms have a tabular structure or fine line art elements the scan in process can be quite crude in comparison to the time saving element of scanning + OCR.

if I assume that you want to use the scan route, the proceed as follows:
First scan in the pages using Acrobat File|Create PDF=>from Scanner, you should scan in at a high resolution (minimum 300dpi) for he OCR to work. Then select the OCR otion from the Document menu.

This will save you from retyping the text. If your forms have simple design elements such as straight lines you can bring this into Illustrator to add or retrace your lines and shading. Repeat the process for additional forms and save these as PDF, but select 'Retain Illustrator editing'.

You may now decide to use Designer but if you are not bothered about server side stuff or XML, you can work in Acrobat. Acrobat allows you to place text and form elements in the area of your form you want filling in.

First combine your individual PDF forms into one document by opening the first PDF and insrting the others in the order of your choice using Document|Insert pages...

Choose Tools|Advanced Editing to pick out the Text field tool. draw boxes for your field sizes that fit the form layout and give a unique name to each field that is supposed to carry unique data. Right click for properties, you find many formatting options there. Note that right click also allows you to size/edit and align your fields.

Now when you have all your fields drawn look at the fields you wish to duplicate across the document.
Copy the field (CTRL+C) and paste onto desired page. Note that the field has the same name then the source field. This means if it filed in later all fields with the same name will auto fill when the first one is filed in. Make the duplicate fields 'read only' from the General tab so that only the first field is editable.

For other unique user fields on subsequent pages repeat the steps for unique fields.

You can find many hints in the help file or go to Adobe forums to find out about scripting to control date behaviour or auto completion of fields.

Ultimately if your document form is very complex in layout but not text heavy you may want to use Word or InDesign to create the Document layout to your liking and import the scanned OCR'd text (to save you the typing)...and continue afterwards in Acrobat, but that decision is easily made once you have found your way around Acrobat.

would just like to point out a program designed for just this sort of thing, Omniform 5 from Nuance, would seems to be a simpler solution.

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