How to create and modify interactive PDF forms, or the new skill ABBYY FineReader PDF

We regularly train ABBYY FineReader PDF new skills. Two weeks ago we told on Habr how we taught ABBYY FineReader PDF to edit whole paragraphs. This post is about yet another advancement of our product on the path to excellence: the program is now able to create and edit interactive PDF forms.

Previously, ABBYY FineReader PDF could only fill out such forms – vacation applications or visas, resumes, consent to the processing of personal data, research, surveys, etc. But what if a company needs to create a questionnaire in PDF format, develop a document template or edit several fields in a ready form so that it can then be sent to employees or customers? Now all this can be done in one program. Today, we’ll tell you how it works, why and who might need such functionality. Go!

What is an interactive PDF form?

An interactive PDF-form is a document with fields in which the user can print text, dates, tick off, select one or more values ​​from the list and perform other actions without editing the main content of the document.

PDF forms may look different. Here are a few examples:

From left to right: the first page of the Schengen visa application form; consent to the processing of personal data; PDF form for requesting service. The picture is clickable.

If a PDF file in itself is a static entity, which is primarily designed to transmit information, then PDF forms are designed to receive information from users or organizations.

From a technical point of view, an interactive form in PDF is a set of “widgets”. Widgets are fields that you can create, edit and populate. The term is taken from the PDF specification (international PDF ISO standards, which describe all the standardized features of the PDF format). The specification says how interactive elements are arranged so that the PDF viewer understands this, that is, a program for working with PDF. Based on this specification, we developed a feature for creating and editing forms in ABBYY FineReader PDF. Thus, the interactive forms created in our program will be available for filling out or editing in other PDF editors, if they support PDF ISO.

What are the benefits of interactive PDF forms?

  • The PDF form will be equally displayed in any operating system, any program and on any device;
  • A PDF form is easier and faster to fill out than a paper document. Less likely to make a mistake;
  • A PDF form can be filled out without access to the Internet;
  • PDF form is easy to print;
  • You can send the form in several ways: by the action button (we will talk about it below), by email, upload to the server;
  • Data from PDF forms is digital, and therefore they can be immediately sent to data processing systems;
  • PDF forms are easy to integrate into organizations’ electronic document management systems.

We give an example. Let’s say you need to get an insurance policy for traveling abroad. In order not to come to the office of the company and not to fill out a paper application, you can fill out a PDF form right at home and send it to the manager by mail. In addition, the company employee will not have to retype the data. Information from PDF can immediately be entered into corporate databases.

How to create a PDF form

ABBYY FineReader PDF helps both create forms from scratch, including in a new document, and edit existing fields in a form.

For example, you can create a new PDF document, enter the form mode by clicking the “Form Editor” button on the main toolbar, and then add the required fields to the file.

Or you can open an existing PDF-document with or without form fields and go to the “Form Editor”. If the document already has interactive fields, the user will see a message:

In the “Form Editor” mode, their names will be displayed next to the form fields.

If desired, this highlight can be turned off, and the names edited. In addition, you can change other settings: the appearance and format of the fields, as well as assign default values ​​for individual types of fields. We will tell you more about this later.

To take different forms? Easily

The program can add 7 types of interactive fields that are familiar to many:

Text field. Allows you to enter a line or several lines of text. You can apply formatting to the input text, for example, make a date out of it. If such formatting is characteristic of the field, then in the window of the field you can call up the calendar and select the date there. The user can choose the date format (for example, 12/18/1987 or 1987/18/12).

Date formatting, like any other formatting, is set in the form field using JavaScript instructions. A JS engine is built into the product that can follow these instructions and help the user enter the necessary text.

Check box. Allows you to check, for example, give consent to the processing of data, indicate special conditions when choosing a hotel room, subscribe to news, etc.

A remarkable feature: if you think that a checkmark in the check box is drawn (by vector commands or a picture), then this is not always the case. When creating a check box in ABBYY FineReader, a PDF checkmark is a symbol. There is a special character font, Zapfdingbats, and it does not consist of letters, but of such special characters. And in our check box we just get text from one character of this font.

Switch (it is also called “radio button“). This item allows you to select only one of the possible options in the list.

The switch in PDF is the most striking example of how a single field can contain several widgets. Each of them has a choice name, which is predefined by the PDF viewer. It is this name that is written in the field when a button is selected. Each widget has several predefined states (ChoiceName / Off, Normal / Down). And depending on what state the widget is in, such a state will be shown to the user. No animation, just replacing one picture with another.

Drop-down list. It allows you to select one of the predefined values ​​or, if the form allows, enter your own (arbitrary) value.

List. You can select several options.

Button. Allows you to set the action that is performed upon a specific event (i.e., interaction with a button). For example, when you click on a button or hover, you can send the form by email, print, save, show the attached files, clear the form, and so on. Instead of clicking on the button, you can select other events, for example, releasing the cursor, etc. There are many options:

Signature field. Allows you to specify in the document the place where you need to put a digital signature:

Improving the form further

To make the form understandable to the user, you can configure various properties for all form elements and change them during the editing process.

1). The name of the field. This is the internal name that helps the creator of the form navigate the document.

2). Prompt. It appears when you hover over the field, and allows the user to understand what needs to be done and what information to enter.

3). You can make any field required. Then it will be highlighted with a red frame so that the user draws attention: information must be entered in this field so that the form is accepted and considered. The red frame does not impose restrictions on sending or printing a PDF form.

4). Read Only option. If you select it, the field will become unavailable for editing. It happens that in the form there may be information that should remain unchanged. For example, in the questionnaire for male employees about what gifts they prefer to give to women, there may be a gender field: you can enter the value “Male” there and leave it unchanged. This seems to imply a survey for men.

5). The appearance of the fields. You can select a fill color, border thickness, font properties, and more. The design of the entire form can be configured by default: then all the new fields that the user creates in the document will have a single appearance.

Let’s talk about a few more useful actions that users can perform when creating or editing forms. After creation, any of the fields can be moved within the page, copied or deleted. Field sizes can also be changed.

In addition, so that the form not only benefits, but also looks beautiful, the program has a tool that accurately aligns all fields vertically and horizontally. Guides appear when you move a field and help align it with neighboring fields or page borders.

Of course, when we developed the form editor in FineReader PDF, we evaluated what tasks end users needed to solve. Let’s talk about them.

Need to develop templates for documents

Using ABBYY FineReader PDF, government organizations, as well as legal, insurance, medical and other companies can create PDF templates for documents that need to be filled in electronically:

  • Vacation applications
  • different types of legal applications (for divorce, custody, alimony, name change, legal assistance),
  • templates for contracts, resolutions, notifications, letters of attorney,
  • marketing forms for orders, inquiries, etc.

The source document is usually created in MS Word. It contains text and spaces for adding fields. Then the user converts the document to PDF in order to create fields in the form editor that will be convenient to fill out.

So that the structure of the form, main content and general appearance cannot be changed, you can password protect the document from editing, leaving only the filling function available.

After the user has completed this document, he can print it and sign it by hand, or add a digital signature and send it by mail.

It is necessary to collect data and send information to another organization

In the ABBYY FineReader PDF program, companies and government organizations can create and edit various electronic forms for data collection, for example:

  • visa applications
  • patent applications
  • applications for registration of a medicinal product,
  • tax returns
  • an appointment with a doctor
  • consent forms for medical manipulations, etc.

In electronic form, such forms are easier to fill out and process. In addition, employees can quickly submit such forms within or outside the organization to immediately receive a response from colleagues, consultations, etc.

It is necessary to conduct a survey within the company, ensuring data confidentiality

It is not always possible to use online services such as SurveyMonkey and Google Forms to conduct internal research, surveys and audits in companies. They may not be suitable due to security requirements and personal data management policies. In this case, you can replace online tools with interactive PDF forms.

We hope that ABBYY FineReader PDF will help simplify many tasks that require the creation and editing of interactive PDF forms. If you want to try new functionality, then the program can free download and use it during the trial period.

Write in the comments what other technological features of our program would you be interested to know?

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *