Hi - I'd really appreciate some advice. I am designing a process which will involve field staff signing up new clients using a form (designed in Acrobat X Pro) on an Android tablet device (Galaxy Tab 2 7.0) and getting the data back to head office where it will be used to populate a database. I also want a copy of the filled in form - either as a PDF, or by re-populating a 'shell' form with the data.
Some of the required fields for the database are not actually collected on the form, but are generated by either performing a calculation on the form data or by looking it up in another data source such as an Excel wiorksheet. Ideally there would be also some simple validation checks to stop staff entering inconsistent data, but this is not essential.
My remaining problems are these:
1. Because Reader 10.2 saves the form as it goes along, it doesn't seem to be possible to store a blank template (as in Excel or Word) and use this to generate new forms for each new client, so there's a big risk of inadvertently overwriting. Is this right and is there a workround?
2. I think I'm right in saying that, while Reader 10.2 will email the full PDF, it won't email fdf data, which means that when the form arrives at head office I have to open the whole form in Acrobat in order to merge it to a spreadsheet. Is this right or is there a simpler way?
3. While Reader 10.2 will email a file (either directly via GMail or by responding to a 'submit' button in the form itself), email is not necessarily the best way of doing this - not least because it adds another step into the process (that of saving the email attachment to disk in order to extract the data to Excel). Is it possible to upload the completed form to Dropbox (or similar) from within the Reader (I'm trying to avoid anything that is going to mean field staff having to do file manipulation on a tablet - I want it automated or button driven as far as possible)
4. The workflow: fill in form, email pdf to head office, save attachment, upload into Acrobat, merge to spreadsheet, manipulate, export as csv, import csv into database - is all getting a bit complex and inelegant. Any other ideas for achieving what, in essence, must be a simple and widespread business process, would be greatly appreciated.
for your remaining problems:
1. We are working on some file management additions to help with exactly this case, to allow users to create copies of a template.
2. Currently I don't have a better suggestion, though we are continuing to look at enhancing our forms support. There are many person-decades of legacy PDF form support in the desktop Reader, so it will take us some time to catch up!
3. We know that Cloud integration is something that is missing, and we are looking into when and how we can add support.
4. I don't have a single great suggestion for what you need right now. We currently have solutions that each may support part of your needs, but may not be exactly what you need out of the box today:
- FormsCentral will allow you to create forms that can be filled out and submitted to the service in the browser or as PDF, but has only basic validation, and does not have calculation. Also, Reader Mobile does not yet support submission to the FormsCentral service (expect it to come, though). This may be the best long term option as the integration comes together, though. Take a look and see if it will work for you!
- LiveCycle is an Enterprise grade suite of Servers, web apps, and integration with Reader to handle Dynamic PDF and forms data collection, but is a significant investment (time and money), and does not have a great mobile integration yet.
- You could build your own server to collect data from the field over http, but that would be a significant investment, and Reader Mobile does not yet support submitting forms data via http.
Dennis, thanks for this. Can you give me any idea of timescale on number 1 (the template)? I'm currently looking at paying someone to develop an app which will prompt for a filename, save a copy, launch Adobe Reader and then open the file, which can then be shared with Dropbox (this does at least deal with number 3). But I don't want to invest in this if you guys will be making it happen anyway in a few weeks.