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There are a lot of things to consider here, including the PDF viewer that a user has and how it is configured to work with a web browser.
Let's start with Preview on the Mac. It is the default PDF viewer on the Mac and had lousy support for PDF forms. It doesn't support a number of field properties and has no support for scripting. When it saves a PDF form, it corrupts it in a number of ways and results in the field contents not being visible when the form is subsequently opened in Acrobat Reader. More on this is available at: http://kb2.adobe.com/community/publishing/885/cpsid_88564.html
Chrome has it's own built-in PDF viewer, which also has limited support for PDF forms. I haven't check in a while, but I believe it does not support submitting. It's possible to configure PDF to open in Acrobat/Reader if it is installed, but this is something the user would have to do. You cannot control this.
When using Safari on the Mac, a PDF may not open in the browser if Acrobat/Reader is installed and it may need to be configured to do so. This has been discussed here before, but I can't find a link at the moment.
The situation on Windows is a bit better as long as Acrobat or Reader is installed, but it depends on what browser is being used and whether the user has Acrobat/Reader configured to open in the browser. If it's not, then they will get the prompt to download.
Another issue will come into play if you have set up the form to submit the entire PDF, as opposed to just the form data. In order for Reader users to save a filled-in form, it needs to be Reader-enabled in Acrobat. There is a licensing limitation which prevents you from using more than 500 forms that have been returned to you if you distribute the enabled form to more than 500 recipients, as you do when posting it on a publicly available web site.
An alternative it to set up the form to submit just the form data (e.g., FDF), and you can then import the data file into a blank form and you can view, save, and print.
If the form has any sensitive information such as credit card numbers, addresses, etc., then the transmission should be secure. Unfortunately, email generally is not. You can configure the form to submit to a web server, which can be easily secured (HTTPS/SSL), but you have to program it to process the form submission and return a response that Acrobat/Reader will understand. This process is complicated by other PDF viewers that don't support this method of submission.
I hope some of this helps and doesn't just cause more confusion.
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Can you create a button in your form and Name it SAVE FORM. You can use this script to save it ( i hope along with the data):
Apart from this, if you really want to make it machine independent and browser independent and provide all other independencies that you can possibly think ( ), try Adobe Form Central Services.Check out the details and see if that serves you the what you want.
Both Acrobat Forms and Form Central services will provide you similar results in different fashions. Both have some pros and cons. AcroForms can provide you more robust way to add scripting and what not. Form Central is a little limited in resources. But if you are worried about different browsers, it can help you. Features like PayPal account, shopping cart etc (as mentioned by George) were recently added that you can use in your form(if required). And they are secured.
Thank you so much for the thorough response. To me it sounds like then the safest thing to do is taking extra measures to instruct applicants to fill the forms out in Acrobat Reader / Pro. Would you agree with that?
Also, I'm a bit confused with the licensing limit of 500 forms. I can't use the default distribute option through Acrobat because I don't have specific email addresses to distribute the forms to. I'm planning to provide the same PDF that I used to design the fields and have the applicants rename the file before they email it back to me. Is that a viable way to distribute forms? Does the limit apply to this as well? I don't expect 500 applicants this year, but it is an annual event.
What's your recommendation for security? Would "Encript with Password" be enough?
Thanks for the reply. I missed your post as I was typing the above the response. I'll look into Form Central. The main thing that I need is for my applicants to be able to access the forms anonymously without needing an email or invitation, which which was what I gathered from the "Distribute Form" wizard in Acrobat. Is that possible through Form Central? Please forgive my inexperience with this topic. I feel like I'm just starting to scratch the surface with what is possible through Acrobat's form tool (which I'm excited about).
Message was edited by: headley.m
You can read the EULA here: http://www.adobe.com/products/eulas/pdfs/Reader_Extension_Policy_A10-5-31-2011.pdf
It's only when you reader extend the forms or distribute it through Acrobat. Simply creating a form and providing it to other users doesn't violate anything as such. But Reader users need an extension (Extended forms) and that limits you to 500 unique users. Or they will not be able to save the form along with the data if you don't extend the rights for them.
So first thing i would recommend is to try creating an additonal SaveAs button next to Submit button. Or you can also add the script in submit button to prompt to save the document after submitting it. You don't need a new service if that works.
For FormCentral- I din't understand you saying that "access the forms anonymously without needing an email or invitation". If you meant making your form public so everyone anyone can visit your werbsite and fill that for you, YES it is possible. And even using FormCentral form you can embedd that in your website with one-two liner code and that doesn't look like an another form. It looks like a fillable form available on your website. You can surely give it a shot.
Yes, including instructions wold be a good thing to do. You don't need to use the Distribute Form process in Acrobat at all, just create the form and place it on a web site. But even if you did, it is not necessary to email the form to users. You can place the form on a web site as well. When you do use the distribute form process, it automatically Reader-enables the form and provides a button that submits it to an email address. You can Reader-enable it separately if that what you choose.
Note that the license does not impose a limit on users. The limit is on the number of forms that you can use that have been returned to you if you distribute the form to more than 500 recipients. The Acrobat license specifically allows you to distribute an enabled form to an unlimited number of recipients, but if you do you can use (extract information from) no more than 500 instances of the form that have been returned to you.
So it sounds like you will be fine this year, but in future years you might consider setting up the form to submit just the form data.
Regarding security, what is your goal, exactly?