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What you do with the results from the survey will help to determine what format to ship back. If you only interested in the data that is in the form and you want to interogate that data to get trends etc. then submit back XML and store the individual responses in a DB table. This will allow you to use SQL tools to query the DB and get the information that you want. If you are interested in the context that the user entered the information in then submit back the PDF and have the server extract the information for the same purpose as above (you can also store the complete PDF if you want). Once extracted the data can be written to the DB as above.
The product that you want to look at is LiveCycle Forms. It has the ability to extract the data from the submitted PDF. There are some DB components that will interact with the DB or you can call your own programs to do that part if you wish. To call LC Forms there are a couple of different interfaces provided, EJB, SOAP, dropped folder mechanism and email endpoints to name a few.
You would need LC Designer to build the survey form in the 1st place.
You can download trial versions of the full LC suite from the DevNet site to give it a try.
Hope that helps
Thanks for great overview Paul.
LiveCycle Forms seem to be exactly what we need. I have studied nice quick start tutorial for mortgage ( http://www.adobe.com/go/learn_lc_firstApplication_82 ) and it starts to be clearer.
I like the way, where we could provide user with standalone pdf form (no LC Workspace), pdf client would trigger some livecycle process by SOAP call and this process would store xdp / xml data in some standard LC way (using some standard DB component).
I found some examples in LiveCycle_ES_SDK so I will try to explore them and eventually post here/back solution or ask for advice again.