Chapter 6. Dynamic PDF

Introduction: Hacks #74-92

PDF doesn't have to be stuck in a file, created once and then published. PDF can be dynamic in multiple ways, ranging from interactivity through forms to custom generation of PDFs that meet particular user needs. While PDF seems static to a lot of people, that's more a matter of the way it's typically been used rather than an aspect of the technology itself. If you want to do more with PDF than distribute documents, you can.

Hack #74. Collect Data with Online PDF Forms

Turn your electronic document into a user interface and collect information from readers.

Traditional paper forms use page layout to show how information is structured. Sometimes, as on tax forms, these relationships get pretty complicated. PDF preserves page layout, so it is a natural way to publish forms on the Web. The next decision is, how many PDF form features should you add?

If you add no features, your users must print the form and fill it out as they would any other paper form. Then they must mail it back to you for processing. Sometimes this is all you need, but PDF is capable of more.

If you add fillable form fields to the PDF, your users can fill in the form using Acrobat or Reader. When they are done, they still must print it out and mail it to you. Acrobat users can save filled-in PDFs, but Reader users can't, which can be frustrating.

If you add fillable form fields and a Submit button that posts field data to your web server, you have joined the information ...

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