Making a Fillable PDF that Can Do Stuff

From E-Learning Faculty Modules


Contents

Module Summary

A “fillable PDF” is a portable document format file that enables people to fill in text fields with alphanumeric information and submit the document to others in a portable way. It is also possible to enable automated capturing of data input through a fillable PDF with a “submit” button feature. This module summarizes basic steps to creating a fillable PDF from a Microsoft Word file.

Takeaways

Learners will...

  • consider what a fillable PDF is and what some of its scripted functionalities include
  • review steps to creating a fillable PDF, while preserving unique text field names for light scripting / programming
  • consider how to add “autosum” to a rubric
  • consider how to add scripted features to a fillable PDF
  • think about how to test the scripted features in a fillable PDF before deploying such a document


Module Pretest

1. What is a fillable PDF? What are some of its scripted functionalities?

2. What are the basic steps to creating a fillable PDF? Why is it important to preserve unique text field names for light scripting and programming?

3. How does one add autosum into a rubric?

4. How does one add scripted features to a fillable PDF?

5. Why is it imported to test the scripted features in a fillable PDF before deploying such a document “into the wild”?


Main Contents

1. What is a fillable PDF? What are some of its scripted functionalities?

A fillable PDF is a “portable document file” document that enables users to input data that is recorded and which either (1) rides with the submitted file, or which (2) is sent directly to a recipient via email or via populating to a database.

It is possible to have basic data handling in a fillable PDF such as having basic mathematical operators applied to numerical data and collation of text fields into an auto-summarization.


2. What are the basic steps to creating a fillable PDF? Why is it important to preserve unique text field names for light scripting and programming?

Please see the “how-to” section below (with some screenshots) for the basic steps to creating a fillable PDF.


3. How does one add autosum into a rubric?

The auto-sum is described in the “how-to” section below as well.


4. How does one add scripted features to a fillable PDF?

The scripting feature is described in the “how-to” section below.


5. Why is it imported to test the scripted features in a fillable PDF before deploying such a document “into the wild”?

It is important to test scripted features because a small error in the code or a checked/unchecked box can mean problematic functionality or non-functionality. Also, errors may be introduced when two complex systems (MS Word and Adobe PDF) mesh.

Examples

There are many examples of fillable PDFs online.

How To

To create a simple fillable, PDF, first, create a document in Microsoft Word. Use lines or table cells to create expected spaces where people may fill in information. Make sure that it is clear what information is desirable in each informational field.

1. Open Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. 2. In the menu bar, select Tools. 3. Under Forms & Signatures, select Prepare Form.


PrepareForm.jpg


4. Select a file to convert to a fillable PDF, or scan a document to ingest it for processing. In this case, select a file. Then, in the browser window, select the Word document.


SelectFile.jpg


5. Once it is selected, decide whether or not this document will require signatures. If so, click the checkbox next to “This document requires signatures.” (If you select this, it will load an additional feature that enables the uses of digitally verified signatures.) Click Start.


ClickStart.jpg


6. The created document will open in Adobe Acrobat Pro. Note that the URLs are live. There are respective auto-named boxes in the areas seen to possibly indicate a field. 7. The fields are all clickable to activate to edit. Right-click and in the dropdown menu, select Rename Field to modify. Maintain consistent naming protocols for proper listings. (Each field name may be used in mathematical computations and data exports, for example, so it is useful to have succinct and original identifier-type names for each field. Think of each field name as a variable.)


RenamingFormFields.jpg


8. If the software added a form field in the wrong location, click the form field and hit “delete.” (Ctrl + z) will reverse this. 8. If the software failed to add form fields automatically, go to the Preview menu bar at the top. Scroll down to where the software failed to add in form fields, click “Add a text field” in the top menu bar. Place the text box at the top left of the area that you want to place it, and draw the rectangle into the proper space. Name the text field.


PreviewMenuBar.jpg


PlacingandDrawingFormField.jpg


9. Once all the fields have been placed and (re)named, it is possible to add some light scripts. For example, to create a subtotal from the summing of multiple other cells, right-click on a cell, and select Properties in the dropdown. A table with the Text Field Properties will open. In the Calculate tab at the far right, click the radio button next to “Value is the sum(+) of the following fields,” and select the fields by picking the appropriate fields. (This is where having unique variable names for each field is important to differentiate one form field from another.) Custom calculation scripts may be used if the dropdown pre-scripts are insufficient or insufficiently nuanced.


AutoSum.jpg


10. Inconsistent font sizes in text fields? If the font size in the text field varies, right-click on the text field. Click Properties. In the window, go to the Options tab, and check “Multi-line” and “Allow Rich Text Formatting” to activate both. (These are not default settings.) 11. Other scripting features: To add other scripting features, right-click on the text field, and click Properties. In the pop-up Text Field Properties window, go to the Actions tab. Select pre-created actions in the dropdown menu, or use Javascript code in the Actions window.


TextFieldDropdown.jpg


Adobe forums contain sample Javascript to enable other actions on the fillable fields. The Adobe Acrobat Library has some helpful resources as well.

To re-edit a fillable PDF form, just go to Tools -> Prepare Form -> and open the .pdf file directly.

Possible Pitfalls

As with anything that uses coding, it is important to fully test the fillable PDF before releasing it into the wild. If you are using someone else’s Javascript code, review it closely, so you’re very clear about what the code is doing and what the results of that code will be.

Module Post-Test

1. What is a fillable PDF? What are some of its scripted functionalities?

2. What are the basic steps to creating a fillable PDF? Why is it important to preserve unique text field names for light scripting and programming?

3. How does one add autosum into a rubric?

4. How does one add scripted features to a fillable PDF?

5. Why is it imported to test the scripted features in a fillable PDF before deploying such a document “into the wild”?


References

Extra Resources