PDF In-Depth

Chris Dahl: First Impressions of Acrobat 7.0

Adobe LiveCycle Designer and forms

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SHEA: Adobe LiveCycle Designer now ships with Acrobat 7.0 Professional (version 6 of Designer was purchased separately), giving users unprecedented control over form design "out-of-the-box". What difference do you think this will make to the uptake of Designer over Acrobat as a form-authoring tool?

DAHL: I think this will definitely increase the number of people who are aware of what Designer is, and its capabilities. Once users do give Designer a go I'm sure that they'll soon realize the major advantages and efficiencies of using it as their form authoring tool rather than the old way of creating form controls in Acrobat.

However, at this point in time there is a lack in documentation on how to utilize the scripting capabilities in Designer. Until such documentation/user guides are made available by Adobe I see a lot of users hitting a brick wall with trying to convert their forms over to Designer (and this has been seen by such posts on user forums).

Note: At the time of publishing, Chris notified us that Lori DeFurio from Adobe pointed out on the Planet PDF Forum that some documentation for scripting with Designer is available from the Adobe site. The post can be found here.

SHEA: Adobe is obviously encouraging form designers to use LiveCycle Designer for forms design, but making this move will obviously also involve additional software and training costs. What are some of the benefits that can be realized by using Designer over AcroForms?

DAHL:

  • Time savings! Designer not only allows you to add your form controls (text boxes, buttons, etc) but it also handles your layout. So no more going back to Word to make layout changes to your form. Just open it up in Designer, make the necessary changes and save.
  • Advanced concepts such a dynamic forms are made a reality (e.g. adding/removing rows to a table based on a user selected.)
  • Working with databases and web services is much more intuitive than with Acrobat. And can be achieved via the user interface, not only through JavaScript like in Acrobat.

SHEA: Are there any "hidden issues" of which current AcroForm designers should be aware before making the jump across to Designer?

DAHL: There's a sea of people and businesses out there that would be using 3rd party components to provide PDF form field filling/retrieving. Such tools as activePDF Toolkit, iSedQuickPDF and many others provide this functionality. However at this point in time I haven't yet seen any of the companies that make these tools indicate that they support PDF forms created in Designer (XFA forms). Thus those using such tools in a workflow will need to wait for such a tool to be released or existing ones updated before migrating their forms over to Designer.

Note that forms created in Designer can be pre-populuated by using Adobe's LiveCycle Forms product.

SHEA: Designer is a part of the Adobe's LiveCycle product range, aimed at the higher-end of business where require more sophisticated PDF solutions are required. However does this mean that users need any of the other LiveCycle products (e.g. LiveCycle Forms, LiveCycle Form Manager) to be able to use Designer for their form design? Please explain...

DAHL: Forms created with Adobe Designer certainly do integrate well with the rest of the LiveCycle product range (there's a good diagram illustrating this here), however it's by no means necessary to use any of these products if you want to use Designer for your form authoring. The Designer help file has some quite detailed sections on what you can achieve when designing forms for LiveCycle Forms and LiveCycle Workflow if you're interested in knowing more.

SHEA: What's the chance that future versions of Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader won't support the AcroForms style of PDF forms, forcing people to move across to Designer to create compatible PDF forms?

DAHL: It's possible, but I doubt they'd even consider doing this until maybe release version 9. And still then I have no doubt there would be some angry, angry customers.

SHEA: How easy/difficult is it to migrate forms across from Acrobat to LiveCycle Designer? What do you think are the key considerations here?

DAHL: I think that Adobe highlighted that this would be very important in getting people to move across to Designer. If users would have had to start from scratch again with all their form authoring then I would imagine a pretty sluggish uptake. However, Adobe have done a great job (I think) in making it possible for people to import their PDF, Word or InfoPath forms into Designer and go from there. Most objects (i.e. form controls) from each of these formats are converted into the appropriate objects in Designer.

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