USAGE OF FORMS
Forms provide a standardization of written communication between the involved
people, enterprises, institutions and authorities. From the technical point of view they
serve the standardized collecting and displaying of data and information. Many
contracts are based on forms, for example, the standard automobile commercial
contracts, which are offered in the stationery-specialised trade or by the car clubs, or
contracts of insurance. Besides, the written communication between a citizen and the
state or the administration generally occurs on the basis of forms. So most applications,
submitted by a citizen to an institution, are form-based. In the communication with
authorities there is a huge amount of official templates or forms, and they should be
used to keep to the given form, provided by legal rules.
ELECTRONIC FORMS AND THEIR ADVANTAGES
While the usage of paper forms became usual long ago, electronic forms could gain in
importance only since the personal computers began to spread. Electronic forms have a
row of advantages compared with paper forms:
– the production expenses for the printing of forms on paper
are missing. Modifications and updates of forms cause lower expenses.
Transport expenses can be cancelled or reduced to a fraction of the logistics
costs for paper forms. Storage and disposal expenses are missing.
– if electronic forms can be accessed online (over the
Internet), they are available round-the-clock, everywhere and in any quantity.
Restrictions of availability by opening time and office hours of authorities and
enterprises are missing.
Easier usability & avoidance of errors
– electronic forms are easier to fill, they
make the work easier, for example, by included calculations, validity check,
plausibility and completeness of the inputs. Owing to that it is possible to
avoid the input errors or absence of entries. Besides, possible input values can
be given and integrated into electronic forms for the field-related help in
Transferability into the "classical" form
– electronic forms can be easily
printed on paper as empty templates or after they are filled on a computer.
And vice versa paper forms can be digitized, though their subsequent
processing will have the disadvantages described in the following item.
Direct processing of data (simpler workflow)
– the data entered in electronic
forms can be sent directly computer-based to the connected applications (for
example, data bases, table calculation programs or e-mail software) or/and
from one person to another and be processed there. Manual typing,
automatic reading (scanner and OCR software) of the entered data or physical
transfer of the filled forms (for example, by post) – things necessary for the
additional digitization of paper forms, are missing. This saves time, eliminates
possible sources of errors (read errors, in particular in handwritten entries)
and requires no special hardware and software.
Easy usage of available data
– in connected applications the available data
can be automatically transferred into electronic forms. For example, after the
input of a personal number, insurance number or tax number the name and
the address information will be entered automatically.
"Offline" or "online" filling
- electronic forms can be filled offline (without
direct connection to the processing system) and online (with direct connection
to the processing system).
No quality loss at copying
– the disadvantage of form copies, which often
have worse readability, is missing.
Lower loss risk
– the risk of loss or mistreatment, which exists on the route of a
physical transfer, is missing.
REQUIREMENTS TO THE ELECTRONIC FORMS
Good readability and clarity: electronic forms will be filled on a computer
screen. Therefore, the form representation should offer good readability and
clarity. Besides, it should be considered that on many usual monitors and
resolutions most forms should be scrolled at least vertically (that is paged
from top to bottom) to be able to edit them completely, because they are
based on the paper format A4.
Field-related assistance at the input.
Check of completeness and plausibility of the input.
Default values and entries to choose.
Ability of printing, that is to convert an electronic form into a paper form.
Saving of the filled form should be possible, to be also able to change the
If several forms with the same basic data (for example, name and address)
should be filled, there should be an ability to transfer this basic data
comfortably (with few mouse clicks or automatically) into new forms, so that
multiple inputs of the same data are not necessary.
If the electronic forms are of a legally binding type, there should be an ability
to sign them with a digital signature or print them for a manual signature.
Digital signatures confirm the identity of a person who has filled the form
and the integrity of the form contents to verify that the form and its contents
were not changed.
The application of electronic forms should be available for a highest possible
number of users. The forms should be presented in a widespread (technical)
format and be set on nearly all-available operating systems.
Format loyalty: electronic forms should always show the same skin
(formatting etc.) regardless of the technical equipment of the user and
therein fulfill the same requirements as the paper forms.
The necessity to fulfill the two last requirements will offer a format for the document-
based electronic communication, established during the last 10 years: the PDF, which
was developed by the Adobe Systems company.
BASIS OF PDF FORMS
Today the electronic forms are widespread as PDF files for several reasons:
10 years ago talks on the openness of the PDF format and an extensively documented
specification, and then on the standardization of PDF appeared. Other arguments for
PDF were the flexibility of the technical requirements and the possible functionalities.
All this is still true and important even today, but, in addition, PDF has matured
meanwhile into a de facto-standard. The file format is very popular and well
established, which favors its progressive spreading and forces its further propagation.
Nowadays one can hardly imagine a computer without PDF software: at least for
reading and printing of the documents nearly every computer user uses the PDF format.
And this independently of the installed operating system. The number of PDF tools will
further grow. Thereby the most important problem of digital documents can be solved
- a trouble-free transferability: the contents of a document can be at least read on
every computer because of the standardization of the format, and this also long time
after its creation.
The technical structure of the PDF format considers the great importance of the
transferability of documents:
A large quantity of supported fonts
Functions for the embedding of fonts in a document
Varied compression algorithms, among the rest, special computing methods
for images (for example, JPEG with different quality levels or JBIG2 for
Support of several color space types (for example, RGB, CMYK)
As files can be embedded in the PDF documents in any format, it is easier to manage
images of different types in a document workflow: it is much easier to administer and
to keep only one file for a document than several files connected with each other.
Besides, XML metadata can be used in a PDF document and can be connected with
different objects in the document. This extends the possibilities for the integration of
non-visual data in a PDF document.
A lot of attention was paid to the security of the document contents and its proper use
in the PDF format. At the work with PDF documents the encryption algorithm can be
set by the author of the document and by the software developer, who integrates PDF
into his applications. As an alternative to the long-term used RSA algorithm a modern
AES algorithm is offered.
The PDF format provides a selection of hash- and sign algorithms as well as the
integration of the signature directly into the PDF file. At this point it should be noted
that with the possibility of authentication of digital documents by means of a digital
signature an important function has appeared, which plays the determining role for the
propagation of digital documents on PDF base.
Besides, the use of electronic PDF forms offline as well as online over the Internet is
possible. A huge number of programs can perform the creation of PDF forms, and that
is not only the software by Adobe, but for example, Perfect PDF Premium
there are some programs, the so-called PDF viewers, which are used not for the
creation, but for the displaying and filling of PDF files and forms, for example, Perfect
Basically there is a possibility to convert an available electronic document (for example,
a PDF, a Microsoft Word or Excel document) into a PDF form, to scan a paper form and
convert it into a PDF form or to create a completely new PDF form.
Static or dynamic forms can be created according to the used PDF software. The latter
customize themselves while filling according to the data volume and user's operations.
So the size of fields can be customized, for example, according to the number of entries
or length of the entered text.
STRUCTURE OF PDF FORMS
As a rule the PDF forms consist of form fields and control elements. Form fields can be
seen as a container for the data entered and available in a form. Control elements are
the visible correspondence of the form fields in a document. They allow the production
of interactive PDF forms. A division into form fields and control elements is necessary
because several control elements can be associated with a form field to arrange
incorporated alternative selection options in a group. This way, for example, the
mutually exclusive alternatives, represented in a document by several selection buttons
can be grouped.
The above-mentioned Perfect PDF 5 Premium
at the insertion of a field automatically
produces a connection with a control element: when a form field or a control element
is added, the other form object type will be also added automatically. Then on the
second step a control element can be associated with another form field in the control
element properties by changing the field name of the control element. So it is possible
to assign the same field names to several control elements and arrange them into a
group. Besides, it is possible to set the view of the visible elements (size, position and
other) in the control element properties. The form field properties also determine, for
example, whether a form (field) can be filled interactively on a computer or whether a
form should be printed and filled by hand.
For form fields and control elements in PDF software mostly the position (the absolute
alignment in a form and the relative position to each other) and size as well as the
possible types can be selected or placed on the form sheet. The different form field and
control element types are explained below.
Moreover, it is possible to set events and actions for all control elements except for
signature fields in most PDF programs. "Events and Actions" specify, which action
should be executed by which event, enabled by the use of a control element. Events are
triggers for actions. So, for example, an event "Click on the sending button and release
of the mouse button" triggers an action "Send form" (send certain field contents in a
certain sending format to a given Internet address). Also several operations can be
associated with an event.
Events can be: released mouse button, pressed mouse button, mouse on/off an object,
keystroke, opening/closing of the form page. Then the following actions can be
triggered, for example: go to a page, go to a page in a file, go to an Internet address,
Control element types
In text fields an information as for example a name or an address is entered. It also
allows the insertion of texts from the Windows clipboard. Digits, letters or both can be
Some possible options for the definition of text fields are: name, standard text (before
filling), text length limit, multiline entries, password (entries are shown as asterisks),
RTF formatting (bold, italic) allowed or not, spellchecker, design of the text field (color
and alignment of text, color of the background, border), font.
This control element serves for the activation or deactivation of functions, properties or
elements. Several flags in a form are used in contrast to the selection buttons,
explained below, and are used as a rule for non-alternative, non-excluding each other
selection possibilities. By reason of this any number of them can usually be selected
Some possible options for the definition of a flag are: name, one is activated by default;
design (color, border, icon type, alignment).
Selection buttons or option fields serve for the selection of settings or data from several
alternatives. At least one of the options can be (or should be) activated. Selection
buttons with the same field name form a group.
Some possible options for the definition of selection buttons are: name, one is activated
by default, design (color, border, icon type, alignment), whether one option should be
always selected or not.
In combination fields a person that is filling a form can select an element from a pop-up
menu or enter an own value, provided that at the creation of a form an option was
activated for the "free" input.
Some possible options for the definition of combination fields are: spellchecker, user
may enter own texts (not only given texts can be selected), define list elements, that is
specify the elements, which a person that is filling a form should find in the pop-up
menu as selection alternatives, design (color, border, alignment, font).
This control element indicates a list of options for the selection. It resembles
combination fields. However, the following properties are valid especially for the
The elements of a selection list are available to the user in an always-visible
list and it is not necessary to activate them in a pop-up menu.
A user cannot change selection lists by the input of own texts.
Additional property "Multiple selection": a person that is filling a form can
select several list elements in selection lists at the same time, if this option was
activated at the creation of a form.
If buttons are integrated into forms, they allow the user an interaction, which is
performed by pure filling in the narrower sense. Pressing the buttons can be linked
with a row of actions, so, for example, with opening of any file, with the playback of a
sound file or video file or with the sending of data to a web server. Besides, buttons can
be provided with pictures, text and visual modifications on a mouse movement and
according to its state (among the rest, "pressed" or "not pressed"). Some possible
options for the definition of buttons are: name, design (color, border, alignment, font),
and text on a button.
With a signature field the users can sign a PDF form – either with a digital signature or
with a classical signature by hand. In the second case an area intended for that, a
signature line or a signature box will be simply included into the form.
FDF (FORMS DATA FORMAT)
FDF is one of the file formats, developed by Adobe and introduced in the PDF
1.2, which is based on the PDF format, but has an easier file structure
than PDF. It is used for interactive form data within a PDF file. With FDF the form data
from a PDF file can be sent to a web server, update information can be received and
pasted into the form. Besides, the form data will be saved separately from the PDF
Currently the specification 1.7 is valid with some extensions. Details to the PDF specification and the specification itself can
be found on the Adobe web site on http://www.adobe.com/devnet/pdf/pdf_reference.html.
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