PDF Forms

Fillable PDF forms give organizations the ability to gather and organize data efficiently and streamline their administrative processes.  With Adobe Reader XI and other third-party programs now allowing users to save completed forms, it is now truly possible to eliminate the need for printed forms.

Whether you already have a PDF form, a Word file or are starting from paper, our forms development services save time and allow you to take advantage of all of the great features available in fillable and interactive PDF forms.

From fillable electronic forms that look and work the same way on every computer to special tricks that only PDF can do with ease, we’re here to help.  Contact us today with description of your needs, and we’ll take it from there.

Representation of Forms Development Services


While the vast majority of PDF files are intended for viewing and printing, PDF is a superb environment for dynamic data display, collection and manipulation.

What PDF forms can do:

  • Take existing paper or electronic forms and make them fillable.
  • Retaining the exact look and feel of your original form or allow you to easily move forward with a new, current design.
  • Data Validation including data formats (i.e. phone numbers, social security numbers, etc.) and required fields.
  • Control User Entry by providing selections in drop down boxes and filtering the options based on previous selections.
  • Allow users to return completed forms and data via email or submission to a server.
  • Apply custom buttons for printing, resetting, submission and other functions.
  • Perform calculations from simple sums to complex custom formulas and display the results.
  • Collect large amounts of data using a dynamic, single page front end.
  • Implement pop-up dialogs to facilitate data entry on complex forms.
  • Use PDF fields and annotations for dynamic graphics displays such as line/bar graphs, flow charts, dynamic tables, etc.

Automate and Manage Data Entry

Drop down fields may be used to filter other fields so that only options applicable to the user’s selection are available to be filled.  In this instance Bed/Bath combinations, options and rental terms available are set based upon the unit type selection and once final selections are made the rates are loaded automatically.

Drop Down Menu Illustration.Form Automation Illustration


Data entered into the fillable fields is calculated and the results formatted for clarity:

Calculations in Forms Illustration

Custom Buttons

Custom buttons can be used to submit to a specific server, print a required page range or any custom function available in Adobe Reader.

Button Illustration

Easier Data Entry for Complex Forms

A JavaScript dialog can make data entry easy, without forcing the user to skip around the printed page. This works well on forms with small fields and text where data is hard to see or clicking check boxes correctly might be difficult. Using fillable PDF forms ensures that entered data is always legible.

Forms - Javascript Popup Screenshot

Dynamic Graphics

Bar and line graphs can be used to make comparisons among sets of user entered data or to compare user data to a stored average value.

Bar Line Graph Illustration

Representation of Forms Development Services


Appligent provides a variety of services related to PDF Forms.  From the simple task of making a form fillable to building batch processes and workflows for existing forms.

  • Prepare existing forms maintaining the current look and feel
  • Designing new PDF forms based upon your needs and specifications
  • Updating existing designs so they feel current and creating custom header or other branding elements to make your forms stand out
  • Making forms fully functional as PDF including calculations, data formatting, pop-up calendars and validation
  • Adding advanced features to forms such as auto-populating data, dynamic graphics, ability to gather multiple sets of data in one form, the possibilities are endless, just let us know what you want to do and we’ll let you know if it can be done
  • Adapt existing printable forms for optimal use on tablets without losing the “real” form’s layout
  • Ensure accessibility for disabled users and guarantee compliance with the Federal Section 508 regulations
  • Develop custom applications, batch processes or server implementations to build an efficient workflow for your PDF forms.
  • Host and support PDF server implementations
Representation of Forms Development Services

Form Styles

Static vs. Dynamic Forms

Forms - XFA Screenshot

There are two distinct styles of PDF forms to choose from.  Forms created with Adobe Acrobat are static forms, often referred to as flat forms or “AcroForms.”  When a form implementation requires the ability to expand tables, adjust field sizes to accommodate additional text and even add pages, Adobe provides a dynamic format known as XFA.

Appligent’s services department is proficient in both technologies, and more importantly, can help you decide which is right for you.  For more information about the pros and cons of each, keep reading or contact us today to learn more.


Acroforms are static, fillable and retain all of the elements of traditional PDF.  They can be created and edited by a number of products including Adobe Acrobat, Adobe FormsCentral and a variety of third-party applications.  These forms can be manipulated using all of the editing capabilities in Adobe Acrobat and will function as a normal PDF file in batch or server processes intended for PDF.  Appligent server products work with this original form technology and you’ll find that it is more widely supported and understood.

XFA Forms

If your implementation calls for dynamic forms, Adobe provides an option in LiveCycle or XFA forms.  These forms must be created and edited using Adobe’s LiveCycle Designer.  This format is useful for implementations requiring a form to expand to accommodate more data, but they are based on the XML Forms Architecture and some of the features of standard PDF are lost.  XFA forms cannot be edited using the standard tools in Adobe Acrobat, pages cannot be extracted and they cannot be manipulated by most third-party plug-ins and applications including Appligent products.  Adobe included LiveCycle Designer with earlier versions of Acrobat, but with the release of Acrobat XI, this software must be purchased separately.

How to Choose

The primary advantages of Dynamic/XFA forms are the ability to have your form expand to accommodate user input and to manage both form design and content with XML.  While providing these advantages, this format no longer allows for some features standard to PDF.

If any of the following items are critical to your form implementation, standard AcroForms provide them all:

  • Comments/Mark-up
  • Accessibility/508 Compliance
  • Backwards Compatibility
  • Flexibility
  • Multiple support/development options

If you still have questions, check out this article on choosing between traditional PDF and Designer/XFA forms or consult with an Appligent Services specialist to get an authoritative perspective and recommendation on this important decision.

Representation of Forms Development Services


Screenshot of a PDF formAdobe Acrobat provides a wide array of advanced functionality through Acrobat specific JavaScript.  This opens up a wide array of possibilities when it comes to building custom solutions.

Dynamic Data and Custom Calculations

Set up invoices, expense reports and other complex forms that require calculations to automatically generate results as the user enters data. PDF forms can be used to administer tests or surveys, then calculate a score and display the results.

Screenshot of data-merging example

Desktop Form Filling

JavaScript may be used to import data into a PDF and merge it with an existing form. The merged results can be output as saved files or sent to the printer.

In this case, tab delimited data files were imported and the output generated a printout for each data record.

When clicked, a non-printable button in the top left hand corner prompts the user to select the desired data.

To let the user know what’s going on, a progress bar shows in the lower right hand corner of the screen while the data is merged and the output PDF files are generated.

An image of the workflow referenced in the following paragraph.Graphing Data in the Field

When pouring concrete, it’s vital to maintain specific records of measurements and choices made for each pour. Reliable server connections aren’t necessarily available at construction sites, and Excel wasn’t in the cards – users wanted a bulletproof document-based approach that didn’t require the MS Office to read and use.

PDF was an excellent solution, with JavaScript used to dynamically set up a form based on user selections, then save and graph the results.

Once the form is filled, JavaScript is used to perform the various complex calculations and graph the data. Multiple sets of data may be stored in the PDF; each set may be retrieved and displayed at will.

Representation of Forms Development Services

Why Appligent?

Many organizations lack the technical knowledge and experience to quickly and effectively produce PDF forms internally.  Our customers prefer to focus on their primary business and its needs instead of form technology.

Appligent Document Solutions provides all the necessary skills at industry-leading levels of expertise in both original PDF forms and Designer/XFA forms technologies.

  • Experience  We’ve developed dynamic, interactive fillable PDF forms for government agencies, contractors, supply-chain managers, auditors, insurance organizations and scores of other applications, literally millions of form-fields added to tens of thousands of PDF forms.
  • Lots of good ideas and suggestions. We’ve seen it all, so we can help you define and articulate your development objectives in both operational and technical terms. Call us, let us prove it to you.
  • Enterprise class support. We support the code we develop, or assist our clients in developing. We’ll update or upgrade your files with new features on your request.
  • Server software solutions for PDF forms, including FDFMerge, the original server-side PDF forms processor.
  • Cost Effective Outcomes  Outsourcing forms development is a one-time expense that allows internal resources to be focused on business processes – as it should be.  Come back to us only as (or if) needed.
  • Future-Proof Investment  Once developed, our PDF forms may be used stand-alone or integrated directly into a server-managed application with little or no additional work required.
  • All work performed in the USA. For the best-possible responsiveness and support, we do not outsource any Acrobat development work overseas.

Why PDF?

You probably already use PDF files, or else use a format that’s easily converted to PDF such as Word, Excel or InDesign. PDF offers key advantages for document automation applications.

Cross-Platform, Cross-Version Portability

From Windows to Mac OS and Linux, PDF and Acrobat have a long history of dynamic document functionality via the Acrobat JavaScript API.  In most cases, users with software as old as Acrobat or Reader 5.0 may still be supported.

Cost Effective Development

The reliability, power and scope of Adobe Reader and the Acrobat JavaScript API makes developing even very sophisticated PDF-based applications quick and easy compared with other solutions.

Read some of the case studies, or simply contact us today to get a quote on your project!  We’ll ask to see your current form or an outline of your needs, and we’ll be happy to consult with you to find the right solution.

Representation of Forms Development Services

Compare Acroforms to XFA Forms

In the December issue of “Ask the PDF Expert”, we answered a question posed by Owen W., of Oak Ridge, TN.  Owen asked simply:

“Is there an easy way to choose between Designer/XFA and regular PDF forms?”

Choosing between XFA and Acroforms (“classic PDF” forms) technologies has to start with a sorrowful glance at the need to choose at all.  It should not be this way. These technologies should not compete, but they do, and that’s the way it is (for now).

Ask yourself some questions

Anyhow – when thinking about your project, there are a few simple questions that can often quickly resolve the dilemma.

What version of Acrobat or Reader do you need to support?

If your end-users might have (for whatever reason) Acrobat 5 or 6, then forget about Designer / XFA forms – PERIOD.  Not all Designer/XFA forms will work with Acrobat 7 (XFA “integration” was significantly improved starting with Acrobat 8).  The safest bet is to be willing to INSIST that all users upgrade to at least Adobe Reader or Acrobat 8.x or higher.  With third-party viewers, you’re even less likely to be able to use XFA forms.

Advantage:  Standard Acrobat Forms

Do users need to markup the form in addition to filling fields?

Some situations require markup (drawing) on the form page in order to highlight text, circle an item on a diagram, or draw ad hoc shapes, for example, to sketch a street-corner in a police report.  LiveCycle forms have no concept of markup.

Advantage: Standard Acrobat Forms

Do you need your form to dynamically re-write page content based on user input?

Sounds like an XFA form to me. Standard PDF can do this – to an extent – but it’s not easy and requires someone who really understands the capabilities of Acrobat. There are such people – we’re just saying it’s non-trivial.

Advantage:  Designer/XFA Forms

Do you need your forms to be maximally accessible?

Acrobat forms have a well-established accessibility model, and when properly tagged, offer excellent performance in terms of accessibility to users with disabilities and compliant with Section 508.  By contrast, Designer/XFA forms (both static and dynamic) have a number of accessibility limitations.

Advantage:  Standard Acrobat Forms

Do you need functions in Acrobat JavaScript that aren’t available in LiveCycle Designer?

Acrobat and Reader include an extensive, mature JavaScript API which can access many aspects of PDF files, including content, annotations file appearance and behavior when opened, and more.

If you’ve already figured out how to get everything you need using the regular Acrobat JavaScript Reference then you are probably all set, and there’s no need to go try to replicate it all in a Designer/XFA form.

Advantage:  Standard Acrobat Forms

Do you need to manage your form design and contents with XML?

Some institutional users find an advantage in dynamically authored and maintained forms.  If this is you, then Designer/XFA forms might be the way to go. If only the form-field data is required, conventional AcroForms can use XFDF, a (slightly) less capable variation on simple FDF, and it’s “real” XML.

Advantage:  Designer/XFA Forms

What’s your budget for the server implementation?

If you are thinking of taking your PDF forms online with webservers, then you need to think VERY carefully. Standard PDF Acroforms are supported by dozens of different companies (yes, including Appligent Document Solutions).

Loading data into an XFA form on the server, however, remains an Adobe-only thing, and as things stand, you’ll pay, pay and pay again.

For small and medium size businesses, departments and many (ok, almost all) enterprises, standard PDF server forms applications offer remarkably cost-effective solutions in most “static page” forms implementations.

Advantage:  Standard Acrobat Forms

Representation of Forms Development Services

Case Studies

PDF Forms Development Case Study: International Compliance Information Exchange (iCiX)

iCiX, the “International Compliance Information Exchange”, is bringing the advantages of PDF forms technology to supply chain management (SCM) with an emphasis on solutions for vendor compliance.

iCiX logo

iCiX serves diverse communities of quality assurance and regulatory professionals within industry and government. Assuring vendor compliance with purchaser specifications for quality control, transportation, personnel management and other issues demands a sophisticated understanding of business processes. At the same time, the application must be very simple to use, since compliance forms may be completed only occasionally by far-flung vendors.

“Partnering with Appligent Document Solutions gives iCiX a powerful edge in bringing our compliance solutions to our customers in a timely manner,” says iCiX’s Paul Horan. “Their deep experience with PDF allows us to service our client’s demanding requirements better and faster than ever.”  [Learn More…]

PDF Document & Development Services Case Study : MedWiz Technologies

MedWiz Technologies provides cost-effective solutions for adult homes and large scale pharmacies, and they do it using PDF expertise from Appligent Document Solutions.

“The team at Appligent was instrumental in solving some of our biggest headaches,” said Jonathan Grier, Senior Software Architect for MedWiz. [Learn More…]

Custom Scripts Case Study : Pay ‘n Time

Solving Payroll Processing can be one of the largest headaches for employers. Pay ’n Time Payroll Services, a regional payroll processing company, routinely eliminates this issue for many companies, but had a large headache of its own – meeting a client desire to send individual pay stubs to those companies’ employees using secure email.

“Our new system is designed in such a way that it is impossible for private information to be sent to the wrong person,” says Bucter. “The lynchpin of our automated pay stub delivery system is the script that Appligent created.”  [Learn More…]

PDF Development Services Case Study : The Olsen Group

The Olsen Group in Portland, OR, trains sales teams for medium-sized and larger corporations in a wide variety of industries.  Olsen’s model emphasizes a systematic approach to collecting, structuring and managing all the significant information that can help a sales team get prospects to a close. The Opportunity Strategy Sheet (OSS) is the vehicle Olsen uses to define their approach in the field.

Appligent Document Solutions started with Olsen’s original spreadsheet, then modified the design to provide a standardized template, ensuring easy customization for each client. The PDF version of the OSS was then developed with PDF form fields, annotations and Acrobat JavaScript, so users require only the free Adobe Reader to use them. [Learn More…]

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Forms Development - Leveraging the Power of PDF Forms to Collect, Compile, and Process Data