Here’s a neat little tutorial to get you started with automatic data extraction from PDF forms!
Step 1: Open your PDF in Adobe Acrobat (NOT Adobe Acrobat Reader. This system only works in Adobe Acrobat. Carleton has a site license for this software and it is also installed on all ITS lab computers).
Step 2: Test your form with as many different people as you can – including all of the people who need the returned information. You won’t be able to make changes or edit your form once it’s distributed to your intended audience. Once your form is ready to be distributed and you are sure you are through making changes, on the right hand panel of Acrobat select “Prepare” then hit “Start.”
Step 3: Make sure all the fields that need to be filled out have interactive boxes on them! You can edit the box size by clicking and dragging text borders, and you can rename fields by right-clicking and selecting “Rename Field” in the field options.
Step 4: Once everything is prepared, select the “Distribute” box on the lower right-hand side of the Acrobat panel. Note that while it is possible to have recipients fill out the forms using the Mac-native application “Preview”, the most reliable PDF reader for filling out forms will be the free Acrobat Reader. You might want to tell them this in your message and link to Adobe’s own instructions.
Step 5: Select how you would like the form to be distributed. I’ve found that email distribution is the easiest option, and saving the form and distributing it manually is straight-forward, simple, and effective. Continue through the options (pictured below) and click “finish” once you’ve completed.
Step 6: That’s it! Follow these steps and Adobe Acrobat will automatically set up your response file! Once the form has been saved, you should see a response file automatically pop up on your screen. This is where all of the responses will be collected for you! You now have 3 versions of your form– the original, unedited version, a distributed version that will have “_distributed” at the end of the file name, and a response file that will have “_response” at the end of the file name. You can continue to distribute the “_distribute” version of your form to whoever you want, whenever you want and once you get the form sent back to you, all you have to do is open the form (in Adobe Acrobat) and the responses will be automatically collected into the response file!
If you have any questions about how this can work for you at Carleton, just contact us at the DataSquad. We’re happy to help!