How to Use XML to Fill in PDF Forms
By Tara Duggan
The Adobe eXtensible Markup Language (set of rules for encoding documents electronically) architecture allows users to work with Portable Document Format files while applications interact with the XML data formatted in the organization's schema. An XML Data Package file encodes a PDF file in XML, with the form data and template, allowing you to create interactive forms, capture user data in forms and integrate form data into other systems.
Determine your data capture requirements (what fields you need to include on your form) and define what business process you want to automate. For example, using Adobe's XML architecture to automate a loan approval process. In this process, the loan applicant fills out a form and sends it to your finance department. The loan officer approves or denies the application by clicking a button on the form, routing it back to the sender if the loan so they can see the status.
Import existing forms by loading your PDF file into Adobe LiveCycle. Scan your paper form and overlay PDF form fields first if necessary. Creating an application typically requires connecting to a server. For example, from the "Programs" menu select the "All Programs" option and then click the "Adobe LiveCycle ES2" option. Select the "Adobe LiveCycleWorkbench ES2" option and then log in.
Use files currently used by your company or modify templates provided by Adobe on its website. From the "File" menu, select the "Import" option to create a folder and upload a file you can check in and out. Click the "Finish" button to complete the wizard.
Import your corresponding XML schema. Loading the schema allows you to view all the data definitions. From the "File" menu, select the "New" option and then select the "Form" option. Enter the required information and then click the "Next" button. In the "Specify Form Data Model" pane, select the "Import a data model" option and click the "Browse" button to import a data model. Navigate to your schema, select it and then click the "Open" button.
Bind form fields to schema data by right-mouse clicking on a form field and find the correct element in the list.
Test your design by deploying your form to users. For example, users can download the form from your company website and use Acrobat Reader to fill out the form, which results in an XML document used by your back-end office applications which utilize the PDF form data.
Tara Duggan is a Project Management Professional (PMP) specializing in knowledge management and instructional design. For over 25 years she has developed quality training materials for a variety of products and services supporting such companies as Digital Equipment Corporation, Compaq and HP. Her freelance work is published on various websites.