“Computerize” Your Forms For Greater Ease Of Use

Yellow PC keyboard and mouse on brown background.

Courtesy MS Clip Art

Do you have forms that need to be filled out using a typewriter or by pen/pencil? Many of us need to fill out forms on a regular basis for work or for organizations to which we belong. When filling out a form with a typewriter or with pen or pencil it’s difficult to correct errors in the data we’re entering into the blanks of the form. And many times it’s difficult to align the form in a typewriter so that the text fits the form’s blank areas. However, if we load the form onto our computer and make the blanks interactive we can enter and change the data easily.

Recently I helped out a friend by computerizing a fairly complex form which he filled out (on a typewriter) on a monthly basis and sent it to his organization’s headquarters. Here is how I did it.

There are several tools available to use to get this task done. First, you’ll need a way to get the hard-copy form scanned to your computer. I have an all-in-one printer that has scanning capability. Next you’ll need a document creation tool such as Microsoft Word, OpenOffice.org Writer, or Adobe Acrobat. And finally, you’ll need a printer to print out the completed form.

Since this form was already created on paper…and the format was established and couldn’t be changed, I chose to scan it in and create electronic fields in place of the existing blanks that could be filled in with my keyboard. Note that if the form didn’t already exist, one could be created with Word or Writer with their forms design capabilities. Once scanned in I used Adobe Acrobat to create the new computerized form.

The best way to make a really nice automated form is to have Adobe Acrobat recognize the form’s fields by clicking Forms→Recognize Form Fields…you’ll need Acrobat 9 Standard or at least Acrobat 8 Professional or later). It will then highlight all blanks as form fields. The next step is to modify the properties of each field by giving it a name, default text, or control what types of data can be entered into the field such as all numeric, a certain date format, or as a currency amount. This is done by placing the cursor in a field and right-clicking to choose the properties menu. Acrobat has a really good Help function that will guide you in creating and modifying forms and form fields.

The form is now ready to be saved. You can now type data into the form’s fields (above each blank). It can be filled in using Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader (free download). Note that only Adobe Acrobat can save the document with the data entered. Reader can only print it or save the form without the data. The last step is to print the filled-in form on your printer. There is also an option to email it and have the recipient print it.

Give this a try the next time you have a form that’s difficult to type using a typewriter. Adobe Acrobat (I have no relationship with Adobe nor am I compensated for this recommendation) really does a nice job of automating forms…and my friend is pleased with the result.

Remember, home computing is a blast…keep it productive and enjoyable.

Best regards,



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Filed under home computing, software

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