Making the most of PDF Forms

STC India Chapter’s Annual conference in New Delhi just concluded.

Samartha and I conducted a workshop on Acrobat forms. We discussed and demonstrated the power of Acrobat forms, and the basics of designing forms using the Acrobat  Forms editor and LiveCycle Designer that ships with Acrobat Pro.

The presentation is uploaded on on SlideShare.

Actions wizard replaces Batch scripts in Acrobat X

Where did Batch scripts go? Nowhere, they now have a new avatar: Actions Wizard.

You might be looking for batch scripts in Acrobat X, and didn’t find it. Fear not, the functionality has not been removed. Acrobat X replaces Batch Scripts with the Actions Wizards. You can do almost everything you did with batch scripts, now without writing any code!

Action Wizards make it easier for you to to automate actions, and even easier for you and other users to run them.

See this episode on Adobe TV and rest assured.

Lori reviews how to create and use guided Actions to automate routine, multistep tasks

Update: Thom Parker has written an excellent article on Acrobat X actions. You can see it here:

Acrobat Shared Reviews & webdav

Acrobat makes reviewing really easy. You can let Acrobat set up and manage reviews. There are two types of reviews: e-mail and Shared.

E-mail reviews are typically off-line and manual, where you email the document to the reviewers and they can add annotations and then send them back to you. After receiving all the replies, you collate all the responses.

Shared reviews let everyone work on the file at the same time. If reviewers can connect to the review server, all comments are available real-time. (If reviewers are off-line, they can sync the comments next time they cone online). The core of a shared review, is what i call — for the lack of another name — the review server. You can use as a review server; it’s as easy as that. Acrobat and manage everything for you. Or you could set up your own internal review server. This is what all this fuss is all about!

The internal Review Server is basically a WebDAV server. When your reviewers open the document, Acrobat/Reader try to connect to this WebDAV server and read/write comments to this server.

Install a web server

The following instructions will let you set up a WebDAV server using Apache. I’ll use a package called XAMPP, which is an integrated Apache, MySQL, & PHP bundle. {The other components might come in handy if you want to build applications for reporting, auto-reminders etc}. Ok, so lets get our hands dirty.

  1. Download XAMPP from  Friends of Apache website.
  2. Follow the instructions and install. After the install, start Apache and verify that the server is running successfully.
  3. The default passwords are located in the file passwords.txt located at <install dir>. You’ll need these later.
  4. You should read the XAMPP documentation and and configure the server as required. But you can do this later.

Enable WebDAV

XAMPP comes with a default webdav module; it is enabled by default.

Open a browser and type http://localhost/webdav. If you don’t get any errors, skip this section. If you still want to know, how to do it, read on:

  1. Navigate to  the file <install-directory>/xampp/apache/conf/httpd.conf and open it.
  2. Ensure that the line Include “conf/extra/httpd-dav.conf” is uncommented. (does not have a # preceding it)
  3. Restart/start Apache.
  4. Verify: Open a browser and open http://localhost/webdav. A default page should open.

Checkpoint: Set up a review on WebDAV folder

By default, XAMPP/Apache do not give rights to everyone to write to the WebDAV folder. If you try set up a review, an authentication dialog box will pop up.

WebDAV authorization box when you try and set up a review

WebDAV authorization box when you try and set up a review

The same box will also pop-up everytime your reviewers try to connect to the review server. In this scenario, you’ll need to create/distribute Username and Passwords. If this is good for you, you can stop here.

Grant Universal Write Access to webdav

When most of your users are inside a firewall, and Acrobat/Reader already make it easy to identify users, this server authorization can be very cumbersome. This happens because in the default configuration, universal read access is provided, but write access is restricted to authorized users.

So lets grant write access to everyone.

  1. Open the file <install dir>\xampp\apache\conf\extra\httpd-dav.conf.
  2. Locate the following text, and comment it out. That is add the # marks before it.
    #<LimitExcept GET OPTIONS>

    #require valid-user

  3. Save the file and restart Apache.

All Set

You should be all set to go now. Your internal server is setup to handle reviews. Go ahead and set up reviews on your own internal server.

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