Adobe isnt the only game in town when it comes to PDF forms: ActivePDF, Amgraf, Cardiff and ScanSoft also offer various tools to convert paper processes to PDF.
But one interesting new wrinkle that likely will generate interest in Acrobat 7 involves dynamic forms, which are smart forms capable of updating themselves based on user choices.
Picture an order sheet that can recalculate pricing data if a customer changes the options on the widget theyre ordering or adjusts the quantity. The sheet also can offer different configuration choices for different products, adjusted to inventory available.
Technically, thats not a new feature for Acrobat in itself. The big news is that, when the customer is running version 7 of Adobe Reader, dynamic forms from LiveCycle Designer 7.0 can be completed and sent without the aid of LiveCycle Forms (formerly known as Adobe Form Server).
That product represents a financial outlay of software and IT management that has priced some small and medium-size businesses–$50 million to $500 million annual revenue–out of the game. The things that used to happen only in the server can now happen on the client side, activated in Reader 7.
LiveCycle Designer, which comes free with Windows Acrobat 7 Pro, might sound new, but its the upgrade to the software formerly known as Adobe Designer (and before that, Adobe Forms Designer).
Acrobat serves as a front end to make intelligent forms, but its only the beginning of a forms system. Businesses that want to move processes from paper to PDF need to think of it in three phases, says Sterling Ledet, who runs traveling PDF forms training seminars. Acrobat forms gather data well, but users must deal with the business processing once the data is collected, such as storage and internal distribution.