PDF Forms - why you no boxes?

, posted: 26-Jun-2012 09:04

I recently had a number of claims to make for insurance purposes. Both companies had PDF forms to download, print and send away.

Neither had and online claim system, but I guess that could be forgiven with the number of supporting documents (originals only) that had to be supplied.

But my handwriting is truly doctor-worthy. And upon having Adobe Acrobat Professional on my work laptop I used their form wizard to get 70% of the form fields, and then quickly ran through drawing the form

Now I didn't put in formatting, pretty drop down boxes, just pure text boxes - all that is really available to me if I was using a pen, but honestly it only took me about 20 minutes.  The result was a form that could be easily read by a human or OCR technology upon receipt by the insurance company.

I thought about this as I walked to work. For an extra 30 - 60 minutes on these forms, these companies could supply a forms enabled PDF file for those inclined to fill out via computer. I'm not expecting electronic delivery, as I'm still expecting to print it out to sign it and supply the supporting documents (that is a whole other conversation), but means that the form I fill out is more legible, has had more corrections made to it (rather than crossing out or reprinting), could include descriptions on fields, notes, prompting fields (via drop down boxes, lists, enforced date formats, enforced character limits and more.

Example form - this is from the New Zealand Passport Adult renewal form - PDFs a available readily from www.passports.govt.nz/Downloading-and-printing-forms

The instructions clearly state to write in CAPITAL letters, so "that our computer software can accurately capture your information" - well why not enforce the use of captials by using a form, and use a computer to enter the information?

For those not inclined to fill out via computer, then another version of the PDF, or in fact the same one (the forms text boxes will not print out when empty).
Example 2 - passport form with boxes - these display in Adobe reader - but do not print - what is the harm in having them?

Example 3 - Filled in by hand - being in capitals - my doctor worthy scribbling is not so evident.

Example 4 - which would you rather receive?

Seems like a win-win to me.  Why don't companies do this? Lack of knowledge? Lack of forethought? Antiquated thinking? Or just laziness?  I think it's antiquated thinking. Companies are so used to designing the forms for printing out and later using the same form on a web site for download, they didn't take it that one step further and forms enable the PDF files.

Comment by allan, on 26-Jun-2012 10:48

No images!

Author's note by davidcole, on 26-Jun-2012 10:56

@allan Strange, I see them via firefox.

Are you using an ad blocker?

Comment by puggy, on 26-Jun-2012 11:29

Good point and I to feel the same way.  What I do experience is IT managers do not like this in big companies as they feel it is another security hole they have to manage as they feel PDF's are not the most secure thing to use.  I call it being lazy as this I feel would speed things up at the pother end and me not having to answer calls about what I filled out, as I have spent the last 30+ years perfecting my doctors handwriting too.

Comment by allan, on 26-Jun-2012 12:43

Weird. Can't see images in IE8 at work, but can in Chrome.

Comment by Kahikatea, on 27-Jun-2012 09:08

Adobe Reader X has the ability to add text to a PDF document and to input your signature. And then to save it. When you open it again, the inputted text / signature is still editable.

Comment by clicknz, on 27-Jun-2012 15:46

I've had this same gripe with forms... thanks for getting it out there. For a couple of insurance claims I opened the supplied pdf in Photoshop, used the text tool to fill out required info, dropped in a digitized signature, resaved as a pdf & sent back to ins. company. No complaints back from them.
It was a bit cumbersome for the first one, nice and easy for the second one (I just changed text info on the Photoshop PSD file I also saved), now just need another accident to happen before they change their form in some way.

Author's note by davidcole, on 27-Jun-2012 16:41

@clicknz. I'm hoping I get a "how did we do" survey. Which I'll include this blog, or at least a comment.

Comment by IcI, on 27-Jun-2012 19:42

A lot depends on the version of PDF the document was created in. While interactive forms have been available since 1996 (v1.2), not everyone implemented these features immediately.

The other side of the equation is your PDF viewer. SumatraPDF and FoxitPDF do not display interactive forms. These are current alternatives to the bloated and insecure Adobe Acrobat Reader X that will display every interactive form & radio button or dropdown box.

IE8 does not have a PDF renderer and relies on the OS. Chrome on the other hand has a built in PDF engine, just like Flash. Update Chrome & you get the latest PDF & Flash. Update IE and you're still stuck with what your OS has to offer (by default: Nothing)

As to saving the information inside the document, that depends if the author allows it. Displaying a picture of your signature is a clever hack, but we need digital signatures or their replacement

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davidcole Cole
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New Zealand

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