A Brief Tutorial on Forms

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This article is part of the HOWTOs series.
Installation Usage PDF issues Imposition Other

This wiki entry has been graciously submitted with the permission of Gerrit Bruijnes. It's currently a work in progress, trying to maintain the essential content and flavor of the original version.

Excerpt from ‘Waar zit de Kneep?’, isbn 97890 72445 00 1

A book on Scribus 1.4.1 and publishing, in Netherlands language, by Gerrit Bruijnes, www.ipaa.nl

Assumptions: You’re proficient in the operating system that you use. You use Scribus 1.4.1 (language: English – British) and you are familiar with this program at a reasonable advanced level. We do not explain here at length how to perform common tasks such as defining a new document, typing text in a text frame and applying properties, drawing lines, using the properties box and so on. If, on the other hand, you’re an experienced programmer you may find this article rather verbose.

PDF-forms - contents!

  • PDF-tools
  • Design
  • JavaScript
  • Add pdf-controls
  • Events
  • Button with button face
  • Setup Fields
  • Add program snippets
  • Programming terms
  • Calculations in a form
  • Test the form
  • Form results

PDF-forms PDF Forms are designed so that a user, viewing them online or locally on a computer, can add data to a form, after which the user may print it or return it to you by e-mail. What does pdf-form consist of? Since it is at bottom a PDF, you can add anything you like to it: text, images, shapes, in short anything that Scribus has to offer. If you are going to make a PDF Form, you must also learn how to use the special PDF Tools. You will find them in the PDF-toolbar. From left to right we see:

PDF-Button – A button is used to trigger some action. In the example that we’ll make shortly, we find two buttons: one to print the form and one to send it as an e-mail. A button can be enhanced with a button face which we call ‘icon’. An individual button may use up to three different icons, which enable us to show a button-press-effect and even an icon that is shown when the mouse moves over the button. Text Field – A text field is comparable to a text frame, but with the possibility to use numbers, think of numbers that are represented as dates or that a have a particular number of decimals or which are shown as a percentage. Check Box – A familiar little box that shows a tick mark ( ) when we click it. In our example we’ll use this box to denote a male or a female applicant for a course. Combo box – A combo box is a drop-down list with choices presented in a folded-in form. The user opens the list to make a choice. List Box – A list box is also used to present choices, but in this case at least some elements from the list are always visible. The user can scroll the list, but does not have to open it first. Text annotation – This is a text field with notes. An annotation is in principle not visible in the pdf-form. You cannot only use it to add text to the form but also links to locations elsewhere in the document or to websites on the internet. Link annotation – Also used for links to locations in the document in which case even the exact coordinates can be used in point, according to the measurement systems used in Scribus. Also links to external websites can be used.

How do we go about making a PDF-form? When designing a PDF-form, we need to consider these features: A lay-out – Try to design your form in advance. You can add all current items like frames, tables, images and forms, in short anything that Scribus can produce. These items will be used to represent the house style which your company or organization uses. Furthermore it will be necessary to show on the form what information is expected from the user. PDF-fields – You will have to use the available fields that Scribus has to offer. As you have seen there are several types of fields. Keep in mind that not everything has been implemented yet in Scribus 1.4.1! It’s an ongoing development effort. Set up – You will have to familiarize yourself with the many possible tweaks for the fields. You can set up the fields in several dialog boxes. There are many possibilities, but not all are functioning properly yet. Validations – It is possible to set limits for entries made in a field. For instance you may restrict input of a number to certain boundaries, something which we do in this example. Calculations – In a dialog you can set up a certain calculation for a field. Possibilities are adding the contents of two or more fields or multiplication and so on. It is possible to have highest or lowest values calculated of even an average of the values in a great many fields. Other more complicated calculations are also possible but that requires more significant programming. Programming – If you want to add intelligence to your form, you will have to familiarize yourself with programming in JavaScript. This is a programming language not only used in PDF-forms but also on websites. If you have never programmed before, expect to take some months to become somewhat proficient. The next box will present you with some hints and tips where to find more information on JavaScript.