[xep-support] New Installment of CoolTools - the Checklist CoolTool or *Really Cool PDF Forms*

From: Kevin Brown <kevin@renderx.com>
Date: Mon Jan 11 2010 - 12:36:42 PST

Happy New Year everyone!

For this installment of CoolTools we've put together a complete
demonstration of what can be done with PDF Forms along with a very useful
set of XSLs. The rub is you have to actually take the demonstration to get
the XSLs as they are part of the process. Let me start by saying I am really
excited about this one. We have already implemented several solutions based
on this technology. This is something you can use today, right now, to
enhance your own businesses for yourself and your customers.

One of our demonstration websites has been loaded with an application that
generates a dynamic PDF specifically for you upon registering. This survey
has several questions, a few of which are about obtaining the actual
software used in the demonstration.

start here: http://www.foactive.com/Forms

I will explain a bit more here about what all happens but the demonstration
and the sample XML and XSLs have a complete manual and technical discussion.
These are emailed to you automatically on your request -- based on your
answers to the form.

We were working on a project for a hospital group to create standardized
nursing station checklists that are PDF fillable forms. They would be
generated on the fly with the patient information and allow doctors to
specify instructions for their patients for nurses. There are 100's of these
and so we decided to create a XML language that allows the IT people to
easily create them. So, we dubbed in the Checklist CoolTool and decided to
make it available to all. It supports most of the standard PDF form widgets
like ceckboxes, textboxes, multilines, comboboxes and option groups. It also
support hidden fields. We also created a mini JavaScript library that
supports various field validation components. We created a set of XSLs that
process this information into documents. The XSLs have a complete
customization layer allowing easy changes to the look of the documents.

But we didn't stop there. We also created a server-side application for
processing forms that supports common things you would like to do -- like
produce a flattened version of the document without form fields, just the
information. Or better, how about creating a server-side filled in form and
sending back to the user, allowing you to actually save a form locally with
information in it. This will be the foundation of something new for RenderX
-- a PDF Forms Processing Server.

There is really way too much to explain here in xep-support, the demo speaks
for itself. And if we must say, there is a lot of work in these XSLs and we
are pleased to be able to provide them to our users. There is one part of
the whole solution we would like to explain here as it is very unique. The
XSLs have a trick that enables the server-side processing. When you run the
checklist.xsl it creates FO and of course PDF through RenderX PDF Forms.
This FO and resulting PDF form has hidden fields, some created standard by
the style sheets. Of course, they are hidden. The end user doesn't see any
of them. The most important of these are one or more fields that actually
contain the XML that build the form in the first place. On the server, the
XML is rebuilt from these fields using the data entered into the other
fields. So, all that is needed on the server is the checklist.xsl and
components and it takes this data and can generate a new form. The XSL
supports various parameters that control the type of transformation. It can
be fillable or flat and a few other cases we created, one for compacted
checklists (showing only the procedures answered) and one for a blank form
that someone would fill out by hand.

The demonstration will not only get you access to all of these but will also
create an area on our web site where you can host your own forms. I would
encourage users that do things like teach courses to use this for surveys or
even course classes. We have already used this software for both. You as
form administrator will be able to not only create them but host them and be
able to get email when your forms are filled out. We will enhance the
solution to do other things but as you will experience, it already has
significant functionality.

Later today, I will post a few links to sample forms created with this
technology so you can see additional samples.

Enjoy and please provide feedback,

Kevin Brown

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Received on Mon Jan 11 13:11:35 2010

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