How-to: Create PDF forms with OpenOffice

Hi everybody,

under these month I’ve been managing a lot of burocracy due to my Erasmus period which will start in August in Tampere, Finland. Among all the forms I had to fill in, I recieved a PDF file from Finland which actually was a form. I hadn’t seen such files before! So I asked me: How do I create one of them? So after some tries… here you are! My experience.

Why
But why should you need to create such a form? Well, PDF forms are really much better than *.doc or *.odt forms. That’s because in a PDF files fields remain exaclty where you put them and you can set plenty of intresting parameters. They are easily online-fillable and this is nowadays really important.

How
To create a PDF Form you will need OpenOffice. As far as I know Microsoft Office doesn’t support PDF export (but I heard this feauter will be implemented in the next version of Office). You can easily get the OpenOffice suite here: http://www.openoffice.org/

There is not a big difference between OpenOffice and Microsoft Office for what concerns the GUI (Graphical User Interface). So even if you are new to OpenOffice and used to work with MS Office you should not find any big difficulty in working on this easy stuff.

Open now OpenOffice Writer. Here you are. You can now handle this page as you usually do as any other written document. But your question surely is: How do I insert form controls/fields?

To insert Form controls and fields go on View -> Toolbars -> Form Controls .This will show you a toolbar with plenty of useful form stuff such as Labels, Text Boxes, Check Boxes, etc…
In this toolbar you will also find another useful button, More Controls which allows you to insert even more controls.

Inserting form controls in your page should not be a problem. Just find a layout you like. You can treat this elements exactly as any other element like an image, a paragraph or whatever. With a right click on the object you can modify its properties. Really intresting are the “Control…” and “Data…” entries which allow you to set advanced properties of your newly creted object.

Once you have created your form it’s time to create the PDF file. You can click on the “Export directly as PDF” button directly from OpenOffice’s standard bar or either go on File->Export as PDF and select some more advanced options.

There you are! Now you have your PDF Form. You can fill it and print it obtaining a really standard piece of paper, useful if you have to collect lots of the same information from many people.

Pay attention
Please note that you PDF module won’t be saveable. People just have to fill it in and take a print in order not to loose their work!

That’s it. Hope this will be of some help for somebody. Otherwise it has been a great exercise in written English for me! 🙂

How-to: Create PDF forms with OpenOffice