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August 17, 2011 1:25 PM   Subscribe

I've an idea to take a group of industry standard PDF forms & build a website that allows you to enter your information once to populate all of the forms. The problem: how do I do that?

The PDF forms are already populated with fields, but you must enter the same information over and over in separate forms.

I want to create a one-stop shop that allows you to enter the data once and magically have it on all of the forms.

I'm assuming I'll have to create a CRM-type database, map the database to each form, and generate some type of output.

Is there software that already does this?

Google searches show web app PDF Filler and Fill Any PDF Form, which are not what I'm envisioning.

Please point out any software or tutorials that could help.
posted by Apollo's Favorite Mistake to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well, ImageMagick is the go-to for any kind of batch image editing operations. It can export to PDFs, though admittedly I don't know how to handle multipage PDFs with it.

There's a section on this page about filling in forms if you know the XY location of the data fields.

Combine that technique with a simple HTML form frontend that collects each value once.
posted by odinsdream at 1:34 PM on August 17, 2011

posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:36 PM on August 17, 2011

How comfortable are you with programming? I used Django and pyreport with a qooxdoo JavaScript front-end to create a simple web app that does what you describe (except with a lot more math and variables since we were creating customized quotes for long lists of items) for a number of different PDF forms. I had never programmed before and other than the fact that I spent a couple of weeks just tinkering with tutorials and examples and figuring out the basics, the app didn't take long to write and turned out to be immensely useful.
posted by halogen at 1:38 PM on August 17, 2011

CommonApp is a site that does this for college applicants -- it might be useful to you to see how they do it.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 2:08 PM on August 17, 2011

If you have some programming resources, you can use itextsharp to autopopulate form and no form based pdfs to produce new pdfs.
posted by edman at 2:39 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've built HTML forms that submit to a PHP script which then lays the text onto an existing PDF document. Truth be told, I couldn't add to the existing document, I had to make image files of each page of the PDF, and lay the images as the background of the page, then overlay the submitted text. It's tedious to get the XY just right (lots of trial and error), but PDFlib ($ for the stuff I wanted to do, but maybe your webhost has got a license) and fPDF(free of charge) are the libraries I've used.

The PDF files were then either downloadable or emailed to the user, depending on the project.

It's completely doable, it's just a somewhat tedious project. Rewarding nonetheless.

There was also one other similar question I answered previously.
posted by Wild_Eep at 9:33 PM on August 17, 2011

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