One form to rule them all...
May 1, 2008 11:57 AM   Subscribe

Creating a form template for colleagues to use at work that needs to meet the following criteria: 1. Allow text fields and drop-down selection boxes. 2. Allow users to add additional text in should they see fit (i.e. doesn't disallow all input outside of form fields). 3. Will allow rows (the form will be arranged like a table) to be duplicated/copied & pasted, including the form fields contained within those rows. 4. Is formatted nicely enough to be passed along to a client and read clearly. 5. Is openable/usable by your average user who doesn't have access to super expensive/specialized software.

What program/functions should I be using to create such a document?

I tried Word 2003, but it seems that using form fields requires you to "lock" the document, allowing no editing after the form structure is saved as a template. I had some success with Word 2007 (and its updated form functions), but everyone else in my office uses Office 2003, and even Microsoft's fix that supposedly allows 2003 users to open/edit/save 2007 files still won't allow for opening of DOTX (Word 2007 template) files. Acrobat seems out of the question because PDFs also only allow editing/input within form fields.

Is there something I'm missing in Word 2003 that would make it work for me? Other options? Help, please.
posted by freudenschade to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Can you restrict the places where text gets added/inserted? If so you could still use Word's form features, which from your problem description sounds like the way to go to me.

Depending on the layout -- you say it's a table, as in a grid, with copyable/pastable rows & columns? -- Excel might be a solution. To make a dropdown, set up a list of values offscreen. Highlight the cell you want to have the dropdown, choose Data->Validation and point at that list.
posted by cps at 12:24 PM on May 1, 2008

Response by poster: @cps:

I will definitely be including text fields where text should be inserted, but there will likely be situations where a coworker will want to add text in outside one of those text fields. Perhaps a solution that involves word can just include a large "Additional Comments" text field at the end of the document. But again, Word 2003 seems as though it requires the template to be "locked" in order to activate the form fields, making it impossible for my colleagues to copy/paste new rows within the document.

Excel could work, yes, but as I say, it needs to look like a document (based around a table), not a spreadsheet, when completed. It will usually be shared in a printed format, but there are times when it will be sent electronically. Can you save as PDF in Excel? Maybe that will help me meet that goal as well.

posted by freudenschade at 12:38 PM on May 1, 2008

Best answer: Excel could work, yes, but as I say, it needs to look like a document (based around a table), not a spreadsheet, when completed.

Set the gridlines not to show up (it's in the page setup somewhere, don't have Excel to hand now or I would give an exact location). The gridlines don't print by default anyway, but that will stop them from showing up on screen too. Then you have a blank white page that you can add whatever you want - drop down menus, forms, protected areas, etc. If you have the Office PDF extension installed you should be able to save to PDF.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:55 PM on May 1, 2008

Yeah, if you can have an "additional comments" field I'd go with Word.

Another way to look at the "additional comments" field, though, is : can I identify in some other way, beforehand, where people would add/change text and make that a formfield?
posted by cps at 1:35 PM on May 1, 2008

You don't *have* to lock a form in order to use it as a form. If you just use checkboxes and leave it unlocked, you can instruct users to double-click the boxes they want to check off and change "Default value" from unchecked to checked. Drop-down boxes won't work, though.
posted by acridrabbit at 2:05 PM on May 1, 2008

Contrarian suggestion but if you can go with a web-based solution, do give wufoo a spin. No specialized software needed!
posted by swapspace at 5:14 PM on May 1, 2008

I had almost the exact same issue with the Word 2003 locking/unlocking nightmare. I'm sorry to tell you that we never did find a way around it. We got Office 2007 in the midst of this nightmare and like you, we found that Word 2007 works a bit better for this. Fortunately for us, everyone who uses the form has 2007, but that doesn't help you.

I started to play around with forms in Access, but the scripting that would be necessary to make it work is beyond my capability. I would experiment more with Excel, were I you.
posted by desjardins at 8:28 AM on May 2, 2008

Response by poster: There's a lot to look at here - I think Excel is indeed the way to go, though it will take some trial and error. I now actually have some time to go back to this task, so thanks for all the input, people!
posted by freudenschade at 11:28 AM on May 15, 2008

I'd be very interested in an update if you figure it out.
posted by desjardins at 6:06 AM on May 16, 2008

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