Many Adobe customers have invested in Adobe LiveCycle as a way of creating, publishing and managing business forms. These customers use Adobe LiveCycle Designer to create sophisticated PDF electronic forms using the XDP (also known as XFA) specification, and deploy and manage these electronic forms using Adobe LiveCycle server products.
However, the world is rapidly going mobile, and traditional PDF/XDP forms do not run on most mobile devices.
This blog outlines some of the options available to existing LiveCycle customers to take their forms mobile.
Some Options for Taking your Forms Mobile
There are several different ways you could use for getting your forms mobile:
Wait for a new version of Mobile Reader
Build it yourself in HTML5
You could build your business forms yourself in HTML5.
There are a few problems with this approach:
- You’d be building everything twice – once in PDF, and again in HTML5.
- HTML5 is a whole new and complex set of skills. It takes a significant amount of learning and investment to create even moderately sophisticated HTML forms and typically needs to be done by programmers. You may need to hire staff with different skills, or retrain your existing staff.
- You may need to build several variants of a form in HTML, for different screen sizes – one size does not fit all. You may also need both touch and mouse-oriented variants.
- Building touch-oriented HTML pages is a new skill to learn. Not only do we need to learn traditional HTML, you also need to learn touch-specific features.
- You need to test your forms across a large number of different browsers and devices.
Select a Proven Solution that is Available Now – Avoka SmartForm Factory
Avoka has been working on mobile capabilities in our SmartForm Factory product for almost two years, and we have a robust and mature implementation that enables a single design to be generated as either a interactive PDF Form, a static PDF Receipt, or a HTML/HTML5 form. Importantly, SmartForm Factory can fully leverage your existing LiveCycle Infrastructure!
Some of the features we have built into SmartForm Factory that enable mobile devices include:
- SmartForm Factory is built on the experience of hundreds of developer-years building both PDF/XFA and HTML forms.
- SmartForm Composer is a technology-neutral form design environment. You design your forms, including look-and-feel, layout, business rules, and more, in Composer. Composer generates “best of breed” renditions of this form, including both Interactive and Print PDF, Desktop HTML, Tablet HTML/HTML5, and SmartPhone HTML/HTML5.
- Our form management platform, SmartForm Manager, “sniffs” the user’s browser, and automatically serves up the appropriate rendition of the form.
- Tablet and smartphone variants are optimized for touch interactions.
- Composer supports platform-specific widgets (eg Google maps field in HTML), as well as cross-platform widgets that work in both PDF and HTML.
- Wizard-style forms (in both PDF and HTML).
- We have an automated testing facility that tests Composer-generated forms across a wide variety of browsers. We do the hard work of cross-browser compatibility so that you don’t have to.
- SmartForm Factory works seamlessly with Adobe LiveCycle.
- Our forms also work off-line, by pushing them to the Mobile FieldWorker app.
- You can build mobile forms in SmartForm Factory today!
Other features that are not specifically aimed at Mobile support, but may be of interest to you, are:
- Extensive use of Style-sheets, so that you can build forms more quickly and with better consistency. Also allows a single form branded differently for different customers.
- Extensive capabilities for re-use, including re-usable blocks (with form-level overrides possible), and impact analysis.
- Ability to create the same form in multiple languages, including automated translation capabilities.
- Dynamic Data lookups to interact in real-time with back-end systems.
- Support for save-as-draft, attachments, receipts, and more.
- Integration with Payment Gateways.
- Integration with existing web sites and content management systems.
- Customizable delivery options.
- Battle-tested Quality of Service features to ensure highly scalable levels of service.
Coming in Q4 2012: Adobe’s XFA->HTML5 generation option
Adobe’s Dave Welch has indicated that a future version of LiveCycle will include support for mobile forms. From this LinkedIn thread:
David Welch: We are working on a way to enable XFA forms to work on mobile deices as part of our next release. I expect that we’ll start doing demos and prerelease activities in the next couple of months and you’ll definately want to be in on that. We’ll announce on our blog when we’re ready to show it off.
There are definitely some advantages of Adobe’s approach, the major one being that you will be able to publish your existing XFA forms as HTML. However, we tend to agree with Duane Nickull, who said, “IMO – XFA/XDP forms are not optimal for a lot of mobile browsing”. The major disadvantage of this XFA->HTML is that you will be limited to the types of forms that you can currently build in LiveCycle Designer, and will not be able to use HTML-specific features, or make the best possible use of more limited screen real-estate.
We will be watching Adobe’s approach with great interest, and will definitely be incorporating whatever they deliver into SmartForm Factory – this will be a good quick solution to taking existing forms mobile. However, we believe that to give your mobile customers the best possible user experience, use SmartForm Factory approach, where you can design for optimal HTML experiences, and still get great looking PDF’s (great for receipts) from the same form design.
In this case a Google Maps widget can be used within a HTML form providing “drag & drop” address selection or preview.
If you want to transition to the mobile world, while still making the most of your existing LiveCycle investment and skills, you should be taking a very close look at Avoka SmartForm Factory.