Probably the best way would be to save the PDF as an image and use it as a background for the layout. You can then place your fields on top of the image in the appropriate areas.
This can be done. But there are a few things to consider.
Many forms are copyright protected. So you are not "legally" allowed to print them from an application directly. Additionally some forms are designed to be analyzed by a device that scans the form and uses the color and position of the form for the division of the data. Often color printers can produce color values that are not accurate to the requirements of the scanning device. This requires you to print your data on top of pre-printed forms (alignment can be a serious headache) as different printers can have different registration issues.
WSVP & MattLeach,
The forms are not copywritten and as for the quality of the forms I doubt that the Goverment is scanning them into their system. When we order blank forms from the Goverment, most of the forms are simply photo copies of photo copies on a slant, so even
typing them presents a problem.
As for "Probably the best way would be to save the PDF as an image and use it as a background for the layout. You can then place your fields on top of the image in the appropriate areas.", what image format would be the best
to convert the pdfs into?
I believe FileMaker is optimized to work best with png image types. That's always what i have used in my databases.
Are you trying to keep them as filled 'forms' with data from FM or as documents where you 'print' the data to the right place and then end up with A: print document B: another completed PDF???
John pointed me to this thread. Thanks John.
FileMaker supports adding a .pdf file into Layout mode. Simply go into Layout mode and choose the Insert > Picture option. You'll see that .pdf is not omitted in your choices.
To prep your document, just take the original PDF and make a duplicate in the OS. Then delete all pages except for one (unless the PDF is secured). Do this until you have single page PDFs and just add them into the layout.
You'll then have a 8.5 x 11 (if it's a US form) embedded pdf which is a vector based (key point here - because images can get much larger) within your layout.
Placing fields over the form areas works just fine. The problem you may have is with margins. When you bring the form in a full size it comes with any existing margins and you can't adjust them if the PDF is secured. However, if you have access to edit or re-output the PDF then you can reduce the margins to nothign and then allow printing from FileMaker to apply them.
Otherwise, you shouldn't have any alignment or output issues. I just did a few tests and things worked out fine.
[update] I just saw this site and I know that some of the stuff John knows about with iText means you can crop a PDF to get rid of margins. http://www.pdfscissors.com/
Easy to use site...
Its using iText under the hood, and consequently it is open source so I can probably make that happen inside FileMaker
All I need is to learn how to do the drawing interface..
That only work on Mac.
Just as a side note...
If it needs to work cross platform... Make sure you keep an amount of spacing in your field size/placement to allow for the differences in the way Mac and Windows handle Font Metrics... The Mac will "generally" display a slightly higher kerning (Text Spacing) value than Windows. I personally feel the Mac displays text much better than Windows, and the Mac is more "WYSIWYG" accurate.