Build your interactive PDF application forms with Livecycle Designer

By November 29, 2010 February 27th, 2016 General

When it comes to documentation tools, Adobe offers a wide array of great products. One of their tools is Livecycle Designer which is a standalone application for creating interactive PDF forms. This tool is relatively unknown even amongst the technical writing community and is not to be confused with the form design capabilities of Acrobat, which is a completely different beast.

I’ve been using Livecycle for quite some time now and have been impressed by its capabilities. From simple forms with basic controls to advanced forms with expanding sections and custom logic, Livecycle Designer lets you do it all. You will however require a programming background in order to implement the behaviour for more advanced, dynamic forms. Scripting can be done using two built-in languages: Formcalc and Javascript.

One downside to Livecycle Designer is that it’s a bit buggy, especially on the scripting side. A lot of things that should work and should be simple often require workarounds. For example, performing certain layout operations within a script for a button click often does not work because the underlying script engine seems to have timing issues related to when it executes code.

Livecycle also requires you to spend some time architecting complex projects up front. For example, complex forms involving expanding and collapsing sections–especially those that span pages–will require a fair amount of pre-planning. Objects called “sub forms” must be carefully planned out in order to ensure that content pulls together tightly as sections expand and collapse.

The tool’s documentation has been surprisingly decent; an aspect which is often overlooked with not so well known tools. The best form of help however, can be found by Googling “Livecycle Designer” and your topic keywords as there seems to be a lot of users out there with similar questions and answers. Also – be sure to check out which is a great site for Livecycle related questions and often shows up in search results. The site also features a search box, so you can quickly locate articles which may assist you with your project.

In conclusion – Livecycle Designer is a great tool for developing forms. If you’re new to Livecycle, you should plan on spending some time experimenting with it and reading through the documentation before starting your project. Whilst you may not have heard of the tool, it is fully featured, fully supported and fairly easy to learn. You can download a free trial version from Adobe here:

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