Home User Manual Discussion Forum Search

Adobe Acrobat Forms 

10/22/15 This page was removed from the search and from our website. It remains in Local view for posterity.

This feature is currently broken and there are no immediate plans to fix it.  Please contact us if this feature is critical for you.

Acrobat Form Import was introduced in Version 7.0Web Forms came out in Version 7.6, and are far easier to use. After Version 11.1 was released, we realized that Acrobat Form Import was broken because of the switch to dotNet 4.0.  We have not been able to fix the problem.  We suspect that we would need to switch to Acrobat X, and then start over with the integration between the two programs.  We are reluctant to invest time in this project because we don't think anyone is actually using this feature.  If this feature is critical to you, please contact us.

Historical Version of this page below---------------------------------------

This feature is only for very advanced users.  The much simpler alternative is Web Forms, based on Sheets.  Also, see the related Kiosk feature.

Pdf forms may be distributed to new and existing patients and returned electronically to the office by server or by email.

Build a Form
Use Adobe Acrobat Pro Version 9. You will need one license for the computer where forms are built, and also a license for each computer where completed forms will be imported into Open Dental.  There is actually a choice of two different programs for building the forms.  Acrobat Pro includes a program called LiveCycle Designer which is said to be more powerful than Acrobat itself for building forms.  But forms built in LiveCycle are not compatible with forms built in Acrobat even though they may both be pdf.  An imperfect conversion process is required to move them from one format to the other.  Acrobat does not seem to be missing any features (hint: a few of the layout tools are buried unexpectedly in the right click menu), so it is probably a better choice that involves less conversions and less programs.

There are a number of files involved in the forms distribution process, and it helps to follow the naming convention set by Acrobat.  When naming files, it is also best not to use any spaces.  This example, uses a form that we called PatientInfo.
PatientInfo.pdf:  The original editable form.
PatientInfo_distributed.pdf:  A form that is fillable in Acrobat Reader.  Includes a submit button.  This file gets returned to the office.
PatientInfo_responses.pdf:  Not a simple pdf, but a portfolio of pdf's.  Aggregates returned forms.
PatientInfo_responses_archive.pdf:  Another portfolio to hold pdf's that have already been processed.

To create the original pdf, there are many strategies.  The form could be created entirely from scratch in Acrobat.  Or any Word document could be exported as a pdf.  Even a scanned image could be used as the starting point for a form. Open the file in Acrobat, and select Forms, Add or Edit Fields.  Acrobat will automatically try to create fields for you if none exist yet.  Then it will all need to be tidied up manually.  It helps to do this at 200% to 400% zoom.

There are possible source documents available on our Registration Forms page.

This form is the same as the default Patient Information sheet.  You can use it as a starting point for your own form:

All the fields must be named very specifically to match what Open Dental is expecting.  Go to Sheets, and open the patient registration form.  Look at the names of all the fields, and make sure that they match exactly.  It can be helpful to work from a print screen of that window.  Capitalization is critical on each field.

Distribute the Form
There are many options for distributing the forms.  We will explain the method that we think works best, but there are other options such as email which would also work. Acrobat Pro includes a free subscription to acrobat.com, which is where the forms will be uploaded to.  Create a new user account at acrobat.com, and use the same user from all Acrobat stations in the office.

After creating the form in Acrobat, click Distribute Form.

At the top of the window the Delivery Method can be changed, for example to email.  For our example we will describe submission using Acrobat.com, the default.   Fill in your email address; you will distribute the form to yourself.   Click Send.  In addition to sending you a link, this will create the _distributed.pdf and _responses.pdf files in the same folder as the original pdf.  The _distributed.pdf is the form that the patients will sign.

You could then use the email that you receive to download the pdf from Acrobat.com, but you will quickly find that the Acrobat.com website is very poorly programmed.  Do not send your patients to that website to download the form unless you cannot figure out the instructions below for posting.  Remember that regardless of how the patient receives the form, when they click the Submit button, it will still go to the Acrobat.com website.  That process works fine and is explained later.

Post the Form
The acrobat.com website requires patients to download the pdf to their disk, find it, and launch it in Adobe Reader. That's too complicated for many patients. The alternative is to place the form on your own office website in such a way that when users click on it, it launches Reader.  First, upload the pdf to your website.  But simply placing a link to the pdf will not work, because the pdf would be launched within the browser in the Adobe Reader plugin.  This will not work, and the plugin will cause the Acrobat.com website to malfunction after submitting the form.  The malfunction would cause a delay of hours or days before the form reaches you.  Instead, you will want the pdf to open in a brand new Reader window completely outside the browser.  To trick the browser into doing this, create a small text file with these contents:

$pdf = $_GET['pdf'];
if(preg_match('/^[a-zA-Z0-9_\-]+.pdf$/', $pdf) == 0) {
print "Illegal name: $pdf";
header('Content-type: octet-stream');
header('Content-disposition: Attachment; filename=' . $pdf);

Save the file as pdfforcesave.php. To change a file from .txt to .php, you must have file extensions set to show in Windows.  In any window, select Tools, Folder Options.  If you do not have a Tools menu, then go to your Control Panel, Appearance, Folder Options. Click the View tab.  Uncheck the box for "Hide extensions for known file types".  If you don't do this, then the file will accidentally be renamed to pdfforcesave.php.txt and will not work.

Upload pdfforcesave.php to the same folder as your pdf.  Now, make a link to the php file like this:
<a href="pdfforcesave.php?pdf=PatientInfo_distributed.pdf">Patient Info Form</a>
The name of your pdf file comes after the question mark.    Here is an example of how the link would show and behave on your own website:
Patient Info Form (select Open)

If the above instructions are too complicated, you still have many other options.  The easiest option would be to have the patients use the Acrobat.com website for the download.  Simply post the original link that you received during the distribution process.  Here is an example:
Patient Info Form (save and then open)

Do not distribute the above two forms to your patients because the results would go to our Adobe.com account instead of to yours.  Instead, use the form in the very top section of this page as your starting form.

Receive the Responses
Open the _responses.pdf file that was created in the distribution process.  Remember that this is a portfolio of multiple responses.

Click the Update button to check the Acrobat.com website for responses.  The responses will never be seen on the actual website, but will instead be downloaded to this portfolio as they come in.  The individual pdf's will need to be exported from this portfolio and then imported into Open Dental. Create a folder to temporarily hold exported pdf's. For example, create a folder called TempPdfs on your desktop.  Highlight one pdf in the responses file, and click the Save button (not the Export button).  Then select Save File(s) from Portfolio.

To import the form, first import the new pdf into the Images module of an existing patient in the ordinary way.  If the patient is new, quickly create them in Open Dental with just last name and first name.  The images category that the form goes into should already be set up as a Patient Forms category in Definitions.  The pdf will then show in the Patient Forms window.  See Patient Forms for information on the import process.


Open Dental Software 1-503-363-5432