11 March 2010

Alternatives to the PDF form

The other day I was looking at a library's website and noticed that they still use PDF forms for various needs.  And it kinda stunned me, because I'm so used to having things delivered by e-mail.  And no I'm not criticizing the library for using these, it maybe all they can do with their current system.

But I started thinking...what are some options?  What could be used so that you didn't have to fill in PDF's by hand or try type everything in that one small line in a fillable form (y'all know what I'm talking about)?  What could you do to help process information faster?  Or tabulate data?

And it came to me in a flash.  And I gotta admit...I really didn't want to write about it because I wanted to save this for something else.  But I realized ideas deserve to be shared (and heck someone else is probably already doing this...)  But the idea...use Google Documents.  It has a handy built in option for doing forms.

There are a variety of reasons for this, such as:
  1. It's free.  You definitely can't beat that price.
  2. It's easy to set up and doesn't require someone that can program.
  3. It's easily customizable from picking drop down menus to how the background looks.  It's also relatively easy to go back in and add new features.
  4. It makes statistics keeping a breeze.  No more trying to sort and tabulate by hand.  All of the forms are dumped into a Google Spreadsheet that can be exported as needed, sorted for specific needs. 
  5. You have access to the data anywhere.  So if you're at conference and have a few minutes you could start working on filling requests or processing data.
  6. It's easy to move and share the data that you have. 
  7. No more worries about deciphering handwriting!
  8. Saves trees
Are there security concerns for doing this option?  Sure, there is for anything.  You would be trusting Google with your data.  It's happened before where Google has accidentally made some documents that were private, public (this has only happened once to my knowledge.)   If someone hacks your Gmail account the information could be compromised.  And these sound like really scary things, because they are.  But there are concerns with any option that you choose.  You have to balance what you think will work best for you.  Perhaps PDF forms will still be a good option.  Perhaps something else will be. 

But the thing to remember is that you have some options.

No comments: