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Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro

PDF Forms: Capturing Data

Using forms to capture information can assist in the timely collection of data. However, getting a large amount of data into a useful format can be time-consuming and overwhelming. You can instead use optional hidden form fields to capture the data to a data file as the user completes the form.

Prior to capturing data, you must create a data file using the following steps:

Once the data file is created, you must modify the form within Acrobat by using the following steps:

return to topEstablishing a Share for Collecting Data

The file that will hold your data must be located on a special forms data directory (share). This allows data to be sent to the file each time a user completes the form, although the user cannot access or make changes to the directory where the form data is stored. If you do not already have access to a data share, you must establish an account to gain access.

NOTE: When your account on the forms data directory has been created, you will receive a confirmation email. This message will contain the name of the share you need to map to and the directory name to use, so you can create the initial file and retrieve its data.

  1. Send an email message to

  2. Include the following information:
    * Your name
    * Web publishing account name
    * Names of others needing access
    * Email addresses of others needing access
    * Whether access is needed for Macintosh or Windows computer(s)

  3. Follow the instructions in the confirmation email to map to your forms data share

return to topEstablishing a File for Data

The file that will be used for capturing the data does not need to contain any data, but you must at least create an empty file to store the data in. When users complete the form, their data is appended to the end of the file.

  1. Map to the location of your forms data share
    This information was sent to you in the confirmation email.
    For information on mapping a drive, see Connecting to Network Drives.

  2. Once the network drive is mapped and open, from the Folders list, select your forms data share

  3. In the Contents list, right click » select New » Text Document

  4. In the Name field, type a name for the document
    NOTE: The filename should not include spaces.

  5. Press [Enter]
    The new file for data capture is created.

return to topFields for Capturing Results to a Data File

The following table explains the hidden form field names and values used to store form results in a data file. These hidden fields ensure that the form data is sent to your data file, which can then be read in a Microsoft Word table, a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, or even a Microsoft Access Database.

We strongly recommend that anyone wishing to use these options be familiar with importing files with delimiting characters.
In order for any of your form information to be captured to a data file, all these fields must be included.

Field Name Value

The value must specify the path and filename of the data file.
Format: directoryname/filename.txt (note that the -f of your share name is not included in the directory name)
EXAMPLE: If your share name is joesmith-f, and the text file you created is named data.txt, you would append your results to joesmith/data.txt
The initial blank data file must be created on the server prior to using the script. For more information, refer to Establishing a Share for Collecting the Data.


Specify the fields which should be appended to the text file.
Format: fieldname,fieldname,fieldname
EXAMPLE: realname,email,phone
Any field not specified in db_fields will not be appended to the file.
Field names are case sensitive.


Specify the separator character to be used between fields in the data file. Avoid using common characters (e.g., : @ / ). We recommend using characters that are less likely to be entered by users (e.g., % ^ ; | ).

return to topInserting the Required Hidden Form Fields

You must be using the UW--Eau Claire forms processing script in order to have your form's data sent directly to a data document. In addition to the script, you must insert the three hidden form fields discussed in this document.

  1. Open the PDF file that you will use for the form

  2. From the Forms menu, select Add or Edit Fields...
    Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro enters Form Editing mode and the Forms toolbar appears at the top.
    Forms toolbar

  3. Click TEXT FIELD TOOLText Field Tool button

  4. Position the cursor on the page where you want the text field to begin 

  5. Click and drag the mouse until the text field reaches the desired size

  6. Release the mouse button
    The Field Name entry box appears.
    Field Name entry box

    The Text Field Properties dialog box appears.
    Text Field Properties dialog box: General tab

  8. Select the General tab

  9. In the Name text box, type the name of the appropriate hidden form field
    EXAMPLE: Type append_db, or db_fields, or db_delimiter
    For more information about each of the three required field names, refer to Fields for Capturing Results to a Data File.

  10. In the Common Properties section, from the Form Field pull-down list, select Hidden

  11. Select the Options tab
    Text Field Properties dialog box: Options tab

  12. In the Default Value text box, type the appropriate value for the hidden form field

  13. Click CLOSE

  14. Repeat steps 3-12 until you have entered all the needed hidden form fields

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