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Adobe Dreamweaver CS3

Forms: Capturing Data

An efficient way to collect data from users is to capture it using forms. However, if the collection involves a lot of data, getting the data into a format that can be useful can be time-consuming and overwhelming. Optional hidden form fields allow for the user's data to be stored in a data file and saved for future use. 

Prior to capturing the data, two steps need to be completed:

Once the data file is created, proceed with the following:

return to topEstablishing a Share for Collecting the Data

The file that will hold your data must be located on a special forms data directory (share). If you do not already have access to a data share, you must establish one. These instructions apply to UW- Eau Claire web developers only.

  1. Send an email message to

  2. Include the following:
    1. Your name
    2. Web publishing account name
    3. Names of those needing access
    4. Email addresses of those needing access

You will receive a confirmation email message when the forms data directory has been created. The email will tell you 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.

return to topEstablishing the File for the Data

The file that will be used to capture the hidden field data does not need to contain any data, but the "shell" of the file must be created. When users complete the form, the data is added to the end of the file. These instructions apply to UW- Eau Claire web developers only.

  1. Map to the location of your forms data share
    For information on mapping a drive, see Connecting to Network Drives.

  2. Using Windows Explorer, 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 the document name
    NOTE: The filename should not include spaces or special characters.

  5. Press [Enter]

return to topFields for Capturing Results to a Data File

The following illustrates the field names and values used to store form results to a data file. This data file can then be read into 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. These fields are specific to the formmail script used by UW- Eau Claire.

To append the form fields to a text file, the value should specify the path and file to hold the data. 
directoryname/filename.txt (note that the -f of your share name is not included in the directory name)
EXAMPLE: doc/data.txt
The initial blank data file must be created on the server prior to using the script. The script does not automatically create it; it only appends to it. If you plan to use Microsoft Word to view the data file, we recommend you use a '.dat' for your file extension instead of '.txt'.

Specify exactly which fields are appended to the text file (e.g., realname,email,phone).
Format: fieldname,fieldname,fieldname
EXAMPLE: realname,email,phone
Any field not specified in db_fields will not be appended to the file. Date and time fields are also automatically inserted in front of the rest of the fields in each record. Field names are case sensitive.

This is the separator character used between fields in the text file. Avoid using common characters, like ":", "@", or "/". We recommend using characters that are less likely to be entered by users ( e.g., %  ^  ; | ).  You could also use the tab key as the delimiter.  To use the tab key just put the cursor between the quotation marks in the value field and press the [Tab] key.
NOTE: If you use the tab delimiter, your file extension should be '.tab' instead of '.txt' or '.dat'.

return to topInserting the Optional Hidden Form Fields

  1. Open or create your form

  2. Place your insertion point within the form boundary where you would like to insert the hidden form field

  3. From the Insert menu, select Form » Hidden Field
    On the Forms bar, click HIDDEN FIELDHidden Field button
    The hidden field icon will appear.

  4. Select the hidden field by clicking it onceHidden field icon
    The HiddenField Properties pane appears.
    Hidden field properties pane

  5. In the HiddenField text box, type the name of the field
    NOTE: For a listing of field names and values, refer to Fields for Capturing Results to a Data File.

  6. In the Value text box, type the value of the field
    NOTE: For a listing of field names and values, refer to Fields for Capturing Results to a Data File.

  7. Repeat steps 2-6 until you have entered all the needed hidden form fields.

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