Friday, July 20, 2012

Forming Up Your Genealogy--Part 2

Before we start creating forms in MS Word, you should look at two additional form-related tools: Adobe and Google Documents.

For anyone lucky enough to have Adobe Acrobat ($$$!), they've included functionality that will take any form (really any existing document) and turn it into a form that an end user can fill in electronically. You never have to print/paper. I've found this type of form at only a few genealogy-related sites.

One of the best sites to see these types of forms in action is the Mid-Continent Public Library website. Click on PDFs at this website and you'll find forms with lots of blue highlighting. Click in the blue highlight and you can type directly into the PDF. In addition, the library has enable saving on several forms. Display the form, hold down CTRL + Shift and type S to display a Save As dialog, and save the form to your system. The form is saved as a fillable form. The drawback of course is that all of the forms have a Mid-Continent Public Library logo on them...which is part of the boilerplate...which means you can't remove it. Thus the reason to learn to create your own forms so you can put your logo and contact info on them.

Adobe is making sure that everybody knows how to convert documents into fillable forms. See:
Both of these sites have movies as well as text. The movies show you how to create fillable forms and explain the additional built in communication and statistical functionality (which the library did not enable on their forms).

So, if you have friends who have access to the latest version of Acrobat, you might want to create a few forms in MS Word and ask for a small favor. You can also download a free trial copy of Acrobat; however, I don't know if the fillable form functionality is available in the trial. I would think yes.

One bit of hopeful news is that many companies follow right behind Adobe and create similar functionality for less money or sometimes for free. So keep an eye out for similar products advertising this functionality.

Google Documents
Let me start this one off by explaining that I have multiple email accounts. I have a Hotmail account because it's my passport to everything Microsoft, including Skydrive...the cloud. I have a Gmail account because it's my passport to everything Google, including Google Documents...the cloud. I love both services because each is wildly different and has a special use that I find convenient. Thus it is with the Form function on Google Documents.

To create a form:
  1. Log in to your Gmail account. 
  2. On the bar that runs across the top of your page, click Documents. The Docs page displays. 
  3. Click the Create button, and then select Form from the drop-down menu. The form template appears.
  4. Replace the text Untitled form with a form title. For example, enter Family Questionnaire.
  5. Replace the paragraph below with a message. For example, you might explain that you are doing a family research project and you'd like to ask the recipient a few questions. The form is similar to a survey.
  6. In Question Title, replace Sample Question 1 with your first question. For example, you might ask: Have you had any major changes this year?
  7. In Help Text, replace existing text with additional information. For example, you might write: Marriage of child or birth of grandchild. Please provide details.
  8. In Question Type, click the drop-down arrow and pick a type. 
  9. In Make this a required question, click this check box if you want to force the recipient to answer the question. When you click this option, the recipient can't finish the form until they answer the required question.
  10. Click Done
  11. Double-click Second Question to open the next form and add the next question.
  12. After you have all of the questions you want to ask entered, you can email the form to a recipient. The recipient responds and you are able to see and track responses.
In addition, you can apply one of many themes to the form and you should explore the options available on the Add item button. Google makes using their products simple and fun. Here's what my cousins would see when they open the survey on their end.

My cousin would complete the form and click the Submit button. In many instances, this type of online form might serve your needs better than a formal MS Word form. Only you can decide what you need in any given set of circumstances. 

Form from Part 1 of this Series
If you look back at the Part 1 posting, you'll see that I have a blank form. If you would like a copy of that form to work with please email me ( and I'll be happy to respond. Just be sure to tell me what version of Word you are using so that I can save the form in the correct format for you so that it is easily usable.

Next Post...Part 3
We get started for real. We'll start creating MS Word forms. 

1 comment:

  1. The standard file format for transcripts created by court reporters/stenographers is an ASCII file which is delivered in TXT format. This is the file type universally accepted by desktop transcript review software, and by TranscriptPad for iPad as well.
    Technology News