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When you think about creating a form you have lots of planning to do. It's easiest if you start with a paper version of the form. The family group sheet shown above is a common type of form for a genealogist. You can find lots of examples of similar forms.
If you can't find a sample form to see what somebody else has done, you should take a piece of paper and do a rough sketch of what you think you want. After you have a paper version, you can make a list of the types of information that you want to collect and relate the info type to a fillable form field type. In the case of the family group sheet, I want to collect names, genders, dates, and places.
- Name is going to be a text form field. I can add formatting that causes the system to capitalize the first letter of any name enter automatically. I'm also going to want to have the field length be about 40 characters for the first and middle name and 40 characters for the last name.
- Gender is going to be a check box form field with three selections: male, female, unknown. I could have users select gender from a drop-down list; however, for space considerations, I might want to have all options visible on one line.
- Date is going to be a text form field with date formatting applied. Date formatting means that the user of the form will need to enter a real date. In the case of my form, they need to enter d MMM yyyy as in 1 January 2012.
- Place is going to be a text form field with conditions that are similar to what I would apply for a name.
Since this is a family group sheet, the children are all going to have their father's last name. When I add the name text form field for the husband's last name, I can set it up so that it is used as a bookmarked cross reference and complete the last name for each of the children automatically.
I'm also going to want to add contact information and page numbering. I can put that at the top of the form or the bottom...inside or outside of a header or footer. I've used all of these configurations depending on the form and what I was trying to achieve. If you're a professional, you might want to create electronic letterhead that you can use for forms as well as other documents.
In subsequent posts, we're going to look at the selections I made to create the sample family group sheet, including layout, tables, and forms. In addition, I'll tell you how to set up the naming bookmarked cross reference.
I found that constructing the family group sheet sample was tedious. However, once I had it perfected, I saved it as a template and used it again and again. So while the initial construction is painful, the time and trouble it saves me on the back end is considerable.
So start thinking about the types of information you want to collect and how that information relates to fillable form fields and how you might want to present that information to a user in a form...and remember that user might be you!
P.S. If you'd like a copy of the family group sheet form, please email me at email@example.com. If you have the Word version, you can display the properties, etc. to reverse engineer the form.