Thursday, March 27, 2014

Review and PDF improvements

With Orbeon Forms 4.5, we are introducing several improvements to the Review mode and the PDF output.

Selection controls

We used to output all selection controls like this:

  • Single selection: output the selected item’s label.
  • Multiple selection: output all selected items’ labels with separators.
  • Boolean input: output “true” or “false”.

But this was not ideal for checkboxes and radio buttons. In these cases, you probably want all options visible in your review or PDF as well. Also, this opens the door to amending printed forms by checking options by hand.

The boolean input was worse, because nobody really wants to see “true” or “false” printed!

So here is how things look like in 4.5:

Review mode
Review mode
PDF output
PDF output

You notice that both checkboxes and radio buttons appear as boxes. That’s because on paper forms, unlike web UIs, there is more often than not no distinction between the two: you just check the boxes that apply, and explanatory text clarifies whether multiple choices are allowed. So for now we have decided on a unified appearance for both.

Highlighting of fields

We now also better highlight fields, for two reasons:

  • It was not always clear where a control’s label stopped and a control’s value started.
  • There is a use case for blank fields to be filled later on paper, in which case the field’s area must be clearly indicated.

This applies not only to input fields, but also to other types of controls which take more of a “field” appearance in review mode and PDF, such as date pickers and dropdown menus.

Highlighting of control fields
Highlighting of control fields

Page breaks before sections

Form Builder now has a built-in option to add a PDF page break before a section. One use case is forms that have a signature section, where there are legal requirements to make sure that certain fields stay together and on the same page.

Page Break Before option
Page Break Before option

Other improvements

Along the way, we also made the following improvements:

  • The “[Select…]” dropdown title no longer appears in Review mode and PDF files (see Fun with dropdown menu titles).
  • We place the form title in the header and the footer of the PDF, alongside page numbering.

With all this, the Review mode and PDF output are looking pretty good! These enhancements will be available in Orbeon Forms 4.5.

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