Adobe's Form Manager 6.0

Form Manager helps organize the deluge of forms your organization produces.

September 10, 2004

4 Min Read
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Working Together

I tested Form Manager 6.0 along with several of Adobe's recently released enterprise form-management and -processing products in our NWC Inc. business applications lab in Green Bay, Wis. (For more about NWC Inc., our 24/7 business applications lab, go to Designed to support up to 100 users on one server, Form Manager offers compelling features on its own, but its power is fully realized only when it's working with Adobe's other products. Form Manager, together with Adobe's Reader Extension Server 6.1, Document Security Server 6.0 and Form Server 6.0, provides a kick-ass solution for automating form management.

Adobe's products require an IBM WebSphere or JBoss application server, as well as a corporate directory and a relational database (IBM DB2, Oracle or MySQL) for Form Manager's standards-based ebXML repository. I installed the product suite on a Windows 2003 Server (Red Hat Linux AS 2.1 is also supported) running WebSphere 5.0 and MySQL 4.0. Adobe said support for BEA Systems' WebLogic server and Microsoft's SQL Server will be available in future releases.

The installation was not simple--the products required intensive configuration before they were up and running. For example, before I could even install the Adobe products, I had to reconfigure WebSphere to communicate with MySQL and Active Directory Services using JDBC and LDAP. Then, before the EAR (enterprise archive) and WAR (Web archive) files could be deployed to the application server, I had to tweak each product manually. This was made somewhat less difficult by the inclusion of a GUI-based configuration tool.

Although getting the products to work with my existing infrastructure was tedious, the integration between Form Manager and the other Adobe products was seamless, requiring only that Form Manager be told during the preinstallation configuration that the other Adobe products were also online.Form Manager can manage and publish any type of file but provides significant value-add if those forms are XDP templates. (XDP is a proprietary XML template that can be created with Adobe's Designer product.) I could assign basic ACL security to all documents, but I could apply even more detailed security rights--such as specifying whether users could fill in forms, affix digital signatures and add comments--to XDP forms.

Fill in the Blanks

Forms are published to a configurable hierarchical database repository, with access rights assigned per directory or form. For easy searching, forms can be assigned to multiple categories, which are also configurable and can be assigned access rights. I designated the publishing method of XDP forms-- PDF, HTML or both. As a Form Manager user, I could choose a presentation method, and the form was generated dynamically from the XDP template based on my preference.



Adobe Form Manager 6.0, starts at $35,000 per CPU. Adobe Systems, (866)-766-2256, (408) 536-6000.

Form Manager also can merge data with XDP forms. You can configure user profiles to hold a list of variables, such as "Name" and "Department." If fields in the XDP template match those variables, the dynamically generated form will include prepopulated values in all matching fields within the form. Of course, administrators and form creators will have to take the time to ensure that field names match. This only needs to be done once, however. The time savings to customers and employees in automatically populating commonly used data fields is the payoff.

If customers or employees are using Adobe's free Acrobat reader, have no fear. Using RES (ReaderExtensionServer) 6.1 will unlock the free reader's capabilities to fill out forms and apply digital signatures. This makes the cost ($35,000 per CPU) for RES well worth the investment. I used RES to allow the digital signing of a standard PDF and served itup to technology editor Don MacVittie through Form Manager. He accessed and signed the paperwork using the free version of Acrobat 6.0.

SynchronicityForm Manager 6.0 is an intriguing new product. It has merits on its own, but the real power of the pervasive PDF is found when the latest products in Adobe's suite of form-management products interact.

One final note: If you're using Adobe Form Manager 6.0 to create and process legally binding documents, make sure you know your legal status. Check out our article on digital signatures.

Lori MacVittie is a Network Computing senior technology editor working in our Green Bay, Wis., labs. Write to her at [email protected].

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