5 ways to champion sustainability at your child’s school

It’s that time of year again—back to school. Yellow buses, alarm clocks, and of course parent paperwork! Seems like each day my child’s backpack is filled with more and more paperwork. One day it’s Contact and Internet Use forms, and the next Volunteer Release and Field Trip Chaperone forms. Shepherding the distribution, signing, and collecting of these forms must be the bane of each teacher. Who wants to be bogged down with administrative paperwork instead of teaching? Not to mention how many gallons of water, pounds of wood and waste are generated.

Before filling out and returning all that paperwork, consider going digital instead to pioneer sustainability at your child’s school. Here’s how you can start:

  1. Born digital.  When paperwork starts out digital, sustainability begins, so ask for an electronic copy first that you can fill out on your computer.
  2. Take a picture. If you can’t get an electronic copy of the form, take a picture with your iPad or smartphone camera.
  3. Stay digital. Try filling out the form electronically. This is easy to do using the free Adobe Fill & Sign app (iOS or Android). No more worrying about scribbling out mistakes or messy handwriting. Just open a PDF of the form or camera image to fill it out.
    formTap the screen to enter text and press and hold to bring up the check box tools as seen here.
  4. E-mail a completed form. When you’ve finished, use the Share icon in the Adobe Fill & Sign app to send your child’s teacher an e-mail with a PDF attachment of the form.  This attachment can easily be forwarded to the school administration for filing.
  5. Keep a digital archive copy. Are you ever plagued with Déjà vu when filling out a form? It looks familiar but you can’t remember if you filled it out? No worries—just keep a PDF for your records so you know.

Imagine the savings to the school district if each parent filled out forms electronically.  For example, there are approximately 7,500 students in our district and each student has at least 6 paper forms to fill out and return. 6 paper forms is an extremely conservative estimate and doesn’t include permission slips, transportation forms, medication forms,  free and reduced lunch applications, or even the concussion awareness form. So, for just 6 forms, that’s 45,000 forms that are printed, filled out, and returned. Using the ResourceSaver Calculator*, this could result in over $12,000 dollars in savings, not to mention 51,421 gallons of water, 4,325 pounds of waste, and 16, 763 pounds of wood.


So start the school year off right by going digital with your child’s paperwork, and making a commitment to sustainability.

Disclosure: I do independent contract work for Adobe Systems, but I was not compensated for this post. I merely saw an opportunity to use the Adobe Fill & Sign app to create a more sustainable school system.

*Developed and operated by the Environmental Defense Fund, now under ownership of the Environmental Paper Network.

Setting the Initial View Property for your PDFs using PDFmark/Distiller

This is an old post that I’ve been asked to republish from 2009.

While doing some research in the forums, I came across a great post in the Acrobat U2U forum from Simon in the Adobe Technical Support group. It detailed how to set the Initial View of your PDF during (not after) the creation process—beware that this particular process will not work for PDFs created with PDFMaker 9 and Office 2007. Below is the detail of the post.

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Building a multilingual PDF document with direct access

It’s common to see PDF files that contain multiple languages – like product assembly instructions. Usually these documents contain a sequential layout of the translated pages (i.e, English on page 1, French on page 2, etc.). But, this type of layout can be time consuming to navigate, especially if there are many different languages. So, instead of building documents with sequential access consider building multilingual documents with direct access to each a language to increase usability.

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How to add instructions to a PDF form

When designing interactive PDF forms, it’s always helpful to provide instructions on how to fill out the form –  especially if the form is complicated. So when a community member posted this question:

I would like to design an intro page to a form providing a bit of instructions, or customize the purple bar above the form where the copy reads…”Please fill out the following form…”

I thought it would be helpful to provide some suggestions on how to do this.

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Extracting non-sequential pages from a PDF file

This question gets asked with some regularity on AcrobatUsers.com.

In quite a few documents, I would like to extract pages that are non-sequential. Acrobat X Pro only allows me to extract sequential pages, so I have no quick way to grab just the five or six pages I want to extract without doing it one page at a time. This gets tedious, so is there a better way to do this or an add-on that would allow me to do so?

Unfortunately the Extract command doesn’t allow you to grab non-sequential pages but there are a few different workarounds that you can use instead. The newly redesigned Page Thumbnails navigation in Acrobat XI makes this task much easier as well.

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How to exclude a form field from the tab order

Recently while working on an interactive forms project, I had to figure out a way to exclude a button form field from the overall tab order of a form. So, after a quick search on AcrobatUsers.com, I came up with a great suggestion from Acrobat Expert Max Wyss. He recommended that you “bounce” over the field that you want to exclude by using a little help from some JavaScript.

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View the same PDF document in multiple windows

Depending on the task at hand, sometimes it’s clumsy navigating large PDF files. Recently I was assisting an Acrobat user that regularly received large PDF files he reviewed for completeness. The PDF file contained a “lead sheet” that referenced other scanned pages within the document. The problem he faced was trying to keep the “lead sheet” page view static while double checking that the file actually contained the referenced pages.

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How to add attachments to a PDF form

Seems like it should be so easy to add a button on your PDF form so that the recipient can attach a file (.docx, .xlsx, .pdf, etc). After all, you can do this with an HTML form created in Adobe FormsCentral. It’s also easy to do if all the form recipients are using Acrobat, but not if they’re using the free Reader. However, the release of Adobe Reader version XI has made this just a tiny bit easier.

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How to combine PDF forms that use the same form field names

This question popped up recently in the Acrobat community.

I have a single page form posted online for people to fill in.  It is a monthly budget. They select the month that they are reporting for then fill in the blanks.  I often get multiple months/forms emailed to me from an individual at one time which I want to combine into a single pdf document.  When I try to combine the files Acrobat generates an error message saying that I cannot combine the forms because the field names are the same, and that I have to use a “portfolio” otherwise is will give all the fields with the same name the same value.  Is there an easy way to combine these forms and keep the unique value in each field on each form?? Thank you for your HELP!

When you use the same form field name within your form, it can be a great timesaving feature for recipients. It means they only need to fill in the form field once and any other form fields with the same name will be filled in automatically. Sounds great, until you need to compile all your forms into one file for archiving. So, here are a couple of suggestions to address this workflow – note the second suggestion doesn’t work on PDF forms created using LiveCycle Designer.

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How to add a FormsCentral form to Facebook

From the Adobe FormsCentral forum, this discussion came up recently.

How can I allow possible registrants to fill our a form on facebook?
Does anyone know how I can allow access to this form to anyone on Facebook or by email?

FormsCentral allows you to create both HTML and PDF forms but in this post I’ll just cover how to do this for HTML forms. If you need to do this with a PDF form, check out my blog on How to upload a PDF file to Facebook. FormsCentral also allows you to embed HTML forms (not PDF forms) but you cannot use the embed code in Facebook.

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