Monday, April 13, 2009

PDF Forms

French bureaucracy has been famously rigid & unhelpful for decades, but is now getting very user-friendly.
There is a "one-stop-shop" Government Administration website called, encouragingly, "Service-Public" which will point you to answers to almost any admin question:
They also answer individual questions rapidly & without too much "langue de bois".

We have been able to make income tax declarations on-line for several years & are even encouraged to do so by extended deadlines, waived requirements for justification end even, for the first few years, a cash incentive.
You can either do it all on-line in real time, or download the forms for tax and so on, in the usual PDF format.
With the PDF option, you can look at them at your leisure & fill them in & print them, all using free Adobe Reader software, which you can download from their sites (but everybody has already).

There is one irritating snag though, with their PDF forms & everybody else's PDF forms.
Sure, you could just print them blank & fill them in by hand, then scan them to keep a copy & send the originals by post.
I hope you wouldn't.
Much better is to fill them in on the PC, where you benefit from the automatic filling of many zones, automatic arithmetic between zones, better legibility etc.
But if you are using Adobe Reader, you can't electronically save the filled-in forms, so you would still have to print them afterwards, before scanning to keep an electronic copy & sending the original by post.
Worse, if you hit a snag part way through, and you always do, then you can't save your work & continue from the same point later on.

Well, you can.
But you need to use something better than Adobe Reader.
Adobe would say you need Adobe Acrobat at 417€.
Fortunately you can use the oddly named Cabaret Stage instead & it's free.

With Cabaret Stage, you can fill your PDF forms in on the PC, with all the advantages of automatic filling, automatic arithmetic & good legibility, plus you can stop & restart as much as you like and save the finished forms electronically for your records.
With luck, you could also send the completed forms as e-mail attachments, but not all correspondents accept that yet.

Cabaret Stage is a badly-needed piece of software which does not seem to have achieved the popularity it deserves.

Parting thot: "There are 10 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don't." - Paolo Massa?

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