[Scribus] Combo boxes etc.

John Jason Jordan johnxj
Thu Nov 9 18:30:45 CET 2006

I am trying to create a PDF form that is editable. Editable PDF forms
became possible after the release of Adobe Reader 7.0 and Acrobat 7.0
Professional. In an editable PDF file you can have controls, like text
boxes, radio buttons, check boxes, drop-down lists, and others. The
controls can even be tied to a database. Forms like this have existed
in the world of word processing for a long time. Companies would create
a form and lock it so that employees could only enter data in the
controls, then print it out and send it to someone (management, etc.).
Now we have Acrobat 7.0 and Reader 7.0, so management can now make the
form a PDF file.

I wish to use this technology to create editable PDFs as student
exercise tools. Think of drop-down boxes where the student chooses the
correct answer from a list. Or think of multiple-guess questions where
students click on a radio button in front of the correct answer. Or an
essay question with a text box where students can type their answer.
This can be used for exams, but an even better use would be practice
sheets. Instead of making flash cards, the professor can make an
editable PDF for the students to practice on. They can print their
answers, but cannot save a copy or overwrite the original PDF. So after
they finish the practice form they can correct it and, if they didn't
get a good enough score, reopen the PDF and start over again with a
fresh copy. Over time a professor can create a library of such editable
PDF forms which can be recycled each time the professor teaches the

A professor is supposed to do this using MS Word (for the forms) and
Acrobat 7.0 Professional (for the PDF creation). But I thought it
should be possible under Linux. OpenOffice.org can create the form
( have done so), but when the form is exported to PDF OOo sets the font
for all controls to Helvetica, regardless of what the user set in the
Properties sheet for the control. When Adobe Reader 7.0 opens the
resulting PDF file, it doesn't have Helvetica, so it substitutes its
own font. And its internal font lacks a lot of characters I need for
linguistics work (characters in the International Phonetic Alphabet).
Setting the control to Helvetica on export to PDF is by design and hard
coded into OpenOffice.org. There are no plans to change it.

So there's the problem. I must abandon OOo and seek something else. In
discussing this online, someone suggested that Scribus could do this.
Indeed, I have had Scribus on my Ubuntu Dapper amd-64 laptop
for some time. I have used it occasionally for small projects, but have
never become proficient in using it. So just now I fired it up and
poked around a bit. It does have controls (Insert PDF Fields) and it
looks as though it could do the job for me. However, I can't find any
documentation on how to use the features. E.g., I placed a combo box on
a page and can't figure out how to link it to a database so it will
display choices, or how to give the control a drop-down button. Maybe
those features are not available (but it appears that they are). Is
there a detailed discussion somewhere on how to use the PDF fields?

On another note, version is all I can install on this computer.
I realize there are later versions (I have been reading this list for
some time), but they are not available via Synaptic. And anyway, I'm
not really into being a beta tester, unless I have no other choice to
get a functionality that I need.

Thanks in advance.

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