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Adobe Adds New Dimension to Forms Software

Looking to help businesses cut back on manual data entry errors during forms processing, Adobe Systems unveiled new software Monday that uses a barcode to better manage high-volume paper forms.

Adobe, which competes with Microsoft and Macromedia to make software that helps businesses manage their data and present it more efficiently, has added 2-D barcode technology to its Intelligent Document Platform.

While electronic forms filing is increasingly becoming the method of choice by computer and/or Internet-savvy users, many citizens still file by mail, leaving data entry personnel to manually punch it into their systems.

Adobe, along with Microsoft and Macromedia, recognizes this issue and the potential market share associated with successfully addressing it, owing to the number of government agencies and large enterprises who process forms. All three companies are working to make their forms software more intuitive and automated to help organizations' staffs save time.

That is why Adobe's 2-D barcodes offer an environment that supports both paper and electronic forms processes. The document services capability will let companies or government agencies create Adobe PDF forms with 2-D barcodes that capture much more information than a traditional barcode.

The forms may be distributed via the Web, e-mail or CD-ROM where they can be completed online or offline using Adobe Reader.

After users fill in form fields, the 2-D barcode encodes the data in a format specified by the form author. When the form is completed, it is printed and submitted by mail or fax, whereupon those who receive it need only scan the barcode to capture the form data and deliver it to a back-end system for processing.

Such a feature is geared to help businesses and agencies reduce manual forms processing, where employees doing data entry are prone to error. This could significantly benefit an agency such as the IRS, which receives millions of tax forms each year to process.

Such technology is also convenient at a time when regulatory requirements are at their most numerous and stringent.

"Because of regulatory requirements, equal access mandates and legacy system challenges, many of our customers are forced to instruct clients or constituents to submit forms on paper," said Ivan Koon, senior vice president, Intelligent Documents Business Unit, in a public statement.

But with the 2-D barcodes, organizations "will now have faster access to more accurate data and, with PDF at the core of their investment, they will only need one environment to process paper and electronic forms," Koon said.

To create 2-D barcode PDF forms, users will employ Adobe Acrobat 6.0 Professional with a plug-in or a future version of Adobe Designer software. Adobe will dole out its 2-D forms software, which has not been priced, during 2004 and should be available by the end of the current calendar year.

In related news, the San Jose, Calif., software maker announced a public beta of Adobe Designer, a new desktop XML design tool that lets users drag and drop form elements. The software is geared to help organizations as they migrate to Web services and XML.

Another piece of Adobe's Intelligent Document Platform puzzle, Adobe Designer beta for Microsoft Windows is available for download here. Pricing will be revealed with product availability in mid 2004.