How to ditch paper and collect data for PDFs through mobile forms

Filling out an online form on a laptop or desktop is no problem.

But when you’re out of the office or away from your computer, filling out an online form is neither convenient nor practical, especially when you need to collect information on the spot. 

Even if you can fill out a form on a mobile device, there’s always the unhappy prospect of losing internet access and all of your collected data.  

Together, Jotform Mobile Forms and Jotform Smart PDF Forms can help you get out of this bind. 

Jotform Smart PDF Forms quickly turns PDF forms into online ones that you can easily customize, share, and access virtually anywhere. 

If the online version of the uploaded PDF form doesn’t look quite right, Jotform Smart PDF Forms allows you to delete fields in the newly created online form, add new ones, and link them to corresponding spaces in your original PDF. You can also change the format and design of your online form without worrying about ruining the original PDF you uploaded to JotForm. 

You can then distribute your professional-looking online form by sharing a dedicated link to it, sending it in a personalized email, or embedding it on your website. 

Jotform even lets you assign your online form to specific people so they can either fill it out or collect information on the go by using the Jotform Mobile Forms app on their mobile devices. 

Regardless of whether you share or assign your online form, Jotform enables you to control who can access it and what they can do with it. 

If you assign your form to specific people, Jotform lets you determine whether their access should be cut off after a certain period of time. You can modify these privacy settings and preferences at any time by logging into your Jotform account or the Jotform Mobile Forms app.

After someone fills out your online form, any submitted responses will be sent to your Jotform account and used to create a filled-out copy of your original PDF form. If you connect your online form to any one of Jotform’s integrations, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box, incoming responses will be shared with the third-party software tools that help you get work done. 

You can also share copies of the completed PDF form in an autoresponder or notification email. Autoresponders are automatically sent to people after they fill out your form, while notification emails can be sent to you, colleagues, team members, or anyone else who needs to access the submitted data. 

After your online form is filled out, Jotform Smart PDF Forms allows respondents to view their responses on your original PDF form before they submit the form. Once they click Submit, they can download or email a copy of the original PDF form that includes all of their submitted responses. 

As a versatile data-collection tool that works anywhere, Jotform makes it easy for you to collect information on any computer or mobile device and quickly inject it into your workflow. 

And with Jotform Smart PDF Forms, you can turn fillable PDF forms into online forms and use the information you collect to fill out a copy of the PDF form.

What you ultimately get is standout software solution and workflow optimization tool that’s second to none. 

How soccer referees collect data from the field

On most days, soccer is a fun yet challenging sport that fosters teamwork and challenges a player’s agility, grit, and endurance.  

But when plays get aggressive, and people get hurt, it’s up to referees to step in and take action. 

Whenever players, coaches, or parents of players step out of line, referees must fill out incident reports that detail what happened, who was involved, and what penalties were given out. 

This information is then relayed to a referee administrator who represents a specific state soccer association district. State soccer associations, in turn, serve as regional governing bodies of the sport as an extension of the U.S. Soccer Federation.  

Kevin Anderson, a soccer referee with the Tennessee Valley Soccer Referees’ Association, admits that submitting incident reports isn’t always seamless or easy. 

At one time, referees had to download a PDF copy of the standard U.S. Soccer Federation Referee Program incident report, print it, fill it out, scan it, and send it to district referee administrators. 

Anderson and other tech-savvy referees eventually created a fillable PDF version of the incident report, which could be filled out on a computer, saved, and emailed to district referee administrators. 

Although referees didn’t have to bring a paper form with them to games anymore, the fillable PDF versions didn’t solve everyone’s problems.

If referees didn’t fill out and save the forms properly, district referee administrators would receive a blank copy of the incident report. 

The new fillable PDF versions of the official incident report also did little to help district referee administrators or state soccer association representatives locate a specific form. 

“Every referee has to file this report, and in a weekend, you’ll often get a couple of thousand of these,” Anderson says.

At one point, Anderson tried to create his own online incident report form but was told that it had to look like the standard U.S. Soccer Federation Referee Program form. 

Jotform Smart PDF Forms helps Anderson solve these problems by allowing him to turn a PDF form into an online form. Anderson can then use the Jotform Mobile Forms app on his mobile device to access the online incident report form and fill it out during a game. 

“The ability for us to sit on the field or use a cell phone to write our own reports is massive,” Anderson says.

Since fields in both the PDF and online forms are linked in Jotform, online form responses fill out the standard PDF. This is particularly helpful for Anderson since his responses must appear on the incident report template used by the U.S. Soccer Federation Referee Program.

Even if he has little to no access to the internet, Anderson can still pull up his form and fill it out in the Jotform Mobile Forms app without worrying about losing the information. Any data that he enters is saved on his mobile device and automatically sent when a stable cell phone signal or internet connection is found. 

Anderson can set up a notification email in Jotform that automatically sends a filled-in copy of the PDF form to a referee district administrator. 

Jotform Smart PDF Forms also enables Anderson to email a copy of the completed PDF form to himself, or anyone else who needs the information, after he fills out the incident report on his mobile device.

“Jotform gives us a database that’s searchable by team name and game number,” Anderson says. “It also provides a copy of the original PDF, and it’s recognizable to every referee.”

Anderson thinks that Jotform could streamline the incident reporting process for everyone in the Tennessee Valley Soccer Referees’ Association and the state soccer association.

Online incident reporting forms could be assigned from a centralized account and organized with the help of Jotform Inbox, which enables users to download submitted form information in bulk as a CSV or Excel file. Jotform Smart PDF Forms also allows users to download copies of the original PDF form that contain submitted information from the online form created in JotForm. 

Rather than scrolling through thousands of individual form submissions from referees, state referee administrators could use Jotform Inbox’s sort and search features to locate the information they need quickly. 

“It gives them a database that’s searchable, which is important, and an actual fillable PDF form that can be easily recognized as the form they created,” Anderson says.


PDF forms are a step up from paper forms, to be sure, but they may not be the most convenient, efficient, or practical way to collect data when you’re on the move. 

You could always fall back on paper forms, but that isn’t the only option on the table.

With Jotform Smart PDF Forms, you can turn fillable PDF forms into customizable online forms that can easily be filled out and shared on any mobile device through the Jotform Mobile Forms app. The responses then populate the original PDF form. 

Even if you’re in a jam and can’t find a stable internet connection or cell phone signal, the Jotform Mobile Forms app will allow you to pull up your form and fill it out. The responses will be automatically sent to your account once you’re reconnected to the internet. 

Stop wasting time on data-collection tools that only work under ideal conditions.

Try Jotform Smart PDF Forms today! See how Jotform can help you gather, share, and do more with your data by leveraging the PDF forms that are already part of your workflow. 

This article is originally published on Aug 24, 2020, and updated on Mar 09, 2021.
Darin is a content marketer who's passionate about disrupting perceptions, solving problems, and helping people be more productive. Outside of the office, he is a rush-hour straphanger, adventure seeker, coffee drinker, and frequent traveler.

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