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Hi All,

I can't find where forms are supported and that's fine. I don't need true forms with drop-down lists and check boxes. What I do need is something that can simulate a form so that our customers can fill it out by hand and send it to us. We have this form in Word 18 times; one for each product. I thought that I would create the forms and use an Entity List to insert the information we need to include so the customer can order books and print it to PDF with the correct information. The items in the list won't change very often.

In Word, I would do it using a table and turning borders on and off as well as adjusting cell widths independently from the table. I've been trying that for two hours in Arbortext and can get it to work to a point. My biggest problem is a border around the table. I figured how to turn borders on and off using the attributes dialog box from the tree view (I don't remember the official name). I can't figure out how to manipulate the cell widths independently or even if it's possible.

Any ideas, wisdom or pointers? All I need is the form label and lines of equal length. See the attached document. I may be way off base on everything including the entity list.

The Manual_request.pdf file is what we have now. Ignore the text. The manual-test.pdf file is what I've been doing. This is about the 5th or 6th version. I'm using an informal table plusI've tried CALS and Arbortext tables.



I'm a little confused on where your confusion or question is leading.
Do you want just a paper form? If so I think your on the right path
using the table, so what is not working for you there?


I do indeed want a paper form. What I can't do is get the table to behave like I want it. In HTML and Word, Ican turn on and off the table and cell borders as needed and control the width of each individual cell. In HTML, I even have other options.In Arbortext, I can't seem to do any of that. I want a the right cell to start a couple of spaces after the label in the left cell and I want an even right border. I can get the even right border but I can't figure out how to manipulate the other borders and I can't figure out how to turn off the outside grid border and turn on the bottom borders for some cells. I can't figure out how to get each individual cell where I want it.

I suppose I want to know if there is another option. I should have studied this years ago when I bought the books but I didn't. I understand that in XML tables are just that, tables, and are not intended for layout but I need a happy middle. For example, can I create an HTML table and CSS and import it? Can I use rule lines? Can I "cheat" by finding a way to manipulate the XSL-FO?


You can't manipulate cell widths independently. The cell width is determined by the column width. In the Arbortext table editor, if you drag the right or left border of any cell anywhere, the entire column border goes with it.
If you want a cell to have a different width than other cells in that column, you need to add a column either before or after the cell you are modifying. Then you can span columns between the cells by modifying the namest and nameend attributes on the appropriate cell(s). You will have to turn off other appropriate cell borders in other rows to get a "clean" or "non-jagged" appearance. The outside table border, whether left or right, visible or invisible, will always be a straight line.
If you do a lot of this, you can end up with a table that renders with a lot fewer columns than what it actually has.


I would recommend a table with 7 rows and 7 columns.

The extra row will be empty, but will allow you to control the bottom
border of the row before. The extra column will allow you to set the
amount of space between the end of the lines and the edge of the

The "Unit Serial Number" label will span 3 cells, the "Company" and
"Address" labels will span 2 each. The fourth column will have bottom
borders except in the sixth row, where it will provide space between
the line for "State" and the "Zip Code" label.

Setting borders and column widths (not cell widths), as well as pretty
much any other aspect of a table, can be done in the Table Properties
dialog, accessible from the Table menu. The borders tab lets you set
the outside frame for the table and has a button to open a second
dialog for setting the borders on whatever cells are selected when you
invoke the dialog.

Let us know if this leaves you with any aspects of your table that you
can't get quite right.

-Brandon 🙂

Hi Ginger-

If you're using XSL-FO for this, you should be able to use <fo:leader>
for your blanks, something along this line:

<fo:block>UNIT SERIAL NUMBER <fo:leader<br/>leader-pattern="rule"/><fo:block>


<fo:block>STATE <fo:leader leader-pattern="rule" leader-length="2in"/">
ZIP CODE <fo:leader leader-pattern="rule"/"><fo:block>

If you omit the leader-length attribute, the rule should fill the rest
of the line. There are also attributes controlling the rule thickness,
color, etc. so you have a lot of control over the appearance of the
rule. This avoids having to mess with tables entirely, and I think is a
much more direct approach to solving the problem.


We've had luck with colspans and rowspans to get the look we want, but having a cell in both a colspan and a rowspan doesn't work with our XSL-FO at all.

At least you are in XML...the Arbortext 4.3 SGML HTML tables were quite a bit worse...and one wrong step would make the whole table disappear!

John T. Jarrett CDT
Tech Writer II, Tech Pubs, ILS, Land & Armaments/Global Tactical Systems

T 832.673.2147 ext 1147 | M 512.736.7031 | -<">mailto:->
BAE Systems, 5000 I-10 West, Sealy, Texas USA 77474


Thanks for your help. I was able to make it work using multiple rows and columns. That was the disconnect. In my previous foray into tables, I was able to "adjust" cell widths because the cells had spanning or I split cells.

Again, thank you all for your help.

Ginger Shew-Stuckey

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