HotDocs Automator Tutorial


The lessons in this chapter introduce you to important concepts and features avail­able in HotDocs Automator. Before completing these lessons, you should complete the lessons in Chapter 1, since many of the ideas and concepts you see in the following lessons build upon the things you learned in that chapter.

These lessons are short and are structured so you can complete each one in separate sessions. This allows you to learn HotDocs Automator in the spare minutes you have during the day. You do not need to dedicate a large block of time to using the tutorial.

You should complete all of these lessons in order. In these lessons:

  • You will learn how to create a form template and add it to a HotDocs library.
  • You will learn how to create fields in a form template, where HotDocs will merge answers during assembly.
  • You will learn how to attach variables to the fields in the template, which allows you to save and reuse answers in other templates.
  • Finally, you will learn how to create an interview for a form template.

In Chapter 3, you will complete a tutorial that teaches you how to link your templates to a database.

The document used in this tutorial was drafted to suit the purposes of the tutorial. It is not provided as a valid legal document.

What is HotDocs Automator?

HotDocs Automator is an application, included with HotDocs Developer, which allows you to create templates based on graphical forms—or forms that contain static text and graphics that cannot be changed or modified by users. These kinds of forms include loan applications, tax forms, or pre-printed court forms.

Using HotDocs Automator, you can take an existing graphical form (typically a PDF file) and convert it into a form template in much the same way as you create a text template in the word processor. For example, you must 1) identify each place on the form template where changeable information must be entered, 2) create fields, and then 3) attach variables to these fields.

Users assemble form documents from the form templates you develop. After answering the interview questions or entering answers directly in the form fields, they can print the assembled document, or save it to disk in one of several formats, such as PDF.

Types of HotDocs Form Templates

You can create two types of form templates using HotDocs Automator, each based on a different file format:

  • HotDocs PDF (.hpt) templates are based on the standard PDF file format. HotDocs includes the HotDocs PDF Driver, which you can use to create PDF files for use as the basis for new form templates—simply create your document in any Windows application and print it using the PDF driver to create a new PDF file.
  • HotDocs Form (.hft) templates are based on the Envoy file format, which was an early alternative to PDF. If you have an existing Envoy-based (.HFT, .HFD, .EVY) template or document, you can automate or assemble it with HotDocs. However, HotDocs does not include a driver or any other method for creating new Envoy documents to use as the basis for a new template. (Earlier versions of HotDocs did include a driver to create new Envoy-based documents, but that driver is not compatible with Windows XP and higher, which is required by current versions of HotDocs.)

HotDocs Filler

HotDocs Filler is an application, included in all desktop editions of HotDocs, for viewing and editing assembled form documents. After a form document is assem­bled and saved, it can be opened and its answers edited using HotDocs Filler. However, once the document is saved and then viewed in HotDocs Filler, much of the template functionality is lost. For example, the form fields no longer process computations; they simply act as placeholders for the user’s information. Likewise, answers changed in HotDocs Filler are not saved in an answer file for use in assem­bling other documents.

If the form document is saved as a static PDF document (.PDF) instead of a PDF-based form document (.HPD) or Fillable PDF Form (.PDF), its form fields cannot be modified.