"I'd like to apologize to the lady I just called by mistake saying 'Hello, is this planet Earth?' — not a prank call — just a wrong number!" -- Tim Peake, Astronaut

Did You Know...

Americans spent 6.1 BILLION hours filling out tax forms in 2016
Medical errors are the #3 cause of deaths in the United States, and 12% of handwritten summaries contained medication errors (2010)
Los Angeles County has an illiteracy rate of 33% (2003)
In 2012, 12 million US voter registrations have errors so bad, the voters can't be reached

At a recent community meeting, I heard the story of a homeless man in the throes of chemotherapy. Unfortunately, due to prior paperwork issues, this man was being asked to fill out the exact same form for the third or fourth time. Evidently, he is now so weak that even the effort to fill out a form may be too much to bear. Even if his body were strong enough, would his spirit lift enough at this point to fill out something like a 40+ page CES intake form?

It's an awful situation. And it's one many service providers also lament: asking people to fill out forms over and over again is taxing for the service provider/advocate, too! Why does it have to be that way? Why couldn't we just use our phones to capture the data and add it to a form?

Yeah! Like that!

Yeah! Like that!


Applying this way of thinking to a recent outreach encounter of my own, I put Google Forms and Google Slides to work, to help ensure that when I encounter someone and need them to fill out a form, we do it once, and DRY (don't repeat yourself) as much as possible. In the example that follows, I'll show you how to use these tools to automatically generate a pre-filled PDF using a mobile phone, and have it emailed to yourself!



Other thoughts on this...

But what of the errors!? They might say...

As a part of the script, the Form Publisher Add-On also generates a new Google Slide with the information present and able to be edited.

Surely it would make sense to include a Google Sheet!

True! I bet the Add-On is already doing that. Someone sneaky enough with the script-fu will have to teach me how that works, though. That is beyond my ken.

800-lb Gorillaz: Privacy

Thankfully, volunteer outreach tends to be a fairly intimate encounter. Folks are happy to "opt-in" to forms and tech when it's going to help get them off the street. Thumbprint scanners are a great case-in-point.

What *else* could you use this for??

So yeah, I'm going to use this for a *bunch* of stuff. I think one of those things may be a meme-generator of sorts!



From IMGFlip

From IMGFlip


Job To Be Done: Fill out a form, email a digital copy

Tools Used:


  1. Ensure the Google Forms Publisher Add-On is installed

  2. Select a form to fill: In this example, the SPA 4 SB 82 Mobile Team Triage Referral Form is used, since it can be used to refer people met during outreach directly to the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health

  3. Open up a new presentation in Google Slides

  4. Change the size of the slide to match the size of the form (File > Page Setup > Custom). In the example, the size is set to 8.5" W x 11" L, or standard letter

  5. Add a copy of the form as an image (JPG, PNG, GIF, etc.). Stretch and move the image to match the slide

  6. Set up "Template Markers:" using text boxes (Insert > Text Box), add boxes over each field to fill. In each box, add text using the following syntax: <<FIELDNAME>>. Example: to capture someone's height, create a text box using the template marker of <<HGT>>

  7. Open up a new form in Google Forms

  8. Follow the instructions given in the Forms Publisher wizard, accessed via the puzzle piece in the top right of the Google Forms page

  9. Complete the wizard, and email a link to the form

  10. Access the form via the email link, and try it out!

Example of "Template Markers" (with required syntax)

Example of "Template Markers" (with required syntax)


Let me know if you run into any trouble so I can correct the instructions!

Go, team!