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Create PDFs from Google Form Responses

Automatically generating PDFs from Google Form responses streamlines the process of generating documents such as invoices, reports, and letters.

This automation saves time, reduces manual entry errors, and ensures consistency across documents. It's particularly useful for businesses and individuals who frequently generate documents with similar structures but varying content.

For this solution Lido merges your data from Google Forms into a template created in Google Docs and then saves a PDF version of it on your Google Drive.

Google Forms uses a Google Sheet to store its responses, so we'll be referring to that Google Sheet below.

Create a Google Doc template

First, we'll need to make the Google Doc template that will get populated with our Google Form responses. You can either start from scratch, or adapt an existing template that you have.

We'll designate which parts of the document will be replaced Google Form response data by using the {{Column Name}} syntax. (make sure there are no spaces between the curly braces and letters)

The key here is that whatever is inside of the curly brackets {{ }} must exactly match the name of the column header in your Google Sheet, including the same capitalization and spaces. So for example, if in our Google Sheet we have a column for First Name, then everywhere we want that value to be inserted into the template we'll need to put {{First Name}}.

The contents of your Google Doc template


Connect your Google Forms Sheet to Lido

We will use Lido, a new spreadsheet built to automate repetitive tasks, to merge our Google Sheet data that holds our Google Form responses into the Google Doc template to create new PDF. There is a free tier with paid plans as well. You can create a new account here: https://www.lido.app/go/signup

Step 1. From the Lido Files page, click Create a new file

Step 2. then click Connect Data and select Google Sheets.

Next, paste in your Google Sheet URL. If it's your first time connecting a Google Sheet to Lido, you'll need to authenticate into a Google account that has access to the sheet you're trying to connect.

Select all of the columns that you want to connect to Lido. Make sure to connect all of the columns that are referenced as variables in your Google Doc template.

Click Add Data.

Your Lido spreadsheet should now have connected data from your Google Sheet. It will look like this:

Add the CREATEPDF formula

Now we need to add the formula to create the PDFs with our spreadsheet data of form response. The formula looks like this: 

```=CREATEPDF(<drive-credential>,<template file>,<file name>,<status cell>)```

Drive Credential - if its your first time, you'll need to add a credential to give Lido access to reading your Google Doc template and saving a PDF to your drive.

Template file - use the file picker for Google Drive and choose your Google Doc template file.

File Name - name of the new PDF that is being created. You can make dynamic file names such as:

     "Application Form for " & B2

Status Cell - when the PDF is generated successfully, the full path to the new PDF will be put in this cell. Usually, its the next column over from CREATEPDF.

      for example:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/19_gQmtwNCUPayLII4cxcRXxJKvpQW6fE/view

Step 1: Create a Computed Column in your spreadsheet table.
  1. Hover your mouse over the green table of records from your Google Sheets. You'll see a "+" sign.
  2. Choose "Add Computed Column".
  3. Name the Column "Create PDF?" (or whatever)
  4. Start Typing the =CREATEPDF() formula in the second row.

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Computed Column

A Computed Column in Lido copies the same formula down to every row and grows as your data grows.

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Step 2: Add a Google Drive Credential.

You can do so by choosing "Add Credential" in the first argument of CREATEPDF. Follow the prompts.

Step 3: Finish out the CREATEPDF formula

  1. Choose your Google Doc template
  2. Specify name of PDF that will be created. Include something dynamic such as "Grant Application for: " & B2 (where B2 holds the name of applicant for that row of data).
  3. Include the status cell (in this case, the next column over - F2 if you're in the 2nd row. .

Step 4. Create a new Linked Column called "Status"

Create a new Linked Column and name it "Status".

A Linked Column needs to tie itself to another column with unique values in your Google Form responses (a "Unique ID column"). Use the Timestamp column as the unique id from your Google Sheet.

Create a Linked column for Status

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Linked Column

A Linked Column in Lido lets you add notes to external data - and stays linked to your source data (such as records in Google Sheets) by tying itself to a column in the source data that has unique values. Timestamp, ID columns, or email can be good "ID Columns" for a Linked Column.

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Create a Google Doc

If you want to create a Google Doc instead of (or in addition to) a PDF, you can use the =CREATEGOOGLEDOC() formula in place of =CREATEPDF(). It takes in the same formula inputs.

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Note: After you create the Status column, you'll need to reset the 4th argument of CREATEPDF to make sure its the correct column (it'll get pushed over one column).

Run a Test

Run a test of any of THE CREATEPDF action formulas and review the generated PDF.

  1. In the same cell as the CREATEPDF choose "Run Action" from the cell action menu.

Run the Column

To run the whole column of actions, choose "Run Column Now" from the "Create PDF" column menu. This will run all CREATEPDF cells in the column - and create PDFs for all of your Google Form responses.

You can run this column manually to generate your new PDFS.

However, if you'd like to automate this whole process to automatically create a PDF whenever a new Google Form response gets added to your Google Sheet, then read on.

Automatically Create PDFs

To automatically create a PDF when a new Google Form response is submitted, we'll create an automation on the "Create PDF?" column where the CREATEPDF action formula is.

Step 1. Make sure to only create a PDF if one hasn't already been created.

We only want to create a PDF if we haven't already created one for that row of data. In other words, only if the Status column (column F) is blank.

We do this by using a regular spreadsheet IF formula, and only show CREATEPDF if our criteria is met. In this case, by making sure the Status field is still blank. If a new record is added to Sheets, this will evaluate to TRUE.  Otherwise, it will show FALSE.

     =IF(F2 ="",CREATEPDF(<credential>,<path to template>,<file name>,<status>))

Example of only showing CREATEPDF if the Status column is empty

Step 2. Automate the "Create PDF?" column

Choose "Run Column on a Schedule" from the column menu for the "Create PDF?" column. Choose the interval that makes sense, daily, hourly, etc.

At the time you specify Lido will fetch the latest Google Form responses from Google Sheets, evaluate the Lido spreadsheet, and any action formulas will be run (CREATEPDF is an action formula)

Run the Create PDF? column on a schedule by creating an automation

Review

Let's review what we covered!

  1. Lido connects "live" to your Google Forms data which lives in a Google sheet.
  2. Lido uses an action formula, CREATEPDF, to generate a new PDF for each row based on a Google Doc template.
  3. You can set up an automation to regularly check for new form responses and automatically create a PDF for each one.

Frequently asked questions

Can I choose a different template depending on the values in my spreadsheet?

Yes! A template is just the URL to your actual Google Doc template file. So you can set up a spreadsheet formula to check some other value and change the template accordingly. You can use this formula directly inside of CREATEPDF, or in its own column and refer to it in CREATEPDF.

     =IF(B2="Professional Package","<path template #1>,<path to template #2>)

Automate repetitive tasks with Lido

Save hours on repetitive and tedious work. Lido is a new spreadsheet that connects your spreadsheets, forms, PDFs, and email inbox.

Trigger
Action
Select trigger
When a cell value in Google Sheets changes
Check Google Sheets for today's date
When a new row is added to Google Sheets
On new Google Form submission
Send me a daily reminder
On new Typeform submission
When a cell value in database changes
Check database for today's date
When a new row is added in database
When a new HubSpot customer is created
Select action
ADDCALENDAREVENT
Creates a one- or multiple-day calendar event with optional attendees
ADDHUBSPOT
Adds an object to Hubspot
ADDSLACKCHANNEL
Create a Slack channel, and optionally add a topic or members
CALLURL
Makes any HTTP request
CREATEGOOGLEDOC
Replaces [@column_name] values in a Google Doc with the corresponding table row's values
CREATEPDF
Replaces [@column_name] values in a Google Doc with the corresponding table row's values, then export it as a PDF
FETCH
Makes any HTTP request and returns the response
INSERTROWS
Inserts given array below defined values in given worksheet
SENDGMAIL
Sends an email using your Google account
SENDOUTLOOK
Sends an email using your Microsoft Outlook account
SENDSLACK
Sends a Slack message
SENDSMS
Sends an SMS message using your Twilio account
UPDATECELL
Updates cells with given values
UPDATEHUBSPOT
Updates a property of a Hubspot object
Trigger is required
Action is required
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