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Setting up a PayPal-Enabled Form

In my experience, working with PayPal is like pulling teeth. I find their interface deeply unintuitive and convoluted and their documentation - although extensive - virtually impossible to navigate. There seems to be dozens of ways to do the same thing only with slight variations. If I had any other choice for online payments, I'd leap at it in a second. But I don't: PayPal is the worldwide standard so we have to suck it up and learn to do things their way!

This tutorial explains how to add a simple donation form to your website. I've included a zipfile (see below) containing all the files you need and comes with all the really nasty stuff preconfigured.

Although this tutorial is about setting up a donation form, you can apply anything you learn here to add any PayPal-enabled form, such as a shopping cart for ordering merchandise. Also, although this is about PayPal, the same general process applies for most external payment gateways - so if any any point you want to jump ship and use Google Checkout, WorldPay or something else, you can still learn a lot just by understanding the process described herein.

The bulk of this tutorial is less to do with Form Tools than it is PayPal. Most of the work is figuring out how to send and receive information from PayPal in a format they require. Hooking it up to Form Tools is actually fairly simple, although conceptually may prove a little confusing at first if you're not familiar with using the Form Tools API method of submitting your form. The tutorial begins with a top-down discussion of the entire process. I chose to start with the abstract process rather than the details because it really is vital that you understand precisely what you're trying to do. It's not the sort of task you can just implement then understand in retrospect - you'd be unlikely to succeed setting up your form without knowing what's going on first!

As always, I've tried to keep this tutorial as simple as possible for the not-so technical folks. But here are the requirements:

All of the above points will be discussed below. You can see an example of a PayPal enabled form with Form Tools' own donation form. If this tutorial comes in handy, how about seeing it in action and making a donation? ;-)