Searching for a new Form Generator piece of software… Bookmark and Share

Monday, March 1, 2010

My blogs are often mostly about the experiences that affect my life in Sweden since I emigrated a few months ago, but today things are taking a slightly different turn. I’m going to start and add a few reviews here of new products that I come across that I think are worthy of note… hopefully this will be useful to people who already follow my blog, but, also for anyone who finds my posts on search engines whilst trying to find out about certain products.

The first of the products I’ve decided to blog about today is called MachForm, made by Appnitro Software.

Basically a few days ago, I decided to try and find myself some software that would allow me to create online web forms from scratch. I’m used to web programming so I could’ve hand coded them, but, it’s time consuming, hard work and can be a headache to get everything to come together including styling, coding, security, and recording the results to a database. I spent a few days searching the web, testing out quite a few different bits of online software, until I finally found one that was pretty decent and did almost everything I wanted in a good all round package.

Basically the online form-builder market seems to fall into two broad categories; hosted software or self-hosted. Basically, hosted software is where you purchase the license to use the software on the suppliers servers. The application code, your forms, and your database of user entries are stored on the software companies own servers – not your own! Some people like this, for example if they don’t have a great web host themselves or they lack any ability to install software on their own web server for instance. However, I’m simply not keen on the idea of having my data stored on a different server that I have no control over! This leads me therefore to the other category… self-hosted. Simply, this is where you install the software on your own webserver, such that the application, the forms created, and the user entries stored in the database, all reside on your own server where you’re in complete control. To me this is a much better option and one which allowed me to make my first cut of the ‘rejected’ software form generators in my search.

It’s also worth noting that there’s often a financial difference in using hosted software too… oftentimes there’s a recurring monthly fee attached to using hosted software! So the longer you use it, the more expensive it becomes when you add all the ‘rental’ fees together. Self-hosted app’s are mostly just a one off fee, and then you can use it as long as you like with no other charges! Nice.

So, my requirements I think were pretty typical of most website owners for my form creator software. The software had to tick the following 10 features;

1. Run on PHP
2. Produce Valid HTML code
3. Produce good looking, highly styled forms
4. Contain some basic validation for required field, email address and phone numbers etc
5. Collect the results of each form completed by users into a simple database for me to view online
6. Email me, the website owner, and the user a copy of the data that was submitted
7. Contain some good security features to prevent huge amounts of spam being generated from my form by bots!
8. Allow forms to have the option of being password protected
9. Not be over complex or require in depth php or sql coding
10. (As already mentioned, the software needed to be self-hosted and contain no monthly/ongoing charges).

A pretty common set of requirements I think, but, you’d be amazed just how many of the form generators out there that only fulfilled a subset of these requirements, and not ALL of them… This is where MachForm finally stood out from the competition. MachForm not only ticked all the above features, it actually offered a few more features that I didn’t realize I wanted, until I saw them and was truly pleased with the results.

I’m now in the process of testing all the cool features that MachForm has to offer, and I’ll be writing a full review on these in the coming days which I hope will prove useful to people who come across my blog when doing their own searches for similar form creation software.

In the mean time, if you want to check them out for yourself, go to http://www.appnitro.com.

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