Web forms are increasingly popular, as they provide an easy way to solicit user input, manage a database in the background, and display data in a controlled form. Typical uses are contact forms (this blog has one), surveys, signup-sheets. Wufoo is perhaps the most popular standalone form builder, but as popular as they are, Google’s entry to the space will likely bring more visibility to Web form use cases.
I set up a very rudimentary web form to demonstrate their use, but I am cheating: I took the data from Google Operating System and populated my database – sorry, Ionut, I don’t get anywhere close to your huge reader base. Please fill out the form below.
Although the form captures the time of entry, I am not displaying it below, to demonstrate that once can control the re-use of data after user entry.
You can manipulate the above data, filter it, sort it by clicking on the column headers, search the contents…etc.
Oh… is this more than you’ve seen on the other Google forms? And they’ve told you the lists were not embeddable? Sorry .. I’m cheating: I’ve re-created Ionut’s form in Zoho Creator. (Disclaimer: I am an Advisor to Zoho – but I am making a point by doing this.)
Different people will always prefer different tools. I don’t have any statistics, but I would assume the number of users for database-like tools (MS Access, Dabble DB, Zoho Creator & DB) is by an order of magnitude less than the number of spreadsheet users. A lot of basic spreadsheet users don’t perform calculations, don’t use pivot tables – they just create tables to track lists. (See my earlier rant on why JotSpot’s tracker is not a real spreadsheet). For their sake it’s nice to be able to have simple form support inside a spreadsheet, which is what they can now get from Google.
Several reviewers of the new Google Forms were missing field verification, calculated numeric fields…etc. These features and more are supported in Zoho Creator, which in fact allows you to build mini-apps by dropping script elements, without actually coding. Those who want more database manipulation can use Zoho DB. These are powerful applications, but which one to use when can be confusing to less technically inclined users (like yours truly). Hence simple forms in a spreadsheet are a good idea. But let me dream a little – here’s how I’d like to see web-based collaboration some day:
It won’t be about formats and applications – it will be about free-flowing thoughts and the data encapsulating them. Of course there will be differences in application capabilities, but it’s entirely likely that what you can manipulate in your database application, I will access using a spreadsheet. Likewise, I may write something in a wiki, and you want to edit it in an online word processor. It’s not a dream, we’re heading that way. For example Zoho’s wiki and Writer apps share a basically similar editor, Zoho DB introduced pivot tables which will show up in Sheet in the near future. I am impatient, would like to see this sharing happen faster, but have to accept the realities of how the leading Web companies work: individual products first, integration later. But we’ll get there… to the vision of format-less web-collaboration.
Oh, and until then, Welcome
Creator Mini Google Forms.
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