Online Forms

Common types of forms include:
  • Web forms: web pages that are filled out and submitted online
  • Interactive Microsoft Office or Adobe Acrobat forms: documents that are downloaded and completed with the matching software and submitted via email or printed for submission;
  • Static Microsoft Office or Adobe Acrobat forms: documents that are downloaded, printed and completed by hand.
The type of form you choose depends on how you want the data collected, what you want to do with the form after it is completed, whether it needs to be printed and signed, etc. The examples below illustrate various types of online forms. If you need more assistance with creating forms and collecting data online, contact WITS.

The form processing scripts used in these examples will work only if your form is stored on the Willamette University web server.

Web Forms using HTML

Creating forms for the web requires experience with software that can create web forms (e.g., Dreamweaver or FrontPage), or else you have to know how to code the form tags in HTML. Forms that collect data online require use of a form processing (CGI) script. This is a program that operates on the data collected by the form. WITS has prepared some form processing scripts that can be used with web forms. Study the HTML code for the sample forms to see how to enter the code for the form action and other hidden fields.

Print-only Form (no CGI or other processing)
Click here to view a sample form

Requires only a web browser, but format can be difficult to control, especially with long forms or forms that require fill-in, checkboxes, etc. Users cannot enter information with their computer; they have to print the form, then complete it by hand or with a typewriter.

E-mail Response
Click here to view a sample form

Returns unformatted e-mail to a designated e-mail address. For some information on using this script: http://www.willamette.edu/bin/generic.pl/?help

Print-ready Web Page
Click here to view a sample form

Uses one form to gather the data and a companion form (which may or may not be identical) that can be printed. In addition, the form is mailed to a specified e-mail address as an attachment. For some information on using this script: http://www.willamette.edu/bin/mailhtml.cgi?help

Datastore
Click here to view a sample form
You can enter some data on a real form, then read about how a datastore works and view the current collection of sample data. A "datastore" saves the data collected from the form in a file on the web server. Each submission becomes a row in an HTML table. You can also view this file in a browser window, then save it locally using the Save As command on the File menu in your web browser. The file can be opened as an Excel spreadsheet (Excel will automatically convert the HTML table into a spreadsheet). Once the file is saved as a spreadsheet, you can import the data into a database, such as FileMaker Pro or Microsoft Access. To create your "datastore": https://secure.willamette.edu/services/datacreate.cgiBe sure to make a record of your passwords! Also, you should print or save the information that appears after you submit your "DataStore Create" form: DataStore datastorename has been created. The following URLs can be used with this store:
To save a form to it <FORM method=post action="https://secure.willamette.edu/cgi-bin/datastore.cgi/datastorename">
To view or download values from it: https://secure.willamette.edu/cgi-bin/dataview.cgi/datastorename
To edit it: https://secure.willamette.edu/cgi-bin/dataedit.cgi/datastorename Add the FORM method HTML tag to your form to implement the datastore feature. The view and edit URLs shown above can be used to manage your data (substitute your datastore name for datastorename in each URL. When you create your datastore, you assign two passwords: A viewing password and an editing password. Make sure you keep a record of your passwords! Multi-page Form Click here to view a sample form
This script allows you to chain a series of forms together, gather all the data, then submit it to any CGI script you wish. This simplified example sends the data to the e-mail response script (see above). For some information on using this script: http://www.willamette.edu/bin/multipageform.cgi?help

Web Forms Using Google Forms/Spreadsheets

The Google Forms tool can be used to build forms that can be shared using the same mechanisms as other Google document types (public to the world, public to members of the Willamette community, shared with a specified group of people, etc.).  When forms are submitted, the data is stored in a Google spreadsheet document.

Adobe Acrobat Forms

Creation of Adobe Acrobat forms require the full version of Adobe Acrobat (Acrobat Reader can be used to view the forms, but it cannot be used to create or save them). Detailed knowledge of Adobe Acrobat is required to create interactive forms.

Requires a free browser plug-in to view and print. Allows complete control of document formatting. PDF forms can be completed online and are compatible with the form processing scripts referred to above, however implementation requires detailed knowledge of Adobe Acrobat's form tools. You can also create simple PDF forms that are "print only" and must completed by hand or with a typewriter.

Microsoft Word Forms

Microsoft Word includes some utilities for creating "fill in the blank" forms. Creating these forms requires detailed knowledge of Microsoft Word. Also, anyone who intends to use the form must have a compatible version of Word installed. Microsoft Word forms should only be used if you're sure the intended users have a compatible version of Word. Use Normal Word Documents as Forms Requires Microsoft Word (or other compatible word processing program) to open the file after downloading. Since users have access to the complete file in Word, you cannot control the format of the document.

If potential users have various word processors, you have to make the files available in a variety of formats (Word for Windows, Word for Macintosh, WordPerfect, etc.) or else choose a document format that all word processors can use (WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS or Rich Text Format).

Use Word's Form Tools with Document Protection Word 6 (and later versions) supports password protected, fill-in forms, which allow more control of the page layout by restricting where users can type. These forms may not be fully compatible across all versions of Word.