08 November 2007

Woo-hooo, I can do forms!

There are probably a hundred other things I should be doing this evening but I am so pleased about what I can do with Zoho Creator that I just have to tell someone.

Forms on the web. Things that collect information. Things that people can type into on a web page and hit a button and you get the data a few seconds later. Now all you PHP geeks can stop reading but those of you who, like me, have no clue about PHP, don't have MySQL or other strange sets of initials on their web server and especially those who haven't the foggiest whether they do, but can copy and paste some html code into a web page or a web log should read on . . .

I have used CoffeeCup's Form Builder to create some data gathering forms on some sites but two things almost brought me to my knees. The first was that many clients don't have hosting for their web sites that has all the extra bits that can handle forms (and didn't want to pay the not inconsiderable sums demanded to get it). The second was that for those who had (or did) the flaming thing didn't work. Eventually I discovered that an extra line of PHP code was needed to make it work on at least one well-known host. It wasn't the sort of code that comes naturally, with odd expressions, essential spaces and e-mail references that were enough to confuse a giraffe in a forest. Still more communication proved necessary to persuade the host to make the mail address work too. However, at the time, it was the best I could do and it worked. I just dreaded the client asking me to change it one day!

Now I've discovered what Zoho Creator can do. It is amazingly simple. There are ready-made examples available. You edit one, get the code and paste it on a suitable page. That's it! Zoho seem to take care of all the 'server side' stuff. What's more, the data can be collected and viewed in a spreadsheet amongst other options and you can provide links for others to see the data on-line. That bit, sharing data on-line, I have referred to before and is excellent. I just hadn't noticed the forms before, despite circulating the video guide in a previous post.

So I shall now be up all night putting samples everywhere and writing to people whom I hadn't been able to help before. All sorts of uses, including getting student feedback and giving visitors a place to comment on the webtools site. That one is my first effort. Took 5 minutes start to finish.