Three Apps for Automating Your Forms:

Nearly all documents that are used as forms or templates fit into one of three categories: 1) static forms where information is placed on top of an image (think PDF);  2) data collection templates that capture data through fields defined on a page and report it in their own format (think web forms); and 3) dynamic documents that are assembled based on user input (think contracts or Wills). Understanding what you're dealing with is critical to selecting the right way to automate the documents. 

 

1. GoFormz

GoFormz is for the first category—you have a PDF and need to place data onto the form while maintaining the form exactly as it appears on paper. Purchase orders or state mandated safety inspection forms are examples of static forms. Upload the PDF, define the fields and you're ready to push it out to users. Pay attention here, there is no comparison between GoFormz and filling out a PDF with form fields in Adobe Reader or Apple Preview. GoFormz really simplifies data collection (input) and places the data where it needs to go. For example, enter information once in GoFormz and it's fills can fill in the same field at different locations, such as your name at the top of each page. GoFormz also handles complex calculations, pulling and pushing data from and to other sources, logic branching, workflow, e-signatures and so much more all in a Windows familiar point-and-click interface. For example, you can maintain your pricing data in an order entry app and GoFormz can pull that data to populate drop down lists for a user at a customers shop completing and order form on an iPad. For static documents that you want to convert into a mobile app, use GoFormz.

2. Canvas

When the format of the form can change as long as the information on the form is the same, consider Canvas. It falls between static and dynamic document generators (that is, between GoFormz and draftonce). Third party Canvas app developers have created a library with over 13,000 pre-built applications. Some of the apps we've created for our clients using Canvas are being used for field inspections, material receipts and supplier audits. Like GoFormz, Canvas has many of the same features, including workflow. We have found that the ability to arrange the data collection in logical sequences and group elements helps users navigate in a way that makes sense for the task at hand. For example, when inspecting construction sites, the inspector is never sure what work will need to be documented. One day it could be excavations, another foundations, and at any time, the inspector may need to document something regarding materials, or site condition. From our experience, this is where Canvas really shines. 

Like GoFormz you can pull data from and data out to other systems, and create data tables within Canvas. Although one has some layout capabilities with Canvas, unless you hire the maker to custom code your form, at best you can come close. That's why we use Canvas when the format of the output is not pre-defined. We have found that for most use cases, the form can be changed. 

3. draftonce

draftonce is for text-based documents. Although it can, and is, used to prepare forms, it falls into the category of document assembly, or document generator. There are two primary uses for draftonce. First, use draftonce for dynamic, text-based documents such as sales contracts, wills and operating agreements, and second for packets of forms such as enrollment packets. The first use may be easy to understand. Without draftonce, creating a contract requires grabbing the last contract that is similar to what you need now, doing a bunch of search and replaces, copying and pasting, and when you're done, you hope you have changed all of the "Mr." to "Mrs", and "Jones" to "Swarnovsky." Too often, there's an embarrassing mistake. With draftonce, you simply answer question, fill in the blank, and clean, perfect documents are generated each time. 

The second use is when you need to make filing out a form very easy. Let's say you own a child care center, you spend a lot of time and money getting parents to come in for a tour. When the tour is completed and they tell you they want their child to come to your center, what's the next thing you do. You hand them a stack of papers to fill out. You won't do that if you have draftonce. You'll instruct the parents to go to your website click the Enroll link, and anser some questions online. Enter the child's name once, and it appears across all forms. Further, when you're notified by draftonce that the parent completed the interview, you can login and download the forms. Practically and document that can be created in MS Word or any other word processor can be used in draftonce. 

To summarize, if you have a static form, use GoFormz. If you need to collect data via mobile and put the data on a form, but not "the" form, use Canvas. And, if you need to produce contracts, wills, sales orders, leases and the like, use draftonce. Three solutions for three different uses.