eXFORMA e-Forms Tab

The heart of eXFORMA is electronic forms. The ease of use and functionality of our form editor is second to none in the industry. This is one of the easiest and most diverse form building packages you will encounter. It was designed to be used by your average user to create simple forms. Over the years we have enhanced some of the features as you will see to include JavaScript, ActionScript and SQL commands for dynamic functionality which requires some programming knowledge not commonly held by the average user, but easily within the realm of an IT forms designer/administrator.

The e-Forms Tab is the starting location for all things Forms. It is here where you are able to create, modify, organize and even delete e-Forms. If you start by selecting the e-Forms Tab you are immediately brought to the Categories Administration page for e-Forms.

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e-Forms follow a directory/hierarchal structure similar to the common files and folders structure of Windows. Categories are like folders and the e-Forms are the files. As with folders and subfolders, it is also possible to have subcategories within Categories, which we will discuss later on. Every e-Form must be within a category, so you have to create a category first before you can create a form, but don’t worry too much about the details, Category properties can be changed and renamed at any time, and e-Forms can be moved between categories easily.

Categories

To create a category, enter the name and description of the category in the fields provided. Next select the type of Category you wish to create. Categories can be Private, Internal, or External (Public) and then click the ‘Create new category’ button. Private categories are the general standard. These can be accessed only by users with administrative access or by end-users with the appropriate permissions. Internal categories are also used for authenticated access but they provide an additional level of control by forcing forms to be published and un-published to this type of category before they can be used or modified. External (public) categories are just that, external to the application structure. They are a repository of forms which are available to general public and don’t require a username or password to access.

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Aside from creating categories the Categories Administration section of the e-Forms Tab can be used to manage your category structure.

From the Categories Administration page, you can:

Create a new category

Open a category – by pointing to and clicking on its name

Edit a category – by pointing to and clicking on Edit in its row

Delete categories – by selecting (R) it and then clicking on the Delete icon; this will also delete the e-forms, templates and sub-templates associated with the category. You will be shown a list of the items selected so you can assess the impact of deleting, before confirming the deletion.

Move categories – by selecting (R) it and clicking on the Move icon, and then selecting (ž) the destination (folder).

Copy categories – by selecting (R) it and clicking on the Copy icon, and then selecting (ž) the destination (folder). The e-forms and their components are replicated in the category (folder) copied to.

Transfer in categories – Transferring in a category entails having stored it in a location from which it can be loaded in as a category. You can set up a specific folder on your system for this purpose. To transfer in a category, point to and click on Transfer in Submission, then either enter the file path or point to and click the Browse… button to locate the folder, and transfer in. This is a common method for transfer forms from one instance of eXFORMA to another.

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Categories are containers, and within a category you can find e-forms, templates, sub-templates, archived e-forms and object libraries.

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Templates and Sub-Templates

To make e-form creation faster and easier, you will want to use templates and sub-templates. A template is a starting point for an e-form. An e-form may be initially based on a template, yet the e-form can then be changed as needed. For example, you might have a template for course registration e-forms, which contains common items required for course registrations. When you create an e-form based on that template, you can then make any changes to the design of the e-form to meet your needs. For example, you might add a section on computer literacy.

A sub-template is a set of related e-form fields you can reuse in many different e-forms in the same category. For example, you might have standard demographic information you collect for surveys (age range, gender, educational level, income, and so on). You would then create a sub-template containing just those fields. You can then use the sub-template in any e-form, so that common information is automatically added to your e-form design.

Only an e-form can be presented to a user — templates and sub-templates are optional building blocks used to create those e-forms.

The main difference between a template and a sub-template is in how they are used. A template is used a starting point for building a form or series of forms with the same look and feel, a sub-template is used to common or repeated sections to a single form.

From the both the Templates and Sub-Templates Management Pages, you can:

  • Create a new template/sub-template – by entering its name and description, and then pointing to and clicking on the Create New Template/Sub-Template button, to get to the eXFORMA e-Form designer/builder tool
  • Open a template/sub-template – by pointing to and clicking on its name
  • Edit a template/sub-template – by pointing to and clicking on Edit in its row, which will open the form in the eXFORMA e-Form build tool
  • Delete templates/sub-templates – by selecting (R) them and then clicking on the Delete icon. You will be shown a list of the selected items so you can assess the impact of deleting, before confirming the deletion
  • Move templates/sub-templates – by selecting (R) them and clicking on the Move icon, then selecting (ž) the destination category (folder), and clicking on the Move button.
  • Copy templates/sub-templates – by selecting (R) them and clicking on the Copy icon, and then selecting (ž) the destination category (folder), and clicking on the Copy button. The templates/sub-templates and their related components are replicated in the category (folder) in which it was copied to
  • Save as a template, sub-template, or e-form – by pointing to and clicking on Save as in its row, entering a new name and description, selecting the type of object to save as (from the pull-down menu) then selecting (ž) the category to save to, and pointing to and clicking on the Save as button. This feature is available only in templates not for sub-templates.
  • Transfer – You can transfer templates and sub-templates in and out of eXFORMA:
    • Transfer out templates/sub-templates by selecting (R) them, and clicking on the Transfer Out icon. Verify or change the name of the (.zip) file to transfer out, and then point to and click on the Transfer Out button. A file download dialog will prompt you to save the file on your system; click the Save button, and select the location to transfer to.
    • Transfer in templates/sub-templates from a (.zip) transferred out XML file by pointing to and clicking on the Transfer In icon, then either enter the file path or point to and click the Browse… button to locate the zipped folder, and transfer in. Duplicate file names will appear in red, and can be changed before being selected (R), and clicking the Transfer In button.

All sub-templates automatically become custom (common component) elements available within the eXFORMA e-Form builder tool. Since templates can be saved as sub-templates and e-forms, for maximum reusability and flexibility with commonly used e-form sections, consider creating templates that can then be saved as common components.

e-Forms

As mentioned earlier, each category contains a series of e-Forms and templates. By select the e-Forms sub-section of the e-Forms tab users are presented with the e-Forms Management screen as shown below. There are a few key things to note from this screen from a navigational perspective. Beneath the e-Forms Management header there is the description of the e-Forms category currently being viewed. In this case we are in a category called ‘eZ PERSONNEL’ (1). From the screen shot we can see that there are at least 3 e-Forms available to us; ‘Applicant Profile Form’, ‘Application Form’ and ‘Bank Pay-Out Form’ (2). The e-Form Name is also a link (2) and clicking it will open a version of the form. You can complete the form and submit it if you like. The form will be stamped with the current date and time, and it will be marked as completed by root (or which every administrative user account you are logged in as).

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Next to the e-Form name is the description of the form and a column for publishing and un-publishing it. The edit option (3) of e-Forms management is where all the magic happens, by selecting edit, we are brought to the e-Form editor and have the ability to edit and modify our e-Forms. Submissions, which is broken down into 4 options; view, archived, draft and manage is linked to the eXFORMA repository where all the e-Form submissions are stored.(4) From the submissions section it is possible to see the history of every submission ever completed by that version of the e-Form.

From the e-Forms Management page, you can:

  • Create a new e-form (in the current category) – by entering the name and description of your new e-form, and then pointing to and clicking on the Create New e-Form button, to get the eXFORMA e-Form builder tool
  • Open an e-form to view or submit – by pointing to and clicking on its name
  • Edit an e-form – by pointing to and clicking on Edit in its row (which will launch the form Builder)
  • View submissions – by pointing to and clicking on View in its row of the Submissions column.
  • Delete e-forms – by selecting (R) them and then clicking on the Delete icon; this will also delete the actions, submissions and reports associated with them. You will be shown a list of the selected items so you can assess the impact of deleting, before confirming the deletion.
  • Move e-forms – by selecting (R) them and clicking on the Move icon, and then selecting (ž) the destination category (folder). The e-forms and their components continue to exist in their original category until deleted.
  • Copy e-forms – by selecting (R) them and clicking on the Copy icon, and then selecting (ž) the destination category (folder). The e-forms and their components are replicated in the category (folder) in which it was copied to. Note that since the original form still exists in another category, this copy will receive a new Form ID.
  • Transfer e-forms – You can transfer e-Forms in and out of eXFORMA:
    • Transfer out e-forms – by selecting (R) them, and clicking on the Transfer Out icon. Verify or change the name of the (.zip) file to transfer out, and then point to and click on the Transfer Out button. A file download dialog will prompt you to save the file on your system; click the Save button, and select the location to transfer to.
    • Transfer in e-forms – from a (.zip) transferred out XML file of e-Forms by pointing to and clicking on the Transfer In icon, then either enter the file path or point to and click the Browse… button to locate the zipped folder, and transfer in. Duplicate file names will appear in red, and can be changed before being selected (R), and clicking the Transfer In button.
  • Publish e-forms – For an e-Form to be published there must be an external category available to publish to. Once the external category has been identified, select (R) the e-Form you wish to publish, and point to and click on the Publish icon. Select (ž) the category to publish to, and then point to and click on the Publish button. Note that published e-forms can only be edited after being unpublished, by selecting (R) them, and clicking on the Unpublish icon.

Form Design – A starting Point

The remainder of chapter 4 focuses on building forms from a design perspective, while chapters 5-7 focus exclusively on the execution of this design. Before jumping straight into building a form there are a few things a designer should consider when designing electronic forms – like which features the form will support, prior to building it. Spending a few minutes now to create a high level layout on paper of the form you wish to build can save a lot of time and effort later. Although eXFORMA offers a lot of flexibility to modify forms after their creation, it is still a good practice to know what it is you are going to build before you build it.

So take a few minutes before you start building your form to go over the following questions and design the layout of your form.

  • Which fields of the e-form must be completed before the form is submitted? Unlike with paper forms, users can be required to complete certain fields before the e-form may be successfully transmitted. So which information is a must have?
  • Which fields do you want to accept only specific data types (for example, a date or a phone number) to be entered in?
  • Which identifying fields do you want published in the e-form summary that can be used to view e-form submissions (for example, name, registration number, employment level, and so on)
  • Do you want to use calculation fields, and what they should calculate (for example, calculate the tax owing on a set of items, calculate the price of a set of items, and so on)
  • Do you want to give people a list of choices for a field? Or do you want them to select only one item from a selection? or more than one item from a selection? (for example, you might allow them to select several of possible skills in a list, but only one of the possible salary ranges) — offering users choices to select from can make e-form completion faster, and the processing of data easier. Providing the possible selections to the user  eliminates keying errors which improves data integrity
  • Which data entry fields should be validated (checked to ensure that the correct data was entered) — for example, you might want to ensure that only numbers are entered in a telephone field

Design Layout

For longer e-Forms, you might consider presenting the e-form as several different pages. A page can be comprised of any number of fields and sections. You can also insert links to let users jump to specific parts of an e-form. For example, enable users to skip over survey questions that do not apply to them.

Tables and Sections

eXFORMA uses the concept or notion of tables or sections to control the overall appearance of different portions of the e-form’s page. When creating a new e-form, whether working from a printed form or a sketch, it is important to consider how to break each e-form page into sections. It is a good practice to keep information that would be best presented in the same (invisible) columns together. For example, the following e-form is comprised of several sections.

Tables and Sections

Tables and Sections

Electronic documents and especially e-Forms often seem to appear larger onscreen than their paper counterparts. eXFORMA makes it easy to use colours, lines and images to break up a lengthy form into visual elements, making it easier for e-form users to complete the form online.

Although you can rearrange the order of fields on your e-form, it is best to foresee what order the fields should appear in. If you are creating a new electronic form without a paper model, you may find it easier to sketch your e-form elements on paper first. It will give you a good idea of how to organize your tables and sections.

Business Rules

eXFORMA also lets you define the business rules or actions to be triggered by the submission/completion of an e-form. You can design these actions to meet your specific business needs, or take advantage of eXFORMA’s built-in actions. If you plan to use eXFORMA’s built-in actions, below are some things you should consider.

  • If you plan to have an e-mail message sent to someone in your organization when a completed e-form is submitted, you need to think about who should receive the e-mail and what fields of the e-form you want included with the e-mail message.
  • If you plan to have an e-mail message sent in response to the e-form user who submits the form, be sure to include a field in your e-form that captures the user’s e-mail address.
  • If your e-form is designed to allow people to register for a limited-attendance event, you need to decide what the limit is.
  • If you plan to allow e-form users to request more than one spot at the event, you need to include a field in your e-form that captures that person’s number of requested spaces.
  • If the limited-attendance event has more than one session from which people can choose (for example, is offered on several different dates or at several different times) you should include a field that lets people select the session they are interested in. You should also plan on how to handle overflow.
  • If you plan to offer a waiting list, you can show e-form users the number of available spaces, and the number of people on the waiting list.
  • If you plan to have more than one action triggered by a submitted e-form, decide what order the actions should be performed in. For example, you might want to send the e-form user a confirmation message before sending someone else a message that the e-form has been received.
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