March 16th in Web by .

MachForm Review – Easily create and manage your HTML web forms

In this post we provide a full review of the HTML form generator or creator – MachForm. MachForm is a self hosted PHP application offering a good set of features at an affordable price for almost any type of user from home bloggers to professional business websites.

Most people with a website eventually find themselves requiring a form to collect data from their customers or users. Whether it’s a simple ‘contact us’ form, or a full customer survey, they’re a pretty standard and integral part of most of today’s websites.

The problem however is coding a good HTML form from scratch isn’t as simple as we’d always like. The code can be a little awkward, getting a good layout is often a bit of a pain and trying to get the form to validate the responses and prevent spam entries makes the job even more difficult – even for the most proficient of web designers. It’s therefore becoming more and more popular to use software to help perform the task.

Machform control panel

One piece of webware, or web-based software, that does a really good job of creating HTML web forms is MachForm. Machform is a self-host, PHP driven program allows you to create as many forms as you want on your website with a simple but fairly feature-rich back-end control panel. The forms that is creates not only perform well, but they look good too – layout and styling are bang up-to-date and make your forms really look professional.

Installing MachForm software

MachForm installs on your own web server with relative ease. If you’re used to installing other PHP/mySQL software then it won’t cause you any problems. We installed it within less that 10 minutes following the help documentation instructions, and the process was faultless. I’m not sure that you’d think it so simple if you’d never created a database on your webserver before though? But, it’s not too much of an issue, as the nice guys at MachForm also offer a FREE installation service! So even if you get totally stuck, you’ve not wasted your money, they’ll put it on your server for you.

Creating your first form

Once the software is installed on your website, creating and managing your forms is a piece of cake. Simply drag and drop the different form fields that you want in your form using the really well presented control panel, type your field titles, choose from the various options if you want the response to be validated (eg. if you want the software to check that an email address field has been submitted with something resembling a real email address), and then save your form.

Machform form creation

It really is as quick and simple as that. You can create a 10 field form, with validation, and Captcha spam protection, within just a few minutes.

Embedding the form on your website

MachForm creates three simple ways for you to use your forms on your website. The first and most simple is to simply point your users to a special link / URL. This URL is the direct page that your form can be viewed and used. Great for linking to from emails, or linking to from anywhere within your site.

The second method, just as simple, is to copy the code that MachForm creates for you (just a few lines of code) and then paste it into your web page HTML code where ever you want the form to display. This technique uses iFrames and works very well.

A third and slightly more advanced option exists, again copying auto generated code, but posting it directly into your own PHP pages (avoiding the need for iFrames). This options is probably best for those who really know what they’re doing, but it’s good that MachForm include it as an option.

Collecting Data

One huge benefit of MachForm is that it saves all the user submitted data from your form to a database. Viewing the data is as simple you’d imagine, a couple of clicks, and all your user entries are listed in a table. You can drill down in to the individual records of each entry, amend or delete entries, and even save the whole lot back to an Excel spreadsheet or CSV file for further data manipulation.

Summary

MachForm is a well thought-out, comprehensive piece of software, that allows anyone to create professional looking fully functional web forms with relative ease and a nice GUI. For those that require larger, more complex, multi-page forms you’ll probably find that MachForm isn’t the software for you, as you cannot create forms over multiple pages. Also you can’t create ‘conditional logic’ forms. These two features are however fairly advanced, so, they won’t present a problem for the majority of basic form users.

Today’s Top Tech Review Our overall rating:   4/5

What we liked…

  • Simple to use
  • Good set of features for the most common requirements
  • Control panel is well laid out and stable
  • Produces professional looking, fully styled forms
  • Validates user entry, and has Capchta spam protection built in
  • Relatively cheap (single site license just $39!
  • Self-hosted, so no ongoing monthly hosting fees
What we weren’t so keen on…
  • No option to produce multi-page forms
  • No option to produce ‘conditional logic’ questions
  • Installation maybe tricky if you’re not sure how to create your own database*

*This slight negative is however not too much of a problem, due to MachForm’s offer of a FREE installation on your server

Vital info

Software: MachForm
Supplier: AppNitro
Website: www.appnitro.com
Price: Single site licence $39 (Professional 10-site and Unlimited-site licenses cost $99 and $199 respectively)

Self-confessed tech and gadget geek. Love all kinds of tech, but especially that which helps me work more effectively, and looks / feels good to use.

VIsit Jon Smith's website

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