By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2005-01-10 Print this article Print

By uniquely using graphics and a drag-and-drop forms builder, BenQ Quask Corp.s FormServer eases the creation and deployment of surveys. Released earlier this month, FormServer also offers experienced form builders a slew of more advanced functions, including validation, branching and data piping.

All this comes at a relatively high cost, however. FormServer, which is priced by CPU, starts at $5,900 and includes one client design license. Additional licenses cost $890 each. Although volume licensing is available, organizations with many users who need survey-building capabilities might find FormServers cost prohibitive.

In addition, unlike many of its competitors, FormServer does not come with a statistics and reporting package. A module, called LiveStats, must be purchased separately for $1,900. It should be noted, however, that LiveStats is a statistical tool and can be used independently of FormServer to analyze data from any ODBC data source.

Click here to read a review of WebSurveyor 5.0. For now, FormServers support is confined to Microsoft Corp. systems. (Company officials said they are considering support for Unix-based systems.) Organizations must run the software on Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003 running IIS (Internet Information Services). FormServer currently supports only Microsofts SQL Server 2000, but support for Oracle Corp. databases is planned for later this year.

FormServer and the LiveStats module can be integrated with third-party applications such as CRM (customer relationship management) and ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems.

After eWEEK Labs installed a FormServer client on a desktop, we were able to easily build and deploy forms that allowed us to get really creative without the assistance of a Web designer. This is because FormServer uses a WYSIWYG approach that allows users to drag and drop while building surveys.

We had the choice of building HTML-based forms as well as PDF forms. This is a handy capability for users who want or need more than Web-based form building. By building surveys in PDF format, users can generate forms that can be distributed via e-mail, posted on Web sites or printed on paper. The PDF capability also enables survey takers to digitally sign any form they submit.

FormServer excels in its use of graphics and sound tools that enable survey builders to create forms that are interesting and colorful. Emoticons, for example, can be used by users to rank items, while sounds and images ensure survey takers dont lose interest as they go through the form. Used sparingly, these features will likely encourage a higher return rate from survey takers.

One feature we liked was FormServers ability to allow respondents to save their surveys after completion. After creating a user name and password for a survey, the survey taker can access his or her responses in the future. This will be particularly handy for organizations that are using surveys on their Web sites as part of the job application process. Users could, for example, fill in a job application and save their entries for completion or updating at a later time.

Using the browser-based LiveStats tool, we were able to allow individuals or groups to access reports based on interest. For example, we created a high-level overview report filled with pie and bar charts for executives and a macroreport filled with tables and filtered statistics directed at a group of midlevel managers.

Reports can be presented in a Web browser in either HTML, PDF or RTF (Rich Text Format).

Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at anne_chen@ziffdavis.com.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.

As a senior writer for eWEEK Labs, Anne writes articles pertaining to IT professionals and the best practices for technology implementation. Anne covers the deployment issues and the business drivers related to technologies including databases, wireless, security and network operating systems. Anne joined eWeek in 1999 as a writer for eWeek's eBiz Strategies section before moving over to Labs in 2001. Prior to eWeek, she covered business and technology at the San Jose Mercury News and at the Contra Costa Times.

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