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Tracking Small Business Data with Adobe's FormsCentral

Tracking Small Business Data with Adobes FormsCentralWrangling your company's data doesn't have to be a full time job.

Used correctly, online forms can help track everything from customer information taken from a company website to internal data like vacation time and sales.

With plenty of cheap do-it-yourself form builders on the market, it’s easy to find and set up basic forms. But not much middle ground exists when it comes to balancing affordability and ease-of-use with a secure, professional-looking service that is reasonable to deploy in a small- to mid-sized business.

Adobe Systems is looking to fill that gap in the form-builder market. The software giant recently released an upgrade to its form builder, Adobe FormsCentral and we have been testing it for several weeks. 

Overall we found that the tool combines ease-of-use with a rich set of business-friendly features at a good price. A year subscription for FormsCentral costs about $17 a month while high-end subscriptions for other form builders with similar features often exceed $50 per month and can go much higher than that. 

Why you might like it: FormsCentral has a simple, drag-and-drop, what-you-see-is-what-you-get interface that makes building forms a snap. The ability to re-size margins and boxes and add colors and logos for branding can make forms that are surprisingly professional looking. And we found a "test drive" function that lets you try a form before publishing to be powerful. Even writing "skip logic" -- which creates special rules for your form by sending users to different pages based on their responses -- is surprisingly intuitive.

Tracking performance was also solid. An Adobe account can show form results in real time. You can add categories and annotations to the data as you need to. And an array of customizable graphs and charts let you track and compare information pretty much as you would in a Microsoft Excel file. Speaking of which, moving data from Adobe into formats supported by presentation tools like PowerPoint also proved seamless.

Why you might not like it: It’s still real work. For all of FormsCentral features, no form builds itself. Expect to spend some serious time sinking your teeth into FormsCentral features, especially when it comes to the best ways to analyze and present your data to really get the results you need. All the ease of use of the tool can mask how much effort is required to get a first quality form.

Bottom line: If you are considering using forms in your shop, FormsCentral can certainly help you create better forms. Just remember, it won’t do it all by itself.

What tools do you use to help craft better business forms? Let us know in the comments section. 

Jonathan Blum is a freelance writer and the principal of Blumsday LLC, a Web-based content company specializing in technology news.
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