How can I create a form in Google Docs?
How do I make a copy of a form or a document from Gmail email and then complete the form using the computer? I have tried and have achieved the level of "No Luck". So I wind up printing the form and completing the form manually. Then I scan it and send it to whomever. There has to be an easier way. I thought maybe using HTML might be the answer, but I can't seem to find out how to use it instead of the standard language of Gmail.
There is indeed a good solution and it's one that involves software from Google, but it's not part of Gmail itself. In the never-ending race to compete with office software applications (e.g., against Microsoft Office, the killer suite of MS Word, MS Excel and MS PowerPoint), Google has been slowly but surely buying up innovative startups and tightly integrating quite a few different utilities to create Google Docs.
Most people think of Google Docs because of its ability to replace MS Word and let you do word processing right within a Web browser, with your document living in the so-called cloud rather than on your disk or trapped on your computer. It lets you do that, and nicely, but there's quite a bit more that you can do with Google Docs once you sign up for an account.
I'm involved with the Modern Media Man Summit and we're using Google Docs extensively for our document and data management tasks, including having Google Docs, by way of a form, manage the entire speaker submission process.
Let me show you how to set up a basic data input form and you'll see that it lets you quickly and easily create just the kind of form you seek.
One caveat before we start, however: it works, and it's pretty easy, but Google Docs is also quite crude in terms of customization options and I am hoping it'll be rewritten to offer greater flexibility. No word on that yet, however.
First things first. Log in to Google Docs, then on the top left, look for the "Create new" button:
Choose a new Form and it pops up an untitled template:
Start by giving your form a title and adding some basic explanatory text. I'll use this:
Not too complicated, but the fun part starts after this: the second section of the form template is an input prompt skeleton and it's up to us to define it, label it, and configure it for our needs. For this form, I'll ask users for their name, zip code and favorite movie, then add a set of radio buttons that let them indicate whether they most recently saw the film in the theater, on TV, on a pay channel, on a DVD or on a Blu-Ray disk.
For this first question, we've indicated that the prompt should be "What's your name?" and that the resultant information should be text (that is, an open text field where they can type in anything) and that it's a required question: the form cannot be submitted without the user adding something here, though there's no way to know if it's really their name or "john doe" or something.
For the second question, we want to ask for their zip code. Same basic thing. To add a second question to the form, however, I'll need to use another text field because there's no "numbers only" field or really any method of form validation...
Click on "Text", enter a prompt, click on the little "done" button, and now you suddenly realize a bit of a weirdness about Google Docs form creation:
Where do you go from here? You have to keep using "Add Item", but before we do, there's an unused question that's crept into the mix, "Sample Question 2". To delete it before we proceed, you need to move your cursor over the right side of the question area, at which point a few buttons magically appear:
Click on the tiny trashcan and the question vanishes from your form. Now click on "Add Item" again to add the question about favorite movie.
Now we want to select "Choose from a list" for the radio buttons ("radio buttons" is the HTML designer name for the element where you have more than one option, but can only choose one of them, just like radio stations on a car stereo). Choose it and the result is a bit different:
The options we want to list are "Movie Theater", "Blu-Ray DVD", "Regular DVD", "Cable Movie Channel" and "Broadcast TV", so I add those, one at a time:
It seems like there's an extra option, but you'll see, it magically vanishes once we're done editing.
The next step, now that we have the fields we want, is to pick a nice theme so that it's a bit less boring. On the top there's a button "Theme: Plain". Click on it and you'll see the set of themes available to make the form a bit more interesting:
There are lots more, but I like "Finance Chart" so I'll click on it. Google Docs now shows me a preview of how that's going to look:
Looks good. Click on "Apply" and you've set a theme for your form. Nice!
You can see the form as a standalone URL -- and share this URL with friends and colleagues, if you want -- on the dark bar at the very bottom of the screen:
Since you want to email it, however, let's do that instead. On the top there's a button "Email this form". Click on it and you'll be prompted for some addresses:
For a lot of email systems, however, the result isn't quite what we'd hope:
Still works, but what I like about Google Docs Form capability is that you can embed the form on a page with an IFRAME tag. I'll show you, I'll actually embed the live form here on this blog post!
To do that, on the top bar, click on "More actions" and choose "Embed":
The result is a single line of code:
I'll actually paste it in here so you can see what happens:
That's all there is to it. Try entering the info and clicking submit. Thanks! You've just added your movie to the list. Notice that we never moved to a second page: it all transpires neatly within the embedded area.
Now, between all these different options, I hope you can figure out a fast and easy way to create a Web-base form and make your life easier!
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