Adobe Launches E-Form Service

Adobe promises to take all the IT administrative hassle out of electronic surveys with its new FormsCentral offering

Adobe has launched a service for conducting online surveys that the company says should ease the process of setting them up and analyzing their results.

"Form and survey management is traditionally a very time-consuming process, often times involving IT," said Mark Grilli, Adobe director of product marketing. "You'd use one mechanism for retrieving information, and another for doing analysis. We thought having an end-to-end solution would give knowledge workers the tools they need to get their jobs done."

The hosted service, called Adobe FormsCentral, allows organizations to develop a customized survey form that would be accessible from the Internet. Adobe has endeavored to make the service easy enough to use so that the task of conducting surveys can be done without the intervention of IT staff, Grilli said.

With FormsCentral, the user creates a form online at the Adobe site, either using a set of templates or by designing a form from scratch. The forms will be based on HTML, making them accessible from any Web browser on any platform. Forms can be customized for each participant, with personalized name and message. Adobe provides a Web address for the finished form, which then can be mailed to possible participants.

The service will also compile the results into an online spreadsheet, which can be analyzed or embedded in another Web page. A dashboard shows a summary of the results. The administrator tools are accessed by a Web browser, using Adobe Flash.

With this offering, Adobe is entering a mature and highly competitive market, as FormsCentral will compete against similar Web survey services offered by SurveyMonkey, Zoomerang, FormStack and others. Nonetheless, the company is confident this service will stand apart from competitors.

"We have a unique approach to analysis. Many other solutions abdicate analysis to an internal tool," Grilli said.

Instead of downloading the resulting survey data to a spreadsheet, a user can search, sort and filter the response data directly in Adobe's service. Multiple participants are allowed to analyze the data at the same time, bringing a collaborative feeling to the service. The service also allows multiple participants to collaborate in the design of the form as well.

FormsCentral is not Adobe's first foray into the world of electronic and digital forms. The company's PDF format, of course, can be used as a digital form that allows the user to fill information into data fields. And the company's LiveCycle suite of workflow tools features a set of electronic-form design and analysis capabilities.

As an Internet-based hosted offering, however, FormsCentral is suited for surveying a more geographically dispersed set of participants than can be easily accessed with the enterprise-focused LiveCycle.

The service will initially be offered only in English, though the company plans to offer additional languages in the near future.

Pricing for the service, available Monday, comes in three tiers. A free trial includes the ability to post one form and receive up to 50 responses. The "Basic" subscription service, priced at US$14.99 a month, includes the ability to post five forms and allows up to 500 responses per form. The "Plus" service, for $199, allows unlimited forms, with 5,000 responses per form.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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