Most people don't want to write code, especially when you get up to acronyms like PHP and MySQL. MachForm from Appnitro Software offers a clean interface and an easy way to setup web-based forms for your web site.
This software requires that you have PHP and MySQL installed on your web site, as this is not a hosted service – you install it on your own domain. Appnitro will even install if for you if you like. But you should not fret about these requirements, as they are staples of most all web hosts.
Installation was fast. Setting up a MySQL database is a snap with any of the popular web control panels (my host uses cPanel). After that, you edit a config file, and run the installer script. MachForm uses reCAPTCHA, so you will need to setup an account to use that feature. That as well was a simple and quick process. It really took longer to write this than it did to get the software up and running on my domain.
The MachForm admin interface is a slick looking Web 2.0 setup. Creating forms is as easy as clicking and dragging. Just drag fields around to rearrange them. There are a number of pre-defined field sets such as Name, Address, Email, Phone, etc. Some of these, such as Email and Phone have validation built in.
If you want the field to be required, you simply check that box, and the field is required. If you want to have a file upload, you just add that field type. This is where the coding would come in if you were doing this all manually. There are a number of options, but as any tool designed for many, it has limitations. Luckily, not many people looking for an easy-to-use tool such as this will run into a brick wall.
Not only can you have the form data sent to multiple email addresses, but since this is database driven, everything is captured in the admin interface for you to login and reference. Options to export it to an Excel or CVS format are a nice touch.
You can either embed the form into your site, using an iframe, or you can link to it. Full control over CSS is given, so you can incorporate it into your site's look and feel without much work. To demonstrate the software, I created a mock Are You a Blogcritic? form. The only bit of "custom" work I did was to change the header to show our logo. This took little time to setup, thanks to MachForm.
My biggest gripe with the software is the limitation of characters in the fields to 255. This can be changed easily if you don't mind getting your feet wet, but again, most will not need to go beyond this limitation. The author will be changing this limit in the next version, however.
MachForm is worth the price — Bits du Jour plug, it is 49% off today, September 19, 2007 only — if you do not want to worry or deal with form validation, and just want a clean interface to work with. Coders will find the limitations pretty quickly, but then they can write their own form validation scripts.
I would like to see what the author could do for self-hosted polling software, especially if it was handled in the same manner as MachForm.
If you don't write in code all day, this form building software is easy to recommend. It is good to see more software using reCAPTCHA too, so kudos for including it.