OmniForm for Newton
From Pen Computing #6 September 1995
I don't think anybody likes filling out forms. The process is generally numbing at best unless you have a compelling interest in the data being collected. Everyone has been handed the greasy clipboard and asked to answer "just a few questions." Or perhaps you have experienced the joy of taking an inventory with a battered legal pad and a blunt stub of a pencil with two microns of eraser left. Once you have your information collected you then have to transcribe the whole lot into some kind of report or summary. The whole process is tediously repetitive, time consuming, error prone, and boring. Sounds like a job for a computer! You may remember a few years ago the buzz surrounding the supposed successor to desktop publishing: form automation. That fact that desktop computer-based form tools never really took off may be because of the size and usability of the machines that ran the software. Even a Macintosh can be frightening to Joe Sixpack. To really replace paper forms, computers would have to be just as light, portable, and easy to use.
The Newton MessagePad is the computer for the job, of
course, and a slew of developers have created form generation/data collection packages to
fill the need. OmniForm from Wright Strategies may be the best of breed for general
purpose data collection due to its superior ease of use and tight integration with the
OmniForm's agents automate the creation, behavior, and
layout of standard user interface items. For example, you can tell an agent to create
check boxes with rules that allow the user to check all that apply or just a limited
number. Text fields can be told to present themselves with a soft keyboard or to allow
handwriting input. Multiple choice questions are easily created, even those requiring
several long answers to choose from. You can even create a matrix of radio buttons
allowing users to select from a range of answers such as strongly agree, agree, unsure,
disagree, strongly disagree, or no opinion. Wright's programmers have done their homework.
We were unable to devise a question that could not be asked.
OmniForm (list price $499) is a powerful tool for anyone who needs to collect data in the field. Scriptable agents are a very sensible way to direct the user to do the right thing at the right time, validate what they did, and provide help if they get stuck. If you're lucky, the next time you are asked to fill out a survey at the mall they will hand you a Newton running OmniForm.
Wright Strategies is at 1-800-666-1228.
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