I have tested 3 prominent free/open source PHP form generator for the past few months, trying to figure out which one is the best form generator for my website. I was looking for a form generator that is easy to install, very minimal script editing, can run in my local computer through XAMPP, customizable, able to send an automatic email with the form, fairly good support and updated. It took me few weeks to try all 3 and find the best solution for my Mount Kinabalu Borneo.com reservation form.
The reason why I am looking for this solution is that the traffic to the website is increasing monthly, and most of the visitors would like us to help on their trip to Mount Kinabalu. I did try with normal email, but as there is no standard format, I sometimes have to email the same person 4 times to get the information right. It delays our reservation process with Sutera Sanctuary Lodges.
By having a standard form for the reservation, I am creating a system that can speed up our work. It will also be fast and and easy for the visitors. As my mentor said before, “If you work with a system, the result will be more predictable”. This “form systems” has increase my daily webmastering productivity.
I have tested 3 PHP form generator:
- phpformgen 2.08 by Musawir Ali
- Form Generator PHP by SiteHelpCenter.com
- PHP FormMail Generator by Xue Wen Liang
Three of the above named PHP script are FREE and probably meets the criteria that I was looking for. However, after much trial and error, I found out that there is only one that suits my taste.
This script is included with my Fantastico package in my webhosting account. The installation is really easy. 2 clicks and it’s done. I was impressed. However, when I tried to create my first ever form, I found out it’s quite difficult. It is difficult to customize the variables and the size of the field. I don’t think it has enough “user guide”. You really need to try more than once to get your from presentation right. After few days of trying, you can easily get frustrated as most of the time, the result that its produce is not what you’ve expected. When you’ve finished, the form will be somewhere deep inside some sub-sub-sub directory of your phpformgen. If you are not careful on typing out the url for your visitors, it can easily get them to page 404.
The other thing that struck me was that the code has not been updated since Jan 18, 2003. It’s really long time ago. Somebody might need to improvise the script so that it’s “idiot webmaster” friendly (like me).
The only good thing about this script is that you can store your form in a database table (MySQL). For webmaster who is familiar with MySQL, it may be an advantage as you can manage your from more systematically.
I don’t think this script is released under GPL licence, as I could see a lot of advertisement from the hosting website all over the places (including the form that is generated). If you are very particular with “link out” from your website, then this would not be a good choice for you. The banner can easily distract your visitors to their site. Installation is easy, but the administration configuration is difficult. You have to predefine almost all the fields and variables, and it will take a lot of your time. It has a lot of things for you to figure out, and find it a little bit “annoying”. But, I must say that the user guide that comes with the script is the best – it’s in PDF form, and not just a simple README files that the others have.
I did not even make a single form with this script.
This is the best script among the list. And, I have been using it for the past 1 month and really impress with the results. I first discovered the script as a free web service to generate forms, Free Form Maker. I use it to generate our first Mount Kinabalu reservation form. It’s idiot proof and really easy to use You just have to fill in the fields and variables in the column that it provides, click few buttons and the form is ready.
I later found out that the mail that I received from this form did not show the sender’s email in my inbox. It showed NO_REPLY as the sender for all the mail. There are senders email in the form that they filled, but it’s not possible to send an automated reply email to the sender (because of the NO_REPLY email comes from my webhosting mail server).
This script is capabale of saving the email that your visitor sent in text form, not a database form like phpformgen. You can then easily convert the file to .csv and uplaod it in OO Calc to view it. It can then be imported to your favourite email manager.
I used it for about two weeks, until I accidently found out that the script is actually an open source software/script, and hosted in Sourceforge. I was wondering around Hotscripts when I stumble upon the script. I downloaded the script, installed it in my XAMPP localhost and start working on my new version of reservation form. By using this script, I found out that the form that it generates behave slightly different from the one that I used previously.
This version of script let the sender email appear in my inbox, and the automated reply message is functioning very well. I made a form with more than 30 fields and the scripts generates it flawlessly.
Want to see the result? Check out our Mount Kinabalu Reservation form here.