Microsoft Forms is the latest cloud service to join the Office 365 stable. It’s still a Preview service, not full formed, but it’s working and interesting. We decided to take a look and give you a sample Form to try.
Forms is a way to make online questionnaires, quizzes or surveys then add the data into Excel or other parts of Office.
Microsoft has done this before; does anyone remember InfoPath? or attempts at forms within Word?. Hopefully this time it’ll be an ongoing product. Office customers always have the risk of investing time and effort in a product only to have Microsoft drop it (like InfoPath or the just dumped Band).
A sample form to try
Wanna jump in and see a Microsoft Form in action?
We’ve made a sample Microsoft Form one for all our Office Watch readers to try. The Form is embedded into one of our sites web pages. There is a link to the stand-alone Forms page. All Forms pages are hosted on the Microsoft site.
Our simple form serves three purposes.
- Only the first two questions are ‘real’. We’re taking the opportunity to get a better idea of which Office version and programs our readers are using.
- We’ve added another ‘text’ question so you have a chance to suggest topics or questions for future Office Watch articles. Of course, you can do that anytime via the Feedback
- The rest of the questions are just examples of the other question types. Deliberately silly question about your favorite room (dungeon?), how sleepy you are or if you’d like a pet dinosaur <g>.
All the answers are anonymous, see an example of the worksheet data below.
What we’ve seen of Microsoft Forms, we like.
There are necessary features and options still missing (more on that later) but Forms has the basis for a long-overdue part of the Office suite.
Data collected from Forms is currently visible online in charts. More important, it’s downloadable as an Excel worksheet to make your own charts, PivotTables and beyond.
Just go to https://forms.office.com/ with an Office login and click ‘Create a new form’.
There are seven different question types available with some tweaking available:
- Choice -lists with an ‘Other’ option for unexpected answers.
- Text, long or short text. Also numbers with optional restrictions.
- Date – a simple date selector with no date formatting options (sigh).
- Net Promoter Score
Each question can be marked ‘Required’ aka ‘must answer’.
Our form has working examples of each question type.
A somewhat hidden but powerful option is branching. This lets you skip between questions depending on the answer.
Under the ‘three dots’ at top right is ‘Branching’. For each response there’s a ‘Go To’ option for the next question or end of form.
It would not be a Microsoft Office product without Themes or a series of fairly lame color schemes or designs.
The most important theme option is the last one; uploading your own image.
Under the ‘three dots’ at top right are some settings for the questions.
Accept responses – turns the Forms page on/off.
Start / End date – but which time zone/midnight does this apply to?
Get email notification
Customize thank you message
Preview lets you see the Form on both a computer and narrow phone format.
The Form can be distributed via a web link (like our sample form) or embedded into another web page as a iFrame
The form maker can see the results on the responses tab.
Scroll down to see a result summary for each question or click More Details.
View Results – lets you see the individual results for each respondent.
Open in Excel – downloads a worksheet with all the responses to date.
Also included is the start/end date & time for each response.
At the moment, all Form responses are anonymous The Excel worksheet download has columns for email address and name so login/identification are planned or is possible.
Our Forms wish list
Forms is in Preview and there’s clearly more work to be done. As a Microsoft cloud service it can be updated at any time.
In no particular order, here’s some things we’d like to see before Forms moves from preview status:
- Excel has great data connection features with Get & Transform / PowerQuery. It’s very strange that Forms doesn’t already support making a direct connection from Excel to the latest responses.
- Presumably other options for saving results like SQL Server/Azure are planned.
- Better formatting for questions, especially Bold, Italics and Underline.
- Long/short text fields need a character limit and a live counter so users can see how many characters they have typed and space left.
- Text, line and information blocks to split up a longer set of questions in sections.
- Microsoft continues to struggle with dates and time zones. Forms is just another example. The date question has no date formatting options which can lead to confusion (m/d/y vs d/m/y).
- No indication of which time zone applies for the Start/End date settings? That could be important for anything with a very firm time to finish (e.g a prize draw).
- Add hidden data fields like IP address, browser type, operating System etc to the responses collected. This is data that the browser gives automatically to any web site. Saving that information means less explicit questions are necessary (e.g IP address gives the country and approx. location).
- Limit responders to a single completion of the Form.
- Add Captcha or some other robot prevention features.