Last year, I wrote about TheFormTool, describing it as smart, simple document assembly. An add-on to Microsoft Word, TheFormTool makes it easy to create document templates and generate documents using those templates.
In the year since, TheFormTool has been upgraded several times. Now, the company is about to release its most significant upgrade yet. The soon-to-be-released version 2.4 is not only faster, but also it introduces a new feature, Grid Answers, that should speed up and simplify the process of generating form documents and pave the way for additional advanced features to be added down the road.
Grid Answers simplifies the process both of creating forms and of entering linked or related data into a form. It does this by rearranging what was a purely vertical list of data fields into a horizontal linked array. To understand this, let me revisit how TheFormTool works.
The easiest way to create a form is to start with a document you’ve already used, such as a purchase-and-sale agreement. The first step is to add a Q&A table to the document. This is a list of questions one would need to answer to fill out the fields in the document. Thus, a question may be, “What is the name of the purchaser?” Once you’ve created your questions, you then associate them with the location in the document where that field should be placed. Once you’ve gone through the entire process, you need only answer each of the questions in the Q&A table and click “fill” to fill out all the fields in the document.
In prior versions, the various questions are listed in a vertical array, one after the other. This was true even for information that would commonly be linked together. Thus, to enter the purchaser’s name and address, you would need to create questions and answers for each field — one each for name, street, city, state and zip code.
With the new version 2.4, the Q&A table can be supplemented with any number of Grid Answers. A Grid Answer would contain all of the relevant information fields in a single, horizontal row. So, in the example above, the purchaser’s name, address, city, state and zip would all be linked across the same row. A single Grid Answer could include rows for all the parties.
When it comes to filling in the information in order to generate the form, this makes the process much simpler. Rather than have to scroll up and down through the vertical list, the data can be entered more naturally, from left to right.
A Grid Answer can also be a Smart Answer. As I explained in my previous post, Smart Answers is a feature available only in the Pro version that lets you customize the answer fields in the Q&A table in multiple ways. Create lists, define choices, and set yes/no answers. See my prior post for a longer explanation of this. Anything you can do with a Smart Answer you can do with a Grid Answer.
Another improvement in this latest version of TheFormTool is speed. “The power is incredibly different, much more robust,” R. W. Christensen Jr., CEO of Your Dollar Matters, the distributor of TheFormTool, told me in a recent interview. He provided the graphic below, benchmarking version 2.4’s speed against the prior version’s.
The speed update and the addition of Grid Answers both help pave the way for enhancements to TheFormTool slated for later this year. Planned enhancements include the ability to create reusable collections of text, to automate related documents, and to automate data entry by drawing from SQL databases or XLS (spreadsheet) files. Also slated for later this year is a SaaS version that will operate in a browser.
Version 2.4 was released in beta to a group of test users last week. The general release will be sometime soon. In the meantime, you can download the prior version at no cost from TheFormTool. The free version does not include Smart Answers or other advanced features.
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