Five tools to make web forms easier to use

Filling out online forms can be tedious and time consuming. Here are five tools that can make that process go a lot faster.

Like many people, I spend a lot of time filling out online forms. And the forms are never ending. There are forms for online shopping, travel reservations, liability releases, and way too many other things to list them all. Fortunately, help is available. A number of applications are available that can speed up the process of filling out online forms.

Note: This article is also available as an image gallery and a video hosted by TechRepublic columnist Tom Merritt.

1: RoboForm

RoboForm (Figure A) is probably best known as a password manager. However, it can also help with filling in online forms in many of the more popular browsers. RoboForm can store your form data on your own PC or in the cloud.

Figure A

Figure A

Once installed, RoboForm is accessible as a browser toolbar. The initial configuration process requires you to enter a master password, which is used to protect your form data. RoboForm provides a mind-boggling number of fields you can populate, ranging from basic contact information to credit card and bank account numbers. It's up to you how much or how little information you decide to store in RoboForm.

RoboForm sells for $9.95, but a free trial is available for download.

2: Form Auto Fill

Form Auto Fill (Figure B) is another application for managing logins and filling in Web forms. But unlike RoboForm, Form Auto Fill installs as a standard Windows application rather than as a browser extension.

Figure B

Figure B

Form Auto Fill is also different from RoboForm in that it does not collect personal data and attempt to match it to Web forms. Instead, it allows you to save values for frequently used Web sites. For example, if you frequently make purchases from a particular online store, you can set up Form Auto Fill to populate the checkout form for that site.

Form Auto Fill sells for $39.95, but a free trial version is available for download.

3: Browser Form Filler

Browser Form Filler (Figure C) works similarly to RoboForm but does not ask for quite as much information. It allows you to pre-populate a database with personal info. The categories of information that exist when you install the program include Personal Information (name, email address, phone number, etc.), address, and credit card. Once configured, Browser Form Filler is accessible through a browser tool bar. This toolbar allows you to make further edits or you can populate a Web page by clicking on the Fill button.

Figure C

Figure C

Browser Form Filler sells for $25.00, but a free trial is available for download.

4: A Form Filler

A Form Filler (Figure D) is a free tool for filling out Web forms. What makes this tool different from the others is the way that it works. It scans web pages for predefined text and then populates the corresponding field per your instructions. For instance, you might instruct it to automatically type your name any time a Web page contains a Name field. The resulting action will occur automatically almost as soon as the page appears onscreen.

Figure D

Figure D

Incidentally, because this tool does not use browser toolbars it can work in almost any window, not just your Web browser.

5: Blueberry PDF Form Filler 2

I write these Five Apps articles every month, and I come across a lot of excellent tools. But sometimes I stumble onto one that's so good I immediately start using it in my day-to-day life. Blueberry PDF Form Filler 2 is such a tool.

Blueberry PDF Form Filler 2 (Figure E) is a free tool that can assist you with filling out PDF forms. As you are no doubt aware, many Web sites contain forms that exist in PDF format. All too often, these forms do not support text entry. You end up having to download the form and then print it, fill in the required information, and then scan the form. In some cases, it is possible to convert the PDF form into a Word document, enter the required information, and then convert the form back into a PDF file. Even that technique is a bit of a pain, however, and it's easy to mess up the formatting during the conversion process.

Figure E

Figure E

Blueberry PDF Form Filler 2 makes a non-editable PDF file editable. The software lets you create fields where there were none before. In some cases, the software can even automatically detect the places in which fields should be created. You aren't just limited to creating text fields either. You can also create check boxes, combo boxes, or just about anything else that you need. So far I have only used this program a few times, but it seems to work exceptionally well.

Note: If you decide to check this tool out, be sure to download version 2 or higher. The first version still exists on some of the Internet download sites and has some bugs that limit its usefulness. These bugs seem to have been fixed in Version 2.

Also read...

Other favorite form tools?

What apps do you rely on to save you the time and mind-numbing repetition of filling out online forms? Share your suggestions with fellow TechRepublic members.

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