SpreadsheetConverter provides a built-in hosted solution which is very easy to use. Just follow the instructions below and you will have submitted your first online form to your own e-mail Inbox.

Using Excel for electronic forms design is very convenient. The tabular format of the spreadsheet makes it easy to design good-looking forms. You can use fixed text and numbers, or use formulas to dynamically enter values into a field.

Design in Excel, use on the web, receive as an e-mail

THE FORM, AS DEFINED IN EXCEL

 Screenshot of the complete form as a spreadsheet

THE FORM ON THE WEB, AS VIEWED IN A WEB BROWSER

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THE SUBMITTED FORM, AS RECEIVED IN AN E-MAIL

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The advantages of using SpreadsheetConverter for forms

When you create a form, you want to be able to collect the data provided by respondents. Unfortunately, the web browser cannot send the form data to you directly. You must use a server on the network to process the form, e.g. to convert the form contents into an e-mail.

The standard solutions for forms processing are typically rather hard to configure. Also, publishing forms on the web is prone to misuse. So-called “e-mail harvesters” continuously roam the web looking for e-mail addresses to use for unsolicited advertising in “spam” e-mails.

To avoid these drawbacks, SpreadsheetConverter provides a built-in hosted solution which is easy to configure and doesn’t expose the e-mail address the form will be sent to. When the “Submit” button on a web form is pressed, the data in the form is sent to one of our web servers, which converts the form fields into an e-mail and sends the form contents to a predefined e-mail Inbox. The basic service is free.

Create the web form as a spreadsheet

Before we continue, you need to define your web form in a simple spreadsheet. Just follow the steps below to start creating this form yourself. If you don’t want to practice using the product, the original spreadsheet can be downloaded here.

  1. Create a new, empty spreadsheet in Excel.
  2. Make the B column wide enough to accomodate a full name and an e-mail address.
  3. Select cells A1:B1 and merge them (Format cells > Alignment > Merge cells).
  4. Enter the heading “Newsletter subscription” in cell A1 and format it as 20pt bold.

Screenshot of the form in Excel with a heading

5. Enter the text “Name” in cell A2.
6. Move to select cell B2.
7. Locate the cell name field. It usually appears to the left of the formula field, above the column headings. It is the field that currently says “B1”. Give the cell B1 the name “Name” by entering that word into the cell name field and press Enter. The cell name will be used in the e-mail to identify the “Name” field. 

 Screenshot of the cell name field in Excel

8. Select the SpreadsheetConverter ribbon and make sure the Settings panel is visible.

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9. Ensure that cell B2 is still selected. Click “Text field” on the Settings panel. Marking a cell as a    text field ensures that the cell’s contents are included in the e-mail as an input field, even if the      cell isn’t referenced in a formula. 

Screenshot of the widget list in the SpreadsheetConverter Settings panel

10. In the Text Field properties, tick the “Required” checkbox and press OK. This ensures that            forms cannot be submitted without a name in the Name field. 

 Screenshot of the Text Field widget settings

11. Repeat steps 5-10 above to create a second input field “Email” in A3 and B3. Mark this field as required, too.
12. Select cells A1:B3 and create a frame around the form (Format cells > Border > Outline).
13. Here’s what the spreadsheet should look like at this point:

 Screenshot of the complete form as a spreadsheet

14. Save the form under the name “form”. Verify that Excel adds “.xlsx” or “.xls” at the end of the filename. If Excel warns you that there already is a document with that name, do not overwrite it. Save the spreadsheet under a different name instead, e.g. “form1”.

SpreadsheetConverter settings

PREFERENCES > BROWSERS AND CONVERSION PATH OPTIONS

Your SpreadsheetConverter Preferences determine where the results of your conversions are stored. Open the Preferences menu.

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Select “Browsers and Conversion Path Option”.

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Click on the button to the right under “Choose folder to store webpage” and navigate to where you want SpreadsheetConverter to store the web pages it creates.

Screenshot of the SpreadsheetConverter Preferences window

Select what browsers you wish to verify the result in – click once to activate a browser, click once again to deactivate.

OPEN THE WORKSHEETS SETTINGS PANEL

In the SpreadsheetConverter Settings panel, select the Worksheets tab so that the Worksheets Settings become visible.

 

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WORKSHEETS > HIDE WORKSHEETS

By default, SpreadsheetConverter shows only the active worksheet. If your spreadsheet contains more than one worksheet, use these settings to make additional worksheets visible or hidden in the converted web page.

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OPEN THE WORKBOOK SETTINGS PANEL

In the SpreadsheetConverter Settings panel, select the Workbook tab so that the Workbook Settings become visible.

 

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WORKBOOK > WEB PAGE TITLE

Set a title for your web form, e.g. “Newsletter registration”.

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WORKBOOK > LAYOUT > TABS

In the Workbook Settings panel, locate the Layout settings. This is where you select how you want the converted web page to appear. Select “Tabs” to give each worksheet its own tab in the web page, just like in Excel. When you start to make complex web forms, you may prefer one of the more advanced options here, e.g. to show the form as a wizard, where each worksheet is a separate step.

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WORKBOOK > INPUT CELLS > AUTO

In the Workbook Settings panel, locate the Input Cells settings. In Excel, all cells are unlocked by default, and can be modified by the user. In the web page, we only want to open a few of the cells for input. In the “Auto” mode, SpreadsheetConverter automatically unlocks cells that are referenced in formulas, and cells that contain a Text Field widget. You can also mark cells for input by giving them a unique background color, or by unlocking them.

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WORKBOOK > SELECT BUTTONS TO INCLUDE

SpreadsheetConverter provides a number of different buttons you can use on a web form. The most important one is “Submit”, since this is the button that is used to send a completed form for processing. This checkbox must be checked for every electronic form.

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WORKBOOK > CONFIGURE SUBMIT BUTTON

At the bottom of the Workbook settings, there is a button for configuration of the forms submission process, i.e. how completed forms should be forwarded for processing.

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WORKBOOK > CONFIGURE SUBMIT > E-MAIL SETTINGS

Enter the e-mail address to which you want completed forms to be sent.

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If you get a lot of spam (unsolicited advertising) from a form, consider protecting it with a captcha, an image that contains a randomly generated password. Most spamming program cannot read text off images and thus cannot provide the password to submit the form. Most human visitors will be able to pass the test.

Select the Advanced submit service if you have a trial or paid license for it, or select the Free service that is included with your SpreadsheetConverter license.

WORKBOOK > CONFIGURE SUBMIT > AFTER SUBMIT SETTINGS

After a form has been submitted, a neutral “Thank you” page is displayed. If you want to provide your own thank-you-page, enter its address in the “After successful submit” field. Click the button to the right of this field to verify the address; the page will open in your web browser.

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You can also provide your own handling for submissions where our server fails to receive or e-mail you the data. This can only happen when our server is stopped for some reason. The URL should point to a page that recommends the user to wait for ten minutes and then try again.

If a data entry wizard layout is used for a multi-sheet workbook, you can provide a Cancel button in the wizard that allows the user to leave the form without submitting it. Enter the address of the web page you want the user to arrive at after having pressed Cancel, e.g. the address of the page where the user originally found the form and opened it for data entry.

PREFERENCES > CUSTOMIZE TEXT

To change or translate any built-in texts used with your form, including the button texts, use Preferences > Customize Text.

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Convert the spreadsheet

SAVE THE FILE

Before you convert the spreadsheet to a web page, remember to save it in Excel.

If you closed the spreadsheet, open it again so that it is visible in Excel.

SELECT THE FLAVOR YOU WANT

SpreadsheetConverter can generate the web page in different formats, depending on your needs. You may later want to convert your own spreadsheets for other environments, e.g. for iPhone or Android smartphones, for Windows web servers with ASP.NET, or in Flash format. Select “Html” for this tutorial.

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CLICK CONVERT

To start the conversion, click “Convert” in the SpreadsheetConverter ribbon.

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Ensure that there are only “Information” messages in the “Errors” panel. If you have any other messages, don’t hesitate to contact our Help Center.

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The converted web page

SpreadsheetConverter creates the web page in the folder you previously specified, and opens the resulting web page in the browsers you selected.

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Verify that the title for the page (in the window title or in the browser tab) is the web page title you set in the Workbook settings.

Sending your first web form

To test your new form, enter a name in the “Name” field and an e-mail address in the “Email” field. Press the “Submit” button. (The text on the button is defined in the “Configure Text” section of the preferences and may be different in your setup.)

Notice the default thank-you page. This is what your website visitors will see unless you provide your own thank-you-page.

VERIFY THE E-MAIL

Verify that the submitted form arrives at the e-mail address you specified. If the e-mail doesn’t arrive correctly, you may need to check your spam filter. Note that modern spam filters often reject incoming messages routinely, to see if the sender tries again, which may delay reception of the e-mail by several hours.

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Note the “From” address, it will be used for all e-mails for this form. It is very important that you ensure that e-mails sent from this address pass through any spam protection you use.

TESTING “REQUIRED”

Now we will test the form once more, this time without entering a Name. To open the form again, open the folder you selected for converted web pages in the SpreadsheetConverter Preferences. In that folder, there will be a new folder with the same name as the spreadsheet, e.g. “form”. Inside the folder there will be a “form.htm” web page. Double-click on this file to open the web form again in your browser.

Try to submit the form with an e-mail address, but with the Name field empty. You should receive a message saying that all required fields must be filled. You can change or translate this and all other message texts in Preferences > Customize Text.

If you have any problems or questions, don’t hesitate to contact our Help Center. We are here to help.

The Advanced Submit Service

Upgrading to the fee-based Advanced Submit Service give you a lot of advantages. The e-mail now has the same layout as the electronic form, which can make it much easier to read. Also, you can store submitted forms on our server and download them only once a day or once a week. This makes it much easier to handle a large volume of forms.

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As you can see above, the e-mail from the Advanced Submit Service also contains the submitted form as a comma-separated values file (form.csv) and a portable document format file (form.pdf). This can further simplify your processing of large volumes of forms.

To learn more about using SpreadsheetConverter for web forms, read our introduction to trouble-free forms handling with Excel.