inFORM v3


Getting Started with inFORM v3

This document describes the steps you will need to take to use inFORM v3 to collect data from a web form.

Step 1 - Gather Information

inFORM v3 requires that you register your form in our database before you can use the program to collect web submissions. Before you can register your form, you will need to be ready to answer a few questions, such as:

  • Will you be saving your data via email?
  • ... to what email address(es)?
  • Will you be saving your data to files?
  • ... to what directory? (in AFS filespace)
  • ... and will you want to import the answers into a spreadsheet?

Step 2 - Directory Permissions

If you plan to save your data to files, you will need to make sure that the permissions are set correctly on the save directory. If you will not be saving data to files, you can skip this step.

These instructions must be run from a Unix workstation or VCL machine. If you are using a Windows or Mac machine, you will need to first login to one of the NC State VCL machines using SSH. For help with this, please see this Remedy solution: How to make a secure shell connection to NC State.

The save directory that you select must be writable by the webservers that run inFORM. This can be done by giving read/write access to the PTS group 'www:servers.cgi' using the 'fs' command. For example, using the data directory /afs/unity/project/myproject/data:

cd /afs/unity/project/myproject/data
fs sa . www:servers.cgi rlidwk

You will also need to make sure that the webservers can "look" in any directories above the data directory. The parent directories should all have "system:anyuser l" or "www:servers.cgi l" permissions, otherwise the webserver will not be able to find the data directory. In this example, we need to make sure the parent locker has the correct permissions:

cd /afs/unity/project/myproject
fs sa . www:servers.cgi l

The inFORM v3 Admin program will check the permissions on your directory when you register your form. You will need to set these permissions correctly before the registration step.

Step 3 - Register Your Form

Most of the form handling done by inFORM v3 is configured through settings in a central database. You need to register your form in the database so inFORM will know how to process your data.

Start the inFORM v3 Admin program by clicking on this link, or on the link found at the top of most inFORM help pages. You will be shown a page that lists your registered forms, and a set of instructions. If you are working with a new form, select the "NEW: add a form" entry and click on "Edit Form".

Now you should see a form that will let you select all of the various settings that you can make to control inFORM. If you are not sure what a particular setting does, click on the red setting title to open a link to the Settings Glossary entry for that setting. Feel free to skip settings labelled as (optional), as inFORM will run fine without them.

Once you have entered the settings that you want to use, click on "Submit Changes" at the bottom of the form. The program will then review your settings to make sure that everything is set correctly. If not, you will get an error message that will describe what you need to correct. When everything checks out, you will get a confirmation page. The page contains your new Form ID and a summary of the settings that you just saved.

Step 4 - Create the Form Page

Now that you have a Form ID, you can proceed to write an HTML page that contains your form. You can work from scratch if you prefer, or you may find it easier to let the inFORM Admin program give you a sample form specifically for your new form.

To generate a sample page, click the "Get Sample Code" link at the bottom of the confirmation page, or select your form on the main page and click "Get Sample Code" there.

The program will ask you a couple questions about how to setup your new form. Select your answers and click on "Generate Sample".

The sample page will contain a text box showing you the HTML form code that was generated. You can cut-and-paste this into a new file and use it as a starting point for your new form. At the bottom of the page you will also see a "live" copy of the generated code. If you want to test your form settings, you can fill out and submit this sample form.

If you already have a form written, or perhaps one generated by Dreamweaver or another HTML editor, you just need to do two things. 1) Make sure that the "action" attribute of the "form" tag is set to the correct URL. 2) Insert a new hidden input tag that sets the "inform_formid" input object to the Form ID that you just registered. You can use the example code that you generated above and cut-and-paste these two pieces into your existing form.

If you prefer to write your own HTML code from scratch, you can do that instead. The inFORM v3 Input Object Reference page describes the URL's to use for inFORM, and the input objects that you will need to include in your page.

Step 5 - Customizing

Anytime that you want to change your form settings, you can do so using the inFORM v3 Admin program. On the main page, select the form that you want to edit, and click on the "Edit Form" button. Your changes will take effect immediately when you get the settings summary page. You probably will not need to make any changes in your HTML form page.

Feel free to try out the various settings just to see how they work. You can register as many forms as you like. If you decide you no longer need a given form, select it and click "Delete Form" on the main page.



inFORM v3 is a product of NC State University's Information Technology Division.
To report problems, please contact webmaster@ncsu.edu.

Last Update: $Date: 2010/04/01 13:37:53 $