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TECHNOLOGY

7 Tools for a Supercharged Documents Suite

Document embedding and web form building can be a necessity when sharing information, and it's hard to find a reliable service that offers premium business solutions. Mix and match these 7 tools to get the most out of a documents suite, and watch your information work for you.
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For some, GoogleDocs can be a personal organization savior. Its embedding abilities easily allow documents to be dropped on nearly every web page, and the form submission features make for easy contact forms that can be perused within the Google Apps interface. It works fantastically for an individual’s own solutions, but what about a business?

Developing and maintaining a customized document suite can cost lots of time and money. Server space, thousands of lines of code, and an internet specialist are all absolutely necessary to even get a standardized document embedding system up and running.

Instead, there are many online services that cater to document suite services that can be tailored to business needs. These tools, optimized for businesses and catering to mass quantities, are the answer to a pumped-up small business documents suite. They offer embedding and form building with many extras that tailor the suite itself to all business needs.

Whether the goal is to share documents, embed printables onto a page, or provide an easily customizable web form for all user submissions, these options can be mixed and matched to make the right document management arsenal for your business. Best of all? None of them cost a dime to try out.

Sites to Share and Embed Documents

Inc. Tools & DocStoc 

Unlike others on this list, DocStoc is 100 percent focused on document sharing and embedding for small businesses. You may know the service already as the power behind our Inc. Tools section, which has documents dealing with many aspects of small business life. Contracts for bulk sales, templates for business descriptions, and even budget calculators are available for download straight from the Inc. Tools page on the website. “Our goal is to make every small business better,” says DocStoc CEO Jason Nazar, “and we have both the widest breadth and highest quality of documents to make that happen.”

The selection of documents is even more broad on the service’s website, which invites small business owners to upload their own documents and share right away. Each upload, which can be from a variety of filetypes, is easily embeddable with a customized set of colors and logos onto a company website or shared through social media outlets like Twitter. While signing up to use and upload DocStoc is free, there is also a premium plan that starts at $9.95 per month. Content is also available for individual purchase in the company’s “DocStore,” which is ideal if a user is only interested in a particular document to suit their needs.

But accessing and sharing documents is only one piece of the DocStoc suite. Users also have the opportunity to monetize their documents on the website. DocStoc’s partnership with Google AdSense means that the document is able to make money every time a reader also clicks on an adjacent ad. “You can also upload documents specifically to sell DocStoc,” adds Nazar, “We build the whole e-commerce platform for you.”  

Scribd

Already utilized by multiple industries, from publishing houses to branches of the UN, Scribd uploads more than 15 filetypes and translates them into organized, readable online publications. All public documents available on Scribd are organized into categories for easy browsing, and contain peer-written resources on contracts, law cases, and how-to guides. Microsoft has also uploaded templates onto Scribd for easy download and application to their office suite.

Free and open to all,  users can decide whether documents can be public or private. Documents can also be shared via Facebook, and monitored for in-depth statistics.  Scribd is also able to work well with cutting-edge website formats for greater readability on a website. “Scribd is able to convert documents into HTML5 so they can be read easily on the web,” says CEO and co-founder Trip Adler.

Now, Scribd is able to come to the mobile devices with their new service, “Float.” Float is a digital reading service that takes Scribd’s entire existing publication database and converts them to a stripped-down text format to be uploaded onto a mobile device, beginning with iPhone and branching out to the iPad and Android phones later this year. Float also opens up the opportunity for monetization of documents, as businesses both have the option to provide ads to certain publications and gain ad revenue for their own publications.

Slideshare 

 Once known as the “Youtube for Powerpoints,” Slideshare is not only able to upload presentations and other documents into an easily embeddable and navigable form, but can also accept most video formats. Filled with a rich selection of documents and presentations, the service keeps many small business documents available for reference. “12.5 percent of people who use our site are small business owners,” says Ross Mayfield, SlideShare’s vice president of business development, “That’s more business owners coming to us than to LinkedIn.”

With SlidesharePRO, starting at $19 per month, there is an included teleconferencing and communication service called “Zipcast” that also has seamless integration with Facebook and Twitter. Pro users are also able to gather information from the kinds of people who are reading their documents or presentations, allowing for targeted marketing research with extensive user feedback. “There are a lot of ways that you can manage and work with documents on the web,” Mayfield said, “If you want to use that content to engage others, we have a four-year track-record of being the best solution for that.”

Companies like HubSpot and Dell have used SlidesharePRO to announce mergers, train leaders, and engage their user base.

Dig Deeper: Online Meetings Serve Clients 


Services for Web Forms

Wufoo 

The force currently powering forms at Twitter and Y Combinator, Wufoo offers in-browser DIY form-building with customizable colors and logo options. The Wufoo interface allows building of all different kinds of forms, and users can also browse through dozens of different pre-made templates. Everything is easily navigable and very straightforward. “It’s basically a web-based version of Microsoft Access, but it looks like it was designed by Fisher Price,” says Wufoo co-founder Kevin Hale. For the more programming-inclined, Wufoo also accomidates for full CSS and HTML markups for complete integration with brand schemes.

Wufoo is embeddable into any webpage, and all responses can be monitored from Wufoo’s reports system, which compiles analytics in easy-to-read charts and graphs. Spammed results are also curbed with a “smart captcha” service, which automatically activates a captcha once suspected abuse occurs.

Wufoo also maintains a premium service, starting at $14.95 per month for 10 forms. Each tier of Wufoo’s premium service offers more forms than the one before, and mid-level plans include the benefit of e-commerce capabilities and unlimited user reports. Another premium feature is data storage, allowing for files to be attached to forms and stored on Wufoo’s servers. “We scale up very quickly,” Hale said, “All you have to do is upgrade and Wufoo will take care of everything for you.”

FormSite 

 This service uses a drag-and-drop method of over 40 data fields to produce forms that can be embeddable in an existing website, hosted on FormSite, or sent to a specially-developed domain name powered by the company’s servers. In addition to hundreds of pre-made forms available for use, there is a host of customization options including a color selector and additional options to add automatic highlighting and shading. “We’d like to think our end product gives the most flexibility and usability,” says CEO Randy Vroman.

Unlike its competitiors, one option available in the free version of FormSite is a complimentary offering of file storage. Typically a feature saved only for premium customers, free users can add attachments to their forms for download by users.

Providing forms for many companies including Live Nation and General Mills, FormSite also compiles data from submissions into forms that can be downloaded into a local spreadsheet, with data kept private to only the user. Pro plans start at $9.95 per month for five forms, and include integration with third-party companies like GoogleApps and MailChimp as well as an option to use captchas and an RSS feed of results. 

Another benefit to FormSite is its extensive time in the industry. “We’ve been doing this since 1998,” says Vroman, “We’ve grown to have extensive features and a mature team that can provide excellent support.”

Icebrrg 

For those who are looking for a more comprehensive suite, Icebrrg is more than a stand-alone form service. Its functions fulfill the standard as a DIY builder, through clickable item options, to produce an embeddable HTML form that can also be hosted on the Icebrrg website. There are no templates or customization options, although the form does blend in with any design elements already present in a website after it becomes embedded. By itself, it’s a fairly generic form site.

But, what super-powers Icebrrg is its seamless cooperation with sister programs from web solutions team Element Fusion. “Most of our customers use Icebrrg through our other products because it is much more robust in that way,” says Element Fusion marketing director Tim Wall. Icebrrg is a its most powerful when interacting with web design services LightCMS and Radium3. Icebrrg is included in the cost of both of those websites, and is already seamlessly integrated into their dashboards.

Through LightCMS, users are able to incorporate Icebrrg to create an entire e-commerce store, and code themselves or utilize one of the thousands of already-available design templates to add pizzazz.  Radium3 is a premium, comprehensive package that includes a customized design package along with all of LightCMS’s features.

Icebrrg alone starts at $9 per month, but can be used for free (along with other features) through LightCMS’s free trial of 3 pages. The pay scale advances with data, from LightCMS’s $19 per month 10-page plan all the way up to Radium3’s $149 per month unlimited program. 

Form Assembly

The form solution for clients like Yahoo and BP, FormAssembly is a flexible option for versatile forms. The interface is a more free-form version of building than drag-and-drop methods, but has some templates available for use. With full color and image customizability, FormAssembly prides itself on being transparent and focused on security. ”If people try to code forms themselves, they might expose themselves to hackers," founder and CEO Cedric Savarese says. “FormAssembly is a safe and reliable service.”

FormAssembly has premium features comparable to other services, including e-commerce integration and a partnership with Google Apps. It also has language flexibility, meaning that forms can change languages depending on the home server to ensure they are always understood. However, this service stands apart from the pack for two reasons: unlimited forms and pay-as-you-go.

Unlike any of the other services, FormAssembly offers the free plan the ability to create an unlimited number of forms. This feature is normally only available on the priciest of options on tiered plans, but FormAssembly is happy to give non-paying customers the option of creating as many forms as they want. “We don’t have arbitrary limitations on your account, so you’re not going to be penalized if you’re a heavy user,” Savarese adds.

FormAssembly is also the only service to allow the “Pay As You Go” option, which allows users to pre-pay for reported responses to their forms. As low as 5 cents per form, this option is available for those who use a form for a finite number of people, but want the convenience of downloading information into an excel or access spreadsheet. Users can simply prepay in advance how many results they would like, and recharge the account if any more responses need to be gathered.

For those seeking the traditional option, FormAssembly has two tiered plans: Basic for $14 per month, and Pro for $39/month. These plans accommodate e-commerce options, for those looking to use their form as an online checkout.

Dig Deeper: 7 Tips for Effective E-Commerce

Last updated: Jul 22, 2011




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