I need to capture information from client employees by having them filling out a form. For now the best way to do that is by EXCEL sheet, since the table format best supports the information to capture (like tasks and related duration).

Is there a way to provide a template over the internet (e.g. on a server) like Google Docs that I could host myself and that supports multiple templates for different logins (so that each employee gets a blank form)? In addition, an easy csv export would be nice. Mac compatibility required.

The software is planned to be a replacement for the workflow with the EXCEL sheet. The workflow will look like this:

  • Upload form to server or edit form on server.
  • Employee gets login information via email.
  • Employee accesses form by logging in through a browser. There should be no limitations regarding operating systems for this step.
  • Employee adds / edits information in the form.
  • Previous 2 steps will be repeated as often as necessary.
  • Data will be downloaded from the server, ideally as csv file. For this step OS X compatibility is required, if there are limitations for this step.

After that the data will be processed by other software. The goal with the process above is to replace sending email with spreadsheets to clients and waiting for response with a web based data collection solution. Let me summarize the features I am looking for:

  1. MUST: Accessibility via the web from the browser (no OS limitations).
  2. MUST: Editable spreadsheet-like data collection GUI that allows using templates (Google Docs is a nice example for that, however, my clients would not like to have their data stored on Google servers).
  3. MUST: Ability to create different templates for each user.
  4. MUST: Ability to create different logins (so each employee gets his/her own login).
  5. MUST: Ability to download data. IDEALLY: In one file for a given selection of forms. Limited to OS X.
  6. SHOULD be: Data should be stored on the server until download, ideally grouped by projects.
  7. NICE to have: Editable layout to include logotype etc.

I was also thinking about online survey software. However, the problem with these is that they do not allow the spreadsheet design I am looking for.

  • 2
    Given your comments, your ideal solution seems more like a programming solution than a pure software solution. An html form on a webpage dumping to a database would seem to be more flexible and efficient than trying to force fit off the shelf software into your requirements Feb 28, 2014 at 23:15
  • @psubsee2003: Yes, after some time and testing several solutions it very much looks like programming it the way to go - and will offer the most flexibility.
    – fr3d-5
    Nov 21, 2014 at 10:42

2 Answers 2


I think your mentioning of a spreadsheet is a red herring. Any data can be represented and edited as a bunch of tables, but they are almost always the wrong format; and in this case IMO limiting your solutions to tabular entry seems like it is going to be a crutch.

I believe what you actually want is a form builder and data collection app, perhaps like:

  1. OpenDataKit - Free, open source, extensible, self-hosted. Can create build forms using a drag and drop online builder or from an excel template or as XForm, collect data from online form or from mobile, and export and aggregate the data to various formats.
  2. FormTools - Open source, self-hosted. The free version requires knowledge of PHP; there is a paid Form Builder module for drag and drop form building.

like tasks and related duration

If all that you want to capture is task management; then you probably want to get a project management or time tracking app rather than a generic form builders. Some time tracking applications:

  1. Harvest
  2. Basecamp

While some of these time tracking apps usually have some limited data export functionality; you might find that since they're more of an integrated solution, you wouldn't need to import and export data between separate applications (e.g. billing, project management, etc) since you can do everything inside the apps.

  • Thanks. Well, the problem I am facing with forms is that they do not support naturally adding the same information like spreadsheets do. The problem is not about time tracking during the task itself but about collecting information form a number of employees at once without having to send spreadsheets around. I know I am using "spreadsheet" a lot. This is due to the fact that spreadsheets offer the best way to add information here and there by the user without navigating through a complex online form.
    – fr3d-5
    Mar 5, 2014 at 16:04
  • @user2035177: if what you want to do is "collecting information from a number of employees", that's what forms are for. Forms can contain tabular data entry as well. I will just say that spreadsheet is never the best way to collect information; it just appears so because that's what you're probably most familiar with.
    – Lie Ryan
    Mar 5, 2014 at 18:40
  • Ok, I understand. I'll take a deeper look in the forms solutions you proposed.
    – fr3d-5
    Mar 5, 2014 at 23:07

It is a little difficult to exactly get your needs, but maybe Google docs provides what you want?

You can make a pretty elaborate form in this. You can then sent employees or clients the link to the form and they will be able to provide answers, which will be collected in a spreadsheet.

This spreadsheet has a separate access rights and you can edit is as you wish

The spreadsheet can be exported into a multiple of formats, including OpenDocument (Libreoffice, Openoffice.org among others), OOXML (Microsoft Office) and CSV.

  • 2
    Yes, in general Google Docs is what I need. However, it is not useful in this situation since most of my clients are quite unhappy with having their data stored on Google servers. In short, I am looking for a Google Docs solution that I can use on my own server.
    – fr3d-5
    Feb 28, 2014 at 21:57

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