[Update Nov. 15, 2015 - Adapx, Inc. has ceased operations] I loved the idea of a pen that could magically send my data to Excel, but it didn't work out as well as I'd hoped. 😉 Anyway, here's my review of Capturx Forms for Excel, made by Adapx, Inc.
For the past couple of years, I've worked with a client that has factories around the world. As part of their safety program, employees fill in printed checklists, then send them to the Safety Officer, who enters the data in Excel. As you can imagine, this takes time, and is prone to data entry errors.
An Enticing Offer
Recently, I was asked if I'd like to test a digital pen and Capturx Forms for Excel. With it, I could create and print blank forms in Excel, then use the pen to fill them in. Later, that data could be imported into Excel, with one click of a button.
That sounded good, so I accepted the offer, and the pen and software arrived a few days later. If the product worked well, my client could test it in their plants, and possibly save some time and headaches.
Well, it took a while, but I'm finally done testing. I loved some of the features, but there were frustrations and disappointments along the way.
Stalling on the Installation
Installation was the first obstacle to overcome. Several components had to be installed before the Capturx program, and it took several tries before everything finally worked. I won't bore you with all the details, but I seriously considered putting everything back into the box and returning it.
I'm not sure if there was a problem with my hardware, or conflicting software, or something else. The documentation didn't provide any tips for installation problems, nor did the company website. There's product information online, but no search feature that I could find.
It's Not You, It's Your Printer
Thrilled at finally getting the program to work, I created a simple form, and was ready to test the digital pen. Oops! You need to print the forms on one of the compatible printers. I have a black and white laser printer, not one of the colour postscript laser printer on the list.
When I told the company rep about the problem, she sent some sample forms by courier. I was able to keep testing, without buying a new printer. Whew! Here's one of the sample forms that I used for the test.
Also, while reading the printer information, I noticed that the dot pattern that's printed on the forms "gets used up as you print." When the dot pattern is gone, you need to purchase more from the Adapx website. So, if you use this solution, you'll have some ongoing costs.
The Good News
Once I was up and running, my mood definitely improved. I filled in a couple of forms with the digital pen, then docked the pen in its base. In Excel 2007, a Capturx tab appeared on the Ribbon, and with a single click, I imported the forms' data.
I could compare the imported data to the original writing, and easily make changes where necessary.
From the Master Template sheet, I could create a summary of all the imported forms.
The summary cells are linked to the original sheets, so they'll update if you change the forms' data. However, new sheets aren't added automatically. You have to delete the summary sheet, and create a new one.
A Few More Problems
I hit a few more snags while working with the Capturx Forms for Excel add-in. For example, it was painfully slow to move through the workbook. When I clicked on a different sheet tab, it took several seconds for the sheet to activate.
Excel has crashed a few times while using it, especially when trying the Sort Worksheets feature. When I deleted the Summary sheet, the sort feature worked, but it took more than 10 minutes to complete.
The sample workbook has 95 completed forms in it, which seems like a reasonable number. In a real life situation, you'd probably have many more forms than that. Maybe the features work well in a smaller workbook, but that somewhat defeats the purpose of digital input.
The Final Word on Capturx Forms for Excel
I had high hopes for the digital pen and Capturx Forms for Excel, and some of those dreams came true. The pen worked like a charm, and even with my bad handwriting, there was a good recognition rate for the imported data.
For me, the main drawback is the slow performance. If you're collecting lots of data, how could you manage it with this software? Maybe you could use Excel to import the data, then export it to Access, or another database.
Also, the Help could be better, with a search function on the website. For example, I couldn't figure out how to create a Summary sheet, and nothing in the notes or built-in help provided any clues. After several experiments, I finally got it working. The company is currently offering online training sessions, so that might help with some of the confusing features.
There's potential for a great product, but Capturx Forms for Excel needs some improvement before I can recommend it to my clients.
If you'd like to see the digital pen and Capturx Forms for Excel in action (I cut out the inaction bits), you can watch this short video.