Form Design Best Practices
The key to getting great results with Remark Office OMR begins with a well-designed form. Although Remark Office OMR allows enormous flexibility in form design, adequate layout is crucial to recognizing data from scanned forms. By following a few simple guidelines you can expect great results:
- Although Remark Office OMR works with almost any complete shape (i.e., circle, square, triangle), experience indicates that bubbles between 10 and 14 points in height work the best. We recommend a capital “O” in the Arial font (do not use the Times New Roman font to create bubbles). Non-oval shapes are somewhat harder to fill completely. Respondents will typically fill bubbles more completely and neatly, which leads to better recognition rates. If you do need to use checkboxes for your application, we suggest our OMR Square font in a 10 point size. Generally, give young people more room both in the size of the marks and in the spacing between the marks since they typically lack the coordination of adults. Experiment with your target group where practical.
- It is possible to place numbers or letters inside of marks; however, the number/letter must be as small and light as possible. Dark, thick or bolded characters may cause Remark Office OMR to interpret the mark as being filled. Gravic, Inc. – Remark Products Group has created an encircled letter/number font that you can download and use free of charge. Do not use bold or italics formatting for the bubbles.
OCR and ICR
- If you plan to use our OCR (Optical Character Recognition) feature to read preprinted text on a form, use a larger font size, such as 14 or above. When selecting a font, use a common font such as Arial or Times New Roman and stay away from handwriting style fonts, which are harder to interpret. If you notice letters that due to their shape almost touch each other, use your word processer’s character spacing feature (sometimes called kerning) to put more space between the letters. When it comes time to scan forms that use OCR, use a scanner resolution of 300 DPI (dots per inch).
- Remark Office OMR allows you to use your Microsoft Azure Computer Vision account within the Remark software to perform ICR (Intelligent Character Recognition). ICR allows you to automatically read handwriting on the form, such as comments and short answer questions. It is very important to note that Remark does not have its own ICR component. It allows you to use your Microsoft Azure Computer Vision account within Remark to capture handwriting on your forms. Thus, the quality of the recognition is solely reliant on the Microsoft ICR engine. If you have any issues recognizing handwriting, please consult Microsoft. Microsoft’s ICR tends to work better with unconstrained handwriting. When designing a form, it is important to have some amount of white space around the area where respondents will write. For example, leave some space between the question text and the handwriting area. Using boxes or lines to guide respondents where to write can also interfere with recognition of the handwriting. If the boxes or lines are light enough to drop out (disappear) during scanning, the results may be better (note that photocopying forms with light boxes or lines will likely cause them to become darker and not drop out).The instructions for obtaining a Microsoft Azure account with Computer Vision for ICR can change so we have posted them here.
- Allow at least 3/8 inch between any text, lines or graphics on the form and any bubble areas, OCR text or barcodes.
- Minimize potential errors by separating your bubbles from one another by at least two character spaces.
- Try to stay away from using lines or boxes around or between the bubbles on the form. If you find it necessary to use lines or boxes, consider making the lines a light gray that will drop out (completely disappear) during the scanning process. Note that you cannot photocopy forms that use gray lines as the gray will become too dark. Use clean printouts for forms utilizing gray lines.
- Place similar types of questions together. For example, place all True/False questions in one area of the form and all multiple choice questions in another. Positioning all of the marks for the same question type in a single field area minimizes your efforts in the OMR Region Definition windows. All marks for a single field must align horizontally and vertically.
- When possible, place the labels for a group of questions on the top of each column or at the beginning of each row; this will allow you to select the entire group of questions within one region. If the labels are between marks, then you may have to select questions individually and/or join marks together to form logical questions.
- Remark Office OMR works best with bubbles printed in black ink without shading; however, shading can be used successfully as long as the shading completely drops out when scanned (a 5-10% gray typically works well). Test your form with your scanner before printing large quantities. Note that you cannot photocopy forms that use shading as the shading will become too dark. Use clean printouts for forms utilizing shading.
- You can use barcodes on your forms in one of several 1D and 2D supported formats. They can be placed horizontally or vertically on the form.
- Barcodes should be at least 26 points in height.
- A free barcode font, Code 3 of 9, installs with the software and can also be downloaded here.
- Similar to OMR bubbles, leave at least 3/8 inch of space around your barcode. Remember that barcodes may vary in length depending on what you are capturing. Leave room for the largest expected barcode both on the form and when you create your region definition in your form template.
Common Form Elements
- We have created some common form elements for you to download and use in your forms. These include: Numeric ID bubble-fields (3, 4, 5, and 6 digits), bubble-in name grid, month-to-minute timecard and several images showing how to properly fill in bubbles.
- Explore the common form elements.
- We have created a variety of sample forms to be used with Remark Office OMR. The files include Word and PDF versions of the forms, an OMR template file, and some filled-in image files for demo purposes. You can use any of these Word documents as a starting point for your form and modify them as necessary. You can also modify the template files as needed. Remember to always test your form and template prior to distribution. You can also take advantage of our free form review service.
- Explore the sample forms and files.
- Remark Office OMR works best with plain white paper and black ink. Utilizing standard 20# copier paper works well for single sided forms and 24-28# paper works well for double sided forms. You can use colored paper (pastel colors tend to work well), as long as the coloring completely drops out when scanned. Test your paper selection with your form and scanner before printing large quantities of your forms.
- Remark Office OMR will support any paper size or thickness supported by your scanner. Consult your scanner’s User’s Guide for further information.
- You can print forms on a laser printer or multi-function device. Use the same device for all of the forms.
- You can photocopy forms. The accuracy of page placement into the photocopier when copying forms and into the scanner when reading forms are the limiting factors as to how large your margins must be in order to minimize errors. Forms with inadequate spacing will have a low tolerance for offset/skew. Test your form before printing large quantities.
- Try to photocopy as many forms as you need up front so that you do not end up photocopying a photocopy down the road. This can lead to misalignment with the form that was used to create the template in the software.
- Keep extra blank forms on hand from your original batch. This way if you run out, you will always have a few extras.
- Note: If making photocopies, create your template on the photocopied version rather than the original.
- Always test any forms you plan to use with Remark Office OMR before printing and distributing them. Fill out several copies just like your respondents will… not perfectly! Then scan them to ensure you have a good form design and have set up your form template correctly.