Mobile phones are incredible machines.  Nowadays, that supercomputer in your pocket can do almost anything…they have replaced maps, CDs, video game consoles…even paper forms 🙂

However, there are times when paper is just simpler and easier.  Here we explore the pros and cons of both.

 Mobile forms


  • Store an unlimited # of form templates
  • Attach photos to a form
  • Connect submitted forms to other software
  • Capture geolocation
  • Control data entry via valid value ranges
  • Force a user to enter a value for specific fields
  • Single data entry
  • Automated calculations


  • Needs a smartphone device
  • Battery can run out, leaving you dead in the water
  • Hard to read the screen in bright sunlight
  • Hard to type in cold weather when wearing gloves
  • Sometimes bugs happen
  • Learning curve to figure out how to use it
  • Can be expensive

 Paper forms


  • Everyone knows how to use paper and pen
  • It’s simple
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to use in most weather (cold or hot)


  • Illegible handwriting hard to read
  • No validation controls or required fields
  • Cannot use in the rain
  • More labor to transcribe from paper to digital
  • No ability to connect the data to other software tools
  • No automated calculations

When are paper forms more appropriate?

In general, I believe that the future is digital, and that includes digital mobile forms.  However, there are still use cases where paper forms are more appropriate than digital forms.  These include:


  • Projects where deploying mobile phones to a large set of people that don’t already have mobile phones is cost prohibitive
  • Highly sensitive/security clearance projects that prohibit the use of mobile devices
  • Projects in extreme cold weather which hinders the operation of mobile devices
  • Projects where the user is suited up in an encapsulated suit with gloves that prevent the ability to tap and use a mobile device’s display
  • Projects with highly complicated, long forms that are difficult to replicate on a mobile device

Fortunately, the XForms mobile app can also operate over any modern web browser on a laptop or desktop computer (PC or Mac).  This means that you can use paper forms for your particular project, hand the completed paper forms to someone else, and have them (or yourself) enter the information into XForms via the mobile app running on a web browser.

It’s like having the best of both…you can run XForms directly on a mobile device, or use paper and then transfer that info into XForms on a laptop or desktop computer.  Not all mobile software platforms can do this.

Want to learn more about XForms, and how it can replace your paper forms?

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