Can you upload files to Microsoft Forms from people outside the organization?

The simple and frustrating answer is ‘no’. The feedback section for Microsoft Forms includes over 900 users upvoting a customer request to add this feature.

Feedback on Microsoft Forms about inability to upload files from external people
Feedback on Microsoft Forms about inability to upload files from external people

Customers have been requesting the ability to allow uploads from external users since 2017. They want to collect text and video files from students, information from suppliers, files from volunteers, and content from clients. There are so many potential use cases.

However, there’s no sign at the moment of this feature being added to Microsoft Form’s development pipeline.

So what should you do? Here are 3 options:

Read our article about Building a file upload form for Microsoft One Drive that allows external and anonymous users.

Use a competing form builder that allows external file uploads

Microsoft Forms is a simple lightweight app that lets you easily create surveys, quizzes, and polls. It allows you to create attractive forms that will store your entries in excel spreadsheets, which can be sent to other Microsoft products like OneDrive and SharePoint.

Although competitors won’t connect so well with other Microsoft products, they do have the advantage of actually allowing uploads from external users. They also have a similar focus: allowing you to easily create forms, surveys and polls.

Competing products include SurveyMonkeyTypeform, and GoogleForms.

SurveyMonkey is a powerful form builder with an extensive feature set. It offers everything from a very basic free plan to enterprise options with a wide-ranging feature set. To allow file uploads you need to pay a minimum of £32 a month for a personal plan or £25/user/month for a business plan. You can’t white label your surveys unless you pay £75/user/month.

Typeform is a versatile form builder that allows you to create engaging forms with pictures and videos as well as text. Its logic jumps also mean you can easily customise surveys. For 29 USD/month you can allow external uploads of files that are less than 10 MB, with a 1GB storage limit. To get a 4GB storage limit you’ll need to pay 99 USD – but the 10MB limit per file remains.

Example of Typeform survey
Typeform try and make their surveys look inviting

 

GoogleForms has a file upload option that lets you collect data in Google Sheets. It is free with your Google account, so is cost-effective. However, there are a few major issues: only people already logged into their Google accounts can upload content. So you can’t get external files from everyone. You also can’t embed Google Forms with upload functionality on your website.

Pros and Cons of competing form builders with upload functionality

The main advantage of choosing a competing form builder is that you can get people to upload files. In the case of SurveyMonkey and Typeform you can allow anyone to upload files: GoogleForms is restricted to Google users only. You also still get access to specialist form builder software, to create whatever forms you need.

The main disadvantages are that form builders focus on building forms. Being able to upload files is an ‘add on’ and usually feels like it. You’ll come across a number of problems, including:

  • Limits on file size and storage (10 MB limit for TypeForm, for example)
  • Limits on uploading files rather than folders (SurveyMonkey, Typeform and GoogleForms permits files only)
  • Restrictions on whether you can embed a form in your website (no, with GoogleForms)
  • Problems identifying uploaded files (with GoogleForms, the names of files must be different from one another or else they will override existing files with the same name)
  • Awkward processing of uploaded files (with SurveyMonkey, files aren’t included when you export your survey data)
  • No native integration with Microsoft cloud storage products like SharePoint and OneDrive
Example of SurveyMonkey limitations in terms of uploading files
This is just one example of the limitations of using SurveyMonkey for collecting files

 

If your priority is building forms, and you just need a few files uploaded, then competing form builders are a good choice. However, if collecting files from external users is a significant aspect of what you want to do, then you’ll be best looking at upload pages/portals as well. This way you can streamline both content gathering and content organisation, saving yourself a considerable amount of time and hassle.

Use a file upload page/portal

This option offers an efficient and secure way to gather content and files from both internal and external users. You simply create an upload page (or upload pages), which is basically the same as creating a form. Most upload software should offer a range of form fields including text, phone, email, URL, checkbox, dropdown, date, etc. Then you include a drop zone, or drop zones if you want to collect multiple files or folders.

File upload page software includes File Request ProFileInvite and Content Snare.

Example of File Request Pro form with file dropzone
File upload pages (like this one from File Request Pro) can be used to collect data and files

File Request Pro is an easy-to-use file upload page builder suitable for all types of businesses, colleges and non-profits. It has generous limits in terms of file size, type and and bandwidth (any file or folder; 5 GB file limit; 1000 GB/month bandwidth for the $49 a month plan). Upload pages can be branded and embedded on your website, and you can enable automated reminders. Perhaps most importantly for Microsoft users, File Request Pro connects natively with OneDrive and SharePoint. So uploaded files are automatically sent to a folder or subfolder of your choice, under your client’s name. You can create as many file upload pages as you need.

FileInvite is similar file collection software, with a few extra features. You can get e-signatures on contracts and they provide pre-built templates to save set up time. Their focus is on creating a standalone dashboard where you can view content, rather than quickly sending content to your data collection apps. Cloud storage synching is available, but on pricier plans. Pricing is on request though, so it’s hard to know exactly what you get for your money.

Content Snare is another useful file upload page builder, popular with content marketers and website designers. They also offer pre-built templates, as well as automatic reminders. In fact, you need to edit an existing template rather than create your own customised template. The $69/month plan gets you 100GB storage. Their focus is on creating a dashboard where you can view all content, including a Kanban-style board where you can see your workflows. The only way to connect Content Snare to your favourite apps is to use Zapier.

Example of File Request Pro form with file dropzone
Some file upload pages (like ContentSnare) focus on providing you with a dashboard rather than integrations

Pros and Cons of file upload pages

File upload page software specialises in helping you get files and data from clients. So you should find it much easier to gather and organise these files than with form builders. Most of this type of products have useful features such as automatic reminders, approval/reject processes and more generous file/folder and bandwidth limits.

Some options(like File Request Pro) also make it easy for you embed an upload form on your website on your own subdomain, as well as to natively integrate with OneDrive and SharePoint.

File Request Pro native integrations interface
A native integration with your other Microsoft products could make your life easier

 

The main disadvantages of file upload page software as a replacement for form builders, is that you have less flexibility in terms of how you create your forms. For example, you usually don’t have:

  • Form logic
  • Dynamic interfaces for users
  • Free plans

If your main focus is on cheaply getting as many responses to a survey as possible, then file upload pages/portals aren’t your best choice. However, if you are a business or non-profit that wants a secure and efficient way to gather and organise content, then give this type of product a try. Most have free trials.

Use document management software (DMS)

There is an overlap between file upload page software and document management software. Most file upload pages do a lot more than ‘just’ let you create an upload page. Most are really web portals, although this implies the need for a sign-up process for clients, which is usually not the case.

Document management software generally though have a much larger feature-set, and are aimed at bigger companies who need to collect, organise, collaborate and find a substantial amount of documents. Examples include Templafy and DocuWare.

If you’re looking for a way to upload files to Microsoft Forms you’re probably not going to want DMS. It would be like hiring a cruise ship when a sailing boat is all you need!

Uploading files from people outside your organisation when you use Microsoft

If you’re already a Microsoft user, then it’s annoying to have to choose a Microsoft Forms competitor just to get files from your clients, suppliers and volunteers. This is understandable.

However, if you choose file uploader software like File Request Pro, at least it natively connects to Microsoft products like OneDrive and SharePoint. So you can gather the content you need within your existing Microsoft setup.

Sound promising? See File Request Pro pricing or try the 14 day free trial.