Survey Systems Blog

Magenta® for OMR Form Design

Posted by Jackie Jones on Apr 10, 2014 11:42:00 AM

Image Scan vs. OMR Scan Technology

In the past, I have touted the value of the Concord® software by Data Blocks as a cost effective and easy-to-use tool for creating and scanning surveys or questionnaires. It is a great tool for creating image scan documents. However, image scanning may not always meet the needs of your data collection project. Image scanning is cost effective for smaller projects where limited amounts of data are required. The design requirements for image scanning (such as 1/4” between bubbles and 3/8” between any bubble and text) limits the number of questions that can fit onto a page.  

If the survey or questionnaire has a lot of questions or information fields, OMR (Optical Mark Recognition) scanning is a more desirable format to use. OMR format allows for more content (questions) on a single sheet, reducing the printing costs and increasing the speed of data capture. OMR scanning uses timing marks along the side of the form to identify the position of response bubbles. 

Magenta software, Scantron form design


The form design must be very precise because if a timing mark and a response bubble don’t align properly, the response will not be recorded. This is why form design is so critical in the OMR process. Great news:

Magenta Software, Scantron form design software

Magenta® for OMR Form Creation

Data Blocks has a great tool for creating the OMR scannable forms: Magenta. In Magenta, the EZ Form Design Wizard adds the timing marks, links the required fields, and adds the response bubbles for you. It is very intuitive software—takes the work out of forms design, because it does the work for you! Magenta knows all of the rules and standards, and applies them as you create your form. Questions can be either entered directly into the Wizard, or cut and pasted from other word processing programs (uses real Windows” commands). Editing is just as easy, for example, if you find that questions have not been entered in the order desired, simply click and drag the questions to the appropriate place—that easy! Or, using the control button and the arrows, items can be moved a pixel at a time to the desired position. Magenta even automatically numbers the questions for you! It’s so easy. Within a very short time, you can have a very professional looking OMR form ready for printing. These forms can then be printed on a laser printer. Using the Magenta software, your survey/questionnaire can be ready to distribute within a day, rather than weeks.

 This tutorial video shows how EZ it is!

The Magenta software is integrated with Remark® Classic OMR scanning/reporting/scoring software. After the form design is completed and saved, a scanning template can be generated in Magenta for the Remark Classic. If you have not done so, verify that the output order is in the order that you want. You are now ready to scan the completed surveys or questionnaires and collect your data. The Remark software offers a number of report formats to present your data; and the ability to import the data to various other programs (Excel, Access, SPSS, etc.) to create your own reports. The Magenta Suite (which includes the Remark Office OMR software) is a very user-friendly tool for your data collection project.

Organizations looking to design and/or print their data collection forms in house should consider the Magenta Suite. Click the button below to download a free demonstration copy of Magenta. You will be amazed at how easy it is to create your own scannable forms!


Download Magenta Demo



Topics: scantron form, survey form, omr scanner, form design software

Scannable Forms Design Easy with Concord®

Posted by Jackie Jones on Mar 20, 2013 4:47:00 PM


DATA BLOCKS offers a great software package that works hand in hand with Remark Office OMR® called Concord (or the Concord Suite). This software allows the user to easily create/design test and survey forms that are “plain paper” and scannable on image scanners. The Concord Suite has potential of substantial cost savings for anyone wanting to engage in data collection and analysis.

Cost Savings:

Scantron forms are “read” by optical mark recognition scanners (OMR), using specially designed machine-readable data capture software. OMR scanners are specially designed to detect and record which bubbles are marked on the bubble answer sheet. The OMR scanner has that single use, to only scan the specially designed and printed scannable forms. Although OMR scanning is very accurate, the forms design requires a trained forms or graphic designer, or special forms designer software like Magenta. If the timing marks and bubbles on the forms are not precise, the data cannot be “read” or detected. The scantron forms must be carefully designed and printed. These additional form requirements add extra time and costs to make sure the forms are printed properly. Copied OMR forms cannot be “read”, often time, the timing marks and answers are not detected at all.   Concord image scanner

Image scanners, on the other hand, are quite common—most of us have scanners (page, document, or flat bed scanners with an Automatic Document Feeder or ADF)—so no special purchase of dedicated equipment is required. The “plain paper” scantron forms can be scanned on most image scanners. Form design with the Concord product is relatively easy and can be completed “in house” by anyone with a little PC or word processing knowledge. Forms can be printed on your laser printer, or copied on your copier. This allows changes to be made quickly and as needed, and additional forms copied as required.

Once the forms are scanned (by either method), the data is collected and manipulated by the Remark® scanning, reporting and exporting data collection software. 

  scannable form designed using Concord software

Form Design:

As indicated above, the design of the OMR scannable form is precise and critical. There are rules for the image scannable forms design as well, but the Concord software makes it easy.

The Concord software EZ form wizard “knows” all of the rules and nuances for image scannable form design and incorporates them automatically into your form. To name a few:

  • Concord used special bubble fonts designed to meet the design requirements of Remark Office OMR and to make sure you have access to lots of different special characters in the bubbles that do not exist in regular fonts.

  • Allows 3 sizes (small, normal, large) of Circles, Ovals and Squares as bubbles.

  • Allows at least 3/8 inch between any text, lines or boxes and the bubbles.

  • Allows at least 1/4 inch between bubbles.

  • Makes shading, boxes and lines near bubbles very light.

  • Groups similar types of questions (true and false together, multiple choice together, etc.)

  • Uses special Barcode fonts with at least 3/8 inch whitespace around them. 

  • Allows at least 3/8 inch margin on all four sides of the form.


This tutorial video shows how EZ it is!


The EZ form wizard really simplifies the process. Simply answer a few questions in the wizard, and start entering your questions—or cut and paste the questions from other forms or a word processor (“real Windows" cut and paste). After leaving the wizard, using regular drawing tools, Concord also allows for graphics (logos), colors, and automatic numbering of questions. Concord has a Data Merge feature that allows for information to be taken from a file (variable data) and merged into the forms in the form of barcodes, bubble fields, (0-9 grids, A-Z grid, BCD or binary) or text data while the forms are being printed. Forms can also be serialized using this feature. Multi-language spell checker is even included. 

I downloaded the free software demo, and created a scannable form with true/false and Linkert questions in an afternoon. Quick and simple. I have no graphic design training, or any type of forms creation training what so ever. (We have experts here, I don't need to know how.) If I can do it, so can you!  


                                 Download a FREE  demo of Concord Software


Topics: scantron form, omr scanner, form design software

School Climate Survey - OMR Scanned Forms!

Posted by Gary Wilson on Jan 4, 2013 4:55:00 PM


School District Climate Survey – OMR Scanned Forms!

Many school districts place a very high degree of value on regularly obtaining input from their stakeholders such as parents, students and staff concerning their opinions and perceptions of a school climate. School climate generally refers to the social andSchool Climate Survey environmental factors that contribute to one’s objective experience of a school and attitudes toward a school. Positive school climate reflects well-managed classrooms, high and clearly stated expectations concerning individual responsibility, feeling safe at school, and teachers and staff that consistently acknowledge all students and fairly address their attitude and behavior. Input from the stakeholders is periodically and routinely collected by conducting surveys of these groups. These surveys cover topics of safety, communication, diversity, student learning and performance. 

Virginia School District

Once again and for the seventh consecutive year, Survey Systems has been awarded the contract to provide OMR custom scan forms to one of the largest school districts in the state of Virginia. This school district annually seeks input from parents, students and staff in order to measure how these stakeholders view the climate within the school district. It believes that a healthy school climate will definitely contribute to the achievement of all of its students. The climate surveys are designed to gather opinions from parents, students and staff concerning their perceptions of school climate. The 2013 climate surveys are to be administered to nearly 58,000 elementary to high school level students, 3,800 staff, and 47,000 parents. An online survey component will be implemented to survey 3,500 teacher and other instructional personnel.

Survey Systems’ participation with the school district in support of their annual division-wide survey project has evolved over the past few years. Initially, and using their input, we reformatted their surveys (different surveys for each of the stakeholder groups) into OMR customized scan forms which were then printed and packaged. Prior to packaging, each survey was individually personalized with the name of the school and a machine-readable school ID number; information consider critical to the success of the survey project that is captured during the scanning process of completed surveys and is used to accurately identify survey responses back to specific schools. In 2012, Survey Systems will print the 2013 surveys directly from scan form design files created by the school district and will personalize each survey prior to shipment with school identification information. Even though most of the completed surveys will be sent back to Survey Systems for processing, we have been contracted to develop the scanning templates that would enable the district to scan their own surveys if and when required.

School Climate Surveys

Survey Systems has worked with other school districts in support of their school climate survey projects. Our support activities in most cases mirror those provided to the Virginia school district but with some notable distinctions. Survey projects with large school districts in Massachusetts and Minnesota also included a direct mail component; survey documents were mailed directly to parents and completed surveys mailed directly back to either the school district or Survey Systems for processing. 

OMR scanned forms for conducting school climate surveys have proven in many districts to be a better alternative than attempting to collect this information via the Internet. It is easier and more effective with less schedule disruption and a faster turn around time to have all students complete an omr scannable climate survey on paper in a classroom environment.  The alternative would be scheduling time for all students to complete the survey in the school computer lab over some extended period of time.

Collecting climate survey data from parents using OMR customized scanned forms has been proven to be most effective as measured by response rates. Parents in most school district tend not to respond to a notification to log on to a specific URL in order to complete a survey. There is a higher probability that the parents will complete a survey if the documents is handed to them by either their child or when visiting the school for teacher conferences, PTA meetings, etc.

The school district in Virginia has continued to utilize our services to support the annual school climate survey project. Each year for the past seven years, Survey Systems has been awarded the contract to provide our services through a competitive bid situation. We have been able to streamline our processes, provide competitive prices for our services and meet their tight deadlines for providing and processing OMR scan forms for their school climate project. This experience, working with other school districts with different requirements, will enable us to provide the same types of services to support their climate or other types of survey projects with competitive prices, accurate data and shorter lead-times.



Topics: OMR scan form, custom scan form, scan form design, omr form design, omr scanner