As a WordPress user, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to quality form plugins. Just recently, we reviewed WPForms, a popular option that we’re a big fan of. But WPForms isn’t the only good option, and today we’re back to check out another stellar choice:
By the numbers, CaptainForm isn’t as popular as the big boys like Contact Form 7 and WPForms, but it has a huge benefit going for it:
In its free version, CaptainForm lets you do more than pretty much every other free form plugin.
Basically, it has a unique pricing structure that makes it especially attractive as a free form option for certain sites. And in general, it offers a lot of free functionality that you’d need to pay for with other form plugins, but with a different kind of limitation.
Keep reading our CaptainForm review for a hands-on look at everything you can do with this generous form plugin.
CaptainForm Review Overview: Why The Pricing Structure Is Unique
CaptainForm uses more SaaS-style billing than other WordPress plugins, which gives you a unique benefit (and trade-off).
Basically, on the free plan, you’re trading a limited number of form submissionseach month (500 maximum on the free plan) for a lot more functionality than most other free plugins.
For a lot of sites (i.e. sites who don’t need to process 500+ submissions per month), this tradeoff might be worth it – keep reading to find out if it is for you!
Beyond that pricing structure, here’s a quick high-level view of what to expect in the rest of my CaptainForm review:
- A drag-and-drop visual form builder
- Tons of fields to build your forms with
- Incredibly detailed form settings options
- In-dashboard form submission management, as well as email notifications
And there’s a lot, lot more! Let’s go hands-on…
Hands-on With CaptainForm
When you install and activate CaptainForm, the first thing that you’ll need to do is sign up for a free account:
You don’t actually have to fill in any information – you just click the button and CaptainForm automatically creates an account using the email from your WordPress admin account.
Choosing A Form Template
Once you create your free account, you can create a new form by going to CaptainForm → New Form.
Here, you can either use a blank template or choose from the 20+ pre-made form templates (beyond the 6 popular templates you see, you can use the Other Form drop-down to select from even more options):
There are two things to note here:
- First, I love when form plugins include templates like these because it saves you a ton of time versus having to build the entire form from scratch.
- Second, look at how many options you get. Remember – this is the free version of the plugin. If you go check out our WPForms review, you’ll see that the free version of WPForms only gives you three pre-made templates, while the rest are locked behind the Pro version.
I’ll choose the Order Form template for this review because I want to highlight how you can still create an order form even with the free version (you will need a paid plan to integrate with a payment processor, though. But even just having price calculator fields is already more generous than most free plugins).
Building Your Form With The Drag-And-Drop Editor
Once you choose your template, CaptainForm dumps you into the drag-and-drop form builder.
Ok – bad news first:
The form builder looks a little dated compared to something like WPForms. It definitely won’t win any aesthetic design awards:
Now, the good news:
Despite a bit of an ugly duckling look, the form builder is totally functional and still pretty easy to use.
For example, to add a new field, you just drag it over to the live preview of your form. Similarly, you can also rearrange existing fields using the same drag-and-drop approach:
CaptainForm divides the available fields into two different tabs. You have the basic tab, which you can see in the GIF above. And then you also get the Advanced tab, which contains fields like date pickers, password, signature, price, etc:
To edit a field, you just click on it in the live preview. Then, you can use the options on the left to configure it:
You don’t get quite as many options as WPForms or some other plugins, but most users won’t feel like they’re missing anything. E.g. one of the things missing is a custom CSS class option, which most users probably won’t use anyway.
Beyond the options for individual fields, you can also configure some basic layout options for your entire form by clicking the Show Layout Options accordion button at the top:
It’s nice to be able to quickly change up the form width. And the Right-to-Left option should be helpful for languages that read that way (or if you just want to right-align your forms, I guess).
Configuring Overall Form Settings
Once you finish configuring the front-end form settings and fields, you can configure the other settings by clicking on the Settings option:
Once you select an option from the drop-down, it will load a separate settings area:
The UI design here is a bit quirky, but once you understand what’s happening it’s easy to use.
Here’s what you can do in the various tabs:
In the Notifications tab, you can set up the actual notification emails that you, or other people, receive when a user submits a form. You can also set up an autoresponder for people who fill out your forms.
If you have a paid plan, you’re also able to:
- Set up multiple email notifications to different users, with separate designs for each notification email, including conditional logic to only send a notification when a field is filled out a certain way.
- Attach form submissions as a PDF
- Send form submissions through your own SMTP server for better deliverability
In the Themes tab, you can choose from premade style themes for your forms. Or, you can build your form using the various options:
Personally, I’d rather just use my theme’s styling to ensure a cohesive design. But this feature is nice to have if you want to tinker.
3rd Party Apps
In the 3rd Party Apps, you can connect to a range of integrations. Some notable options are:
- Google Calendar
- Several email services, including MailChimp and Campaign Monitor
- Webhooks, this would let you connect to something like Zapier for even more integrations.
All of these integrations are only available on the paid plans.
In the Payments area, you can choose how to calculate pricing for certain fields even in the free version. This is something most other form plugins charge for.
You’ll need the paid version if you want to offer a summary and/or discounts, or connect to payment processors like PayPal, Stripe, Authorize.net, and many more:
The Security tab helps you deal with spam, as well as some other security issues.
On the spam front, you can choose:
- To limit the number of submissions
- From a variety of different CAPTCHA options. I like the smart option – it doesn’t show a CAPTCHA for the first submission, but will show a CAPTCHA for subsequent submissions of that form from the same user.
- To only reject or accept submissions from certain countries
Beyond that, you have two other options:
- Password protect a form (paid feature)
- Restrict uploads to people with a password or an account
The Rules tab is a paid feature that lets you set up conditional logic for:
- Form fields – show or hide certain fields depending on how a user fills out previous fields.
- Autoresponders – send different autoresponders depending on how a user fills out the form.
- Your entire form – direct users to a different page based on how they filled out the form
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test this feature in the free version, but I love the level of depth here in that you can apply conditional logic to all three things.
If you have a paid account, the Translations tab lets you create multi-language forms with your own translations:
And finally, the Advanced tab contains some miscellaneous features that let you:
- Allow people to save form submissions in progress or edit them at a later date
- Include a countdown timer for quizzes
And that’s it for the settings!
Publishing And Embedding Your Form
Once you’re finished, you click Publish to make your form live. You can use:
- PHP Functions
And then you get a really unique option – Popup.
This lets you open your form as a popup when a user clicks on:
- Floating button
A lot of people want this two-step functionality, but usually, you need to integrate with a third-party plugin, which can be complex. For that reason, I love that this is a built-in feature in the free version, and I wish other form plugins would adopt the same approach.
Viewing Form Stats And Submissions
Once you make your form live, you’ll be able to view form submissions right in your WordPress dashboard (again – this is a free feature that most other form plugins charge for):
And depending on which fields you use, you can also generate reports, which is especially helpful if you’re using a form for a survey or poll.
Final Thoughts: Should You Use CaptainForm?
I was pleasantly surprised by CaptainForm. The interface looks a little dated and the UI design can be a little quirky at spots, but this is one of the situations where you really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
Functionality wise, CaptainForm not only works great, it’s also incredibly generous in its free version.
I tried to point out some for the notable free features above. But in general, you just get a lot of value for a free plugin.
And if you do decide to go with one of the paid plans, you’ll get access to plenty more functionality including, in part:
- Conditional logic for email notifications, form fields, autoresponders, and forms.
- Tons of payment processor integrations.
- Lots of other third-party integrations with email marketing services, CRMs, or webhooks.
How Much Do The Different CaptainForm Tiers Cost?
There is one catch with the free version of CaptainForm that I haven’t mentioned since the beginning of this post. Rather than one-time payments, CaptainForm uses more of a SaaS pricing model.
So in exchange for all of those generous free features, you get hit with a different limit. The free plan only lets you:
- Create 3 total forms
- Accept 500 form submissions per month
- Use a maximum of 15 fields for each form
While those are a bit of a bummer, many sites probably won’t get more than 500 submissions per month. And in that case, you’re going to get a lot more functionality than other free form plugins.
If you do need more submissions, the different paid tiers increase that number, as well as add on more features.
You can view a summary below:
If you want to get started, click here to head to CaptainForm.
Colin Newcomer is a freelance writer for hire with a background in SEO and affiliate marketing. He helps clients grow their web visibility by writing primarily about digital marketing, WordPress, and B2B topics.