THE BASICS OF AN ODK XLS FORM

Forms for a mobile phone application are first made in an ODK XLS form, which then is converted to an XLM form though the free software XLSForm.

Excellent guidelines on the creation of an ODK XLSform can be found on the ODK website. (https://opendatakit.org/use/xlsform and http://xlsform.org).

A summary is provided below (Source http://xlsform.org)


XLSForm is a form standard created to help simplify the authoring of forms in Excel. Authoring is done in a human readable format using a familiar tool that almost everyone knows – Excel. XLSForms provide a practical standard for sharing and collaborating on authoring forms.

They are simple to get started with but allow for the authoring of complex forms by someone familiar with the syntax described below.

The XLSForm is then converted to an XLMForm, a popular open form standard, that allows you to author a form with complex functionality like skip logic in a consistent way across a number of web and mobile data collection platforms.


Basic format
Each Excel workbook usually has two worksheets: “survey” and “choices”. A third optional worksheet called “settings” can add additional specifications to your form and is described below.


The survey worksheet
This worksheet gives your form its overall structure and contains most of the content of the form. It contains the full list of questions and information about how they should appear in the form. Each row usually represents one question; however, there are certain other features described below that you can add to the form to improve the user experience.


The choices worksheet
This worksheet is used to specify the answer choices for multiple choice questions. Each row represents an answer choice. Answer choices with the same list name are considered part of a related set of choices and will appear together for a question. This also allows a set of choices to be reused for multiple questions (for example, yes/no questions).
Both of these worksheets have a set of mandatory columns that must be present for the form to work. Additionally, each worksheet has a set of optional columns that allow further control over the behaviour of each entry in the form, but are not essential to have. Every entry must have values for each of the mandatory columns, but the optional columns may be left blank.


The survey worksheet has 3 mandatory columns: “type”, “name”, and “label”.

  1. The type column specifies the type of entry you are adding.
  2. The name column specifies the unique variable name for that entry. No two entries can have the same name.
  3. The label column contains the actual text you see in the form.

The choices worksheet has 3 mandatory columns as well: “list name”, “name”, and “label”

The list name column lets you group together a set of related answer choices, i.e., answer choices that should appear together under a question.
The name column specifie the unique variable name for that answerchoice.