Tricks and Tips for Achieving your Best Form with Survey123 webinar Q&A

July 15, 2020 Susan Enyedy-Goldner

Everything you wanted to know about ArcGIS Survey123 and more!

Thank you to everyone who attended the “Tricks and Tips for Achieving your Best Form with Survey123” webinar on June 24th. We had a large crowd of enthusiastic attendees and close to ninety questions were asked, in the Q&A, which Jasmine and I worked hard to answer during the webinar. As we did not have time to answer them all, we’ve pulled together this Q&A to provide answers to many of the questions.

You can access the webinar recording and slides from the presentation.

Our webinar was organized into three sections:  Jasmine showed working with the Survey123 website and Designer, while I showed using the Survey123 Connect app as well as working with Survey123 url links. We sprinkled in some “what’s coming soon” functionality that was available in the beta, now included in the July 3rd release.  This release updates the Survey123 website including Designer and Feature Reports, while updates for Survey123 Connect, the field app and documentation will be available in the 3.10 release later this July.

We’ve grouped the answers to your questions around the following categories:

System Requirements

Information about supported devices and ArcGIS account requirements to work with Survey123 is fully detailed in the help documentation under System Requirements. Learn about supported ArcGIS user roles, operating systems and hardware requirements. You can view supported GNSS devices and tips for working with high accuracy data collection.

The ­Survey123 field app supports both Android and iOS, as well as Windows, while the Survey123 web app supports several browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, Internet Explorer 11) for use on both mobile and desktop devices.

The type of account and privileges required to work with Survey123 varies depending on what you are doing:

  • To publish a survey in either the Survey123 website (using Designer) or Survey123 Connect, you need to have the following privileges:

    • create content

    • publish hosted web layers and

    • share maps and apps

This is a Publisher role that a Creator or GIS Professional ArcGIS User Type can provide.

  • To submit survey responses in a survey shared with a group, a Field Worker or higher ArcGIS User Type is required.

  • If a survey is shared publicly, anonymous users may submit responses (no ArcGIS account required). There is no limit on the number of participants that can answer a survey. If you wish to collect data from the public we recommend you refer to Securing data in public surveys, as well as Limiting Access to Public Survey123 Results.

Working with the Geometry Question

We are sure all of you were excited when Survey123 added support for lines and polygons at release 3.6, in addition to allowing capture of points. You use the geopoint, geoshape or geotrace question types, adding these directly to your survey worksheet using Survey123 Connect or using the map question in Survey123 Designer, then specifying the type.

There are a few things to keep in mind: you can only add one geometry type per survey, but you can collect more than one feature using repeats in Survey123 Connect. I showed using repeats in the webinar, refer to the XLS Form repeats  for more information. Working with lines and polygons provides more details about the geometry question, including XLSForm support for performing more advanced calculations such as pulldata and aggregation type functions that you add using Survey123 Connect.

Working with the Map in Survey123

Why would you not want a map in your survey – we are GIS people and love maps! We had a lot of questions about the map in Survey123, including “can you skip the map question?” The answer is “yes” – but first understand how Survey123 will capture your data if you choose to do this:

  • If you do not include a geometry question type, the main feature service layer for your survey will be created using a point geometry type.

  • The point location for each survey response will default to 0,0 if your device cannot automatically provide a location. As this is just off the west coast of Africa … it is not very useful if you want to run some spatial analysis on your data or if you want to share results in a map, app or dashboard.

  • Keep in mind you cannot change the geometry type for your survey and the associated feature layer once you publish it.

If you add a geometry type of question to your survey, your form will include a map to allow users to search on, find and set their current location to capture the location of the feature. Survey123 can display a location value in a number of different formats set in the Survey123 Connect map settings. This will be reflected in the display of the location. Refer to the map use documentation for more details on working with the map settings in Survey123 Connect. The following coordinate types are available: Degrees Minutes, Decimal Degrees, MGRS, USNG and UTM/UPS. Although the value recorded in your survey  will only be recorded in decimal degrees,  by using the submission_url setting in your XLSForm using Survey123 Connect, you can have your survey point to a custom feature service in a different spatial reference.

The 3.10 release provides the ability to associate a custom map with your survey. We showed how to link an online map in Survey123 Connect using the Linked Content option from the Settings. Once you link a map, you will be able to unlink the default map (that contains only a basemap) created when the survey is published. Your map can include web maps with additional feature layers that will act as a reference, as well as tile packages including vector tile and mobile map packages.

During the demo I used Survey123 Connect to add a webmap that included a vector tile basemap customized to reflect the winery theme of my survey.

Using Survey123 Connect “Linked Content” setting to add a map link

Using the custom webmap to capture location in the Survey123 field app

Working with Existing Feature Services

Using a smart form to update data in one of your existing web layers can be extremely handy and we had many questions around this. You need to use Survey123 Connect and select “Create New Survey from feature service” when you create a new survey:

  • An XLSForm will be generated from your feature service, one question created per field in your attribute table.

  • You may add advanced XLS Form logic to make a smarter survey.

  • You may change the question labels, add capabilities such as making questions relevant and reorder them as well as modify the form appearance.

  • Refer to Publish your survey for a full list of changes you can make.

Keep in mind there are limits in what you can change in the survey form built on an existing feature service:

  • Survey123 Connect cannot make schema changes to the feature layer, including  adding new questions or deleting existing ones, as well as changing question types (this changes the Esri field type).

  • When you try to publish your survey after making such changes you will receive a warning: “The custom feature service submission_url is not compatible with the survey”.

  • The submission_url property on the Settings tab of your spreadsheet defines the link between your survey and the feature layer's item in your portal or ArcGIS Online.

To use a feature service with Survey123, it should be a hosted service from ArcGIS Enterprise or ArcGIS Online or a service from ArcGIS Server (10.4 or later) that is federated with Portal for ArcGIS. The owner and users of the survey must have access to the feature service, and it must be editable – these are feature layer settings configured in ArcGIS Online or Enterprise item details.  To use repeats to reference related layers or tables the child layer or table must use the GlobalID field for the relationship. For more details refer to working with existing feature services.

General Field Apps Questions/Comparisons

We recognize there are several ArcGIS apps for mobile data collection - including ArcGIS Survey123 and ArcGIS Collector – and it can be sometimes difficult to choose the best one because they are both so great! Both apps allow for editing of points, lines and polygons, for creating and updating feature geometry as well as attributes and editing in related tables. Both can be used offline and support high accuracy GNSS devices. The key differences lie in the focus of each app. Collector is map-centric mobile app and allows editing of multiple layers of features with more advanced options for capturing feature geometry. Survey123 allows only one type of feature to be edited in the form - but the form is the star. Even with the updates planned for Collector, there is so much more you can do with  XLS Form in Survey123. Meaning you can create a complex data capture form that non-GIS users as well as the public can easily use. As I like to say: “if you can use a smart phone, you can use Survey123!” Choose the app based on what is more important to your user experience as well test your solution to ensure it captures data in the best way you require.

By the way, we have no plans to merge Survey123 and Collector into one app (you asked!) While Collector will  be part of the new ArcGIS Fields Maps, Survey123 (along with ArcGIS QuickCapture) will remain separate apps. You are also able to leverage app integration options including url links as I showed in the webinar, if you wish to combine the mobile apps to meet your workflows. This form app comparison explains the key differences between the mobile data collection apps.

To give you an example, compare the winery VQA Application form I showed in the webinar in Survey123:

Survey123: the form is the star!

Compare the same VQA Application point feature layer as could be used in Collector:

Collector: ideal for a map-centric data collection experience.

Using Advanced XLS Form functionality and Calculations in Survey123

Jasmine showed using Survey123 Designer to create a new survey. While more question types are being added to Designer with each new release, you need to work with Survey123 Connect to build more complex surveys using XLS Form including calculations, pulldata and repeats (with the exception of repeats for image questions - added with the July 3rd  update.) Just a reminder, since Survey123 Connect is a desktop app, you need to download it at each new release to be able to add the new functionality to your survey. Also, you will need to re-publish your surveys to push the new capabilities out to users.

I demonstrated only a small portion of what you can do using Survey123 Connect and we refer you to the excellent videos created by the Survey123 team - these show you how to work with most of the advanced XLS Form functions. Some of your questions on how to enable multiple languages to a survey, work with repeats, advanced calculations and more are demonstrated in these videos.

We highly recommend you visit the Survey123 YouTube playlist – today there are 30 videos that we’re sure you’ll find interesting and helpful. A link to the help documentation for the topic is included for each video. We also suggest exploring the GeoNet Survey123 community, as the blog posts are a treasure trove of tips and tricks for learning what you can do with Survey123.

Finally, head over to our Early Adopter site to sign up for beta testing: you will get a sneak peek at what is coming, and be able to test new functionality as well.

Thanks again for tuning into the webinar and reading through this rather long blog post. We hope you enjoyed our wine themed demos and are inspired to achieve your top form this summer, wherever you go …  with Survey123 in hand!

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here.

About the Author

Susan Enyedy-Goldner

Sue Enyedy-Goldner is a Technical Solutions Specialist and has worked for Esri Canada for 10+ years. Specializing in ArcGIS mobile solutions, she demonstrates the effective adoption of Esri technology to help organizations get the best investment from their GIS in the field and office. Sue has also worked at the Region of Halton and at Geomatics International during her GIS career. Her passion for geography and GIS started at McMaster University, where she completed bachelor and master of science degrees.

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