SurveyCTO Form Settings

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In the settings tab of a SurveyCTO questionnaire, there are a handful of key settings: Questionnaire Name, ID, Version,  Encryption, and Language Settings. These settings should be specified when creating and updating surveys. This page outlines the best practices for each setting.  

Read First

  • The questionnaire name, ID, and version ensure that the different questionnaires and the datasets linked to them remain separate.
  • Each questionnaire ID is associated with both a questionnaire and a dataset. If you change the ID, which you should do when you make changes to a questionnaire, you change the file to which the submitted data is saved.
  • If you upload a completely different survey with a different questionnaire name and file name but with the same ID as a questionnaire already on the server, then the questionnaire already on the server will be replaced by the new one. See the section on version control of questionnaires already in the field below.
  • Encryption guarantees the privacy of the data. SurveyCTO servers are installed on third party cloud servers and encryption ensures that the data does not end up in wrong hands in the case of a security breach.

Questionnaire Name and ID

It is common to set both the name and the ID to the same value. While the name value allows spaces, the ID does not; instead, use underscores. The ID is a particularly important value: it dictates to which dataset a questionnaire is saved and what the dataset calls upon when its exported. There is some functionality in the questionnaire name. For example, if you start the name with the word "test", then this form will not be visible to enumerators. You get the same functionality by the more recently added "deploy" feature. Follow a very exact structure when naming your questionnaire and giving it an ID. If not, the name and ID of the questionnaire may create confusion down the road for the research team. Below follows one recommended way to generate the questionnaire name and ID:

Meaning Part of name Description Other examples
Example survey name : KBMAP_BL_HH_v1
Project KBMAP The name of the project: use an abbreviation or other short form. A server is usually linked to only one project, so this part does not matter as much on the server. But all data associated with this questionnaire will be tagged with this name, and there the project name is indeed useful. Any project name. Do not use survey round (baseline, follow up, back check etc.) or unit of observation (household, village, school etc.)
Survey round BL Indicates which survey this is within the project: a difference in name here indicates a different dataset on the server, then we want to differentiate between baseline and baseline pilot, as we do not want to mix pilot data with real data. Baseline (BL), Baseline pilot (BLpilot), Endline (EL), monitoring data, population listing etc.
Unit of observation HH What type of respondents will be interviewed, household, school, etc.: it is needed to separate multiple survey within a survey rounds (doctor/patient, teacher/school). It is also helpful documentation to anyone using the dataset in the future. Household (HH), village, civil servant, etc.
Version v1 This is different from the setting version: when you are developing a questionnaire you use the version setting to indicate to the server that you have made updates. After you are happy with your updates (that usually takes testing several uploads) you update the version number in the name, and download this new version to the tablets. The reason why this is important is explained below. Number them in natural order, v1, v2 etc.

Your SurveyCTO subscription level determines the number of questionnaires (counting each unique ID as one questionnaire) that you can store on your server. If you run out of space, you can either upgrade your server or download questionnaires no longer in use and all the data associated with them. After ensuring that you have all data, you can delete the questionnaires you no longer need to make space for a new questionnaire.

Naming and Versions

When you update the questionnaire ID, all new data will be saved in a new dataset on the server with reference to the new ID. If you have started to collect data with one questionnaire, but for some reason have to make an update to your questionnaire, then you should save the form with a new ID. The new questionnaire is likely to have different variables and different variable types for existing variables. Hence the data this questionnaire generates will be different. If you do not change the questionnaire ID, the server will overwrite the old dataset.

SurveyCTO's servers allow users to save data collected using an updated version of the questionnaire to the same dataset as for the previous version. While this feature does a fine job consolidating data, researchers can do an even better job with Stata. If you have already started to collect data and then make an update to the questionnaire, change the name: for example, from KBMAP_BL_HH_v1 to KBMAP_BL_HH_v2. You will end up with two datasets and two different import do files. After you have imported the datasets separately to Stata, you can edit the files as necessary – reproducibly via do files – in order to append them without any complications. Before appending the different versions, create a variable called "questionnaireVersion" or similar. In this variable, store the version number of the questionnaire. You can then include fixed effects based on this variable in the regressions to adjust for any bias introduced from collecting data with slightly different questionnaires.

Naming Excel Files

When uploading questionnaires written in Excel to the SurveyCTO server, the Excel file name is irrelevant to how your questionnaire is tracked on the server and tablets. While it is good practice to follow naming conventions for the Excel files saved on your computer, there is no technical requirement to do so.

Naming Pilot SurveyCTO Forms

When you begin the pilot questionnaire, indicate in both the questionnaire name and ID that it is a development version of the form; the best way to do so is by including the word pilot. Keep pilot in the name until you have completed collecting pilot data. After removing pilot for the final version, there is little risk that someone will use the pilot form to collect the final data. Follow these protocols even if you do not make any changes between the pilot and the real data collection. After all, if you do not change the name, then the server will save the real data to the same dataset as the pilot data.


If two questionnaires have the same ID, then they must have different version settings. This helps the server ensure that you are replacing an outdated questionnaire on the server with an updated one. There is one simple equation you can use that converts the date and time to a unique version number; there is no good reason to not always use this. See this settings example for more information.


All data collected should be encrypted. This protects the privacy of respondents in case, for example, tablets are stolen or there is a breach to network security. Encryption is easy and in line with the privacy promises made during informed consent. While data transferred from the tablet to SurveyCTO servers via internet are automatically encrypted using SSL, it is still necessary to encrypt this data. This protects the data from anyone who might get into the servers or get hold of the survey tablets. You can set data to be encrypted in template forms. Do so before data collection begins. For more detailed instructions on how to encrypt your data, go to your SurveyCTO server, open up the documentation pages, and search for "How do I encrypt my data?"


SurveyCTO’s language options are useful for questionnaires written in multiple languages. In the Excel file, all columns used to create text from media (i.e. media:image, media:audio, media:video, etc.) can be defined for different languages. To define, for example, which label column is English and which one is French, the columns can be called label:English and label:French. Then in the app on the tablet, the enumerator can go to change language and select English or French.

It is best practice to explicitly say the language of each column. However, it is also possible to name the label column of one language label and the others, for example, label:French and label:Wolof. The language used in the column label where the language is not defined is considered the default language. In this case, the language column in the settings tab needs to be used in order to define what the language is called. Otherwise the change language on the tablet will not display properly. For detailed instructions on how to use multiple languages on SurveyCTO, go to your SurveyCTO server, open up the documentation pages and search for "Translating a form into multiple languages".

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