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Create the whale survey

In this lesson, you'll develop a whale monitoring survey using Survey123 for ArcGIS. This survey will collect information about whale sightings in an easy-to-use, multilingual form that Bahía Ballena locals can access from their phones. You can create surveys either with an online web designer or Survey123 Connect for ArcGIS, a program on your computer. While the web designer's simple user experience can create surveys more quickly, Survey123 Connect has more sophisticated survey options. To provide multilingual functionality for the primarily Spanish-speaking Bahía Ballena community, you'll author your survey form in Survey123 Connect.

Download Survey123 Connect for ArcGIS

First, you'll download and install Survey123 Connect for ArcGIS. If you already have this program installed on your computer, you can skip this section.

  1. Go to the Survey123 for ArcGIS website.

    To create forms in Survey123 Connect, you need an ArcGIS organizational account with publishing permissions. If you don't have an organizational account, you can sign up for an ArcGIS free trial.

    Survey123 for ArcGIS website

    The Survey123 for ArcGIS product page contains a variety of resources for all Survey123 components.

  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Get It Now.

    Get It Now button

  3. Sign in using your ArcGIS Online organizational account.

    Once you sign in, the Survey123 website displays a survey gallery page with your surveys. If this is your first time using Survey123, your gallery will be empty.

  4. Click Create a New Survey.

    The Create a New Survey window opens. In this window, you'll choose whether to use the web designer or Survey123 Connect.

  5. Under Using Survey123 Connect, click Get Started.

    Get Started button


    To learn how to create a survey using the web designer, see Get Started with Survey123 for ArcGIS.

    The Create Surveys using Survey123 Connect for ArcGIS window opens. It illustrates the workflow to create a survey. This workflow involves downloading Survey123 Connect, designing your survey using an XLSForm spreadsheet, and publishing your survey to Survey123 for ArcGIS.

  6. Click Download Survey123 Connect (Windows | Mac | Linux).

    Download Survey123 Connect

    A window opens with instructions to download your survey.

  7. Under Survey123 Connect, click the appropriate download for your operating system.

    Operating systems for Survey123 Connect


    Depending on your web browser, you may be prompted to choose the file's location before you begin the download. Most browsers download to your computer's Downloads folder by default.

  8. When the download is complete, browse to the location where the downloaded file was saved. Double-click the Survey123Connect.exe file.

    Depending on your operating system, a window may ask you to confirm whether you want to run the file.

  9. If necessary, click Run.

    The Survey123 Connect for ArcGIS Setup wizard opens. Follow the instructions in the wizard to install the program.

  10. When the installation is complete, click Finish.

Start building your survey

Next, you'll start building the whale survey. When creating a survey, you can start from scratch or you can modify an existing survey. For the purposes of these lessons, you'll modify an existing survey. To learn how to create a survey from scratch, see Survey Customers to Gain Marketing Insight.

  1. Download the Whale_Survey compressed folder.

    This folder contains several data sources you'll need to complete this lesson, including the survey form that you'll modify.

  2. Locate the downloaded file on your computer.

    Depending on your web browser, you may have been prompted to choose the file's location before you began the download. Most browsers download to your computer's Downloads folder by default.

  3. Right-click the file and extract it to a location you can find easily, such as your Documents folder.
  4. Open the unzipped folder and, if necessary, open the Whale_Survey folder.

    The folder contains a Microsoft Excel Worksheet titled Whale_Template.xlsx, a thumbnail image titled Survey123_Thumbnail.png,, and two more compressed folders that contain additional survey data and park boundaries. You'll use the compressed folders when you map and analyze your survey data.

  5. Open Survey123 Connect for ArcGIS and click Sign In.

    Sign In button

  6. Sign in using your ArcGIS organizational account.
  7. Click New Survey.

    The New Survey window appears. The window provides options to name the survey and choose either an Advanced or Basic design template. The advanced template provides significantly more options for customizing your survey. The basic survey is simpler to use but has fewer options for changing the appearance and behavior of your survey. You won't use either template, because you'll modify an existing survey instead.

  8. For Title, type Whale Monitoring.
  9. For Select an initial XLSForm design, choose File.

    New Survey window parameters

    Next, you'll choose the file for the survey form that you downloaded.

  10. Click Browse for XLSForm.

    Browse for XLSForm button

  11. Browse to the location where you saved the Whale_Template spreadsheet. Choose it and click Open.

    In the New Survey window, for the XLSForm File parameter, your spreadsheet is now displayed.

  12. Click Create Survey.

    Create Survey button

    After a few moments, the Whale_Template.xlsx file is converted into a survey form. When the conversion is complete, the Survey123 Connect for ArcGIS window changes to a form preview of the survey. Additionally, the XLS spreadsheet opens in Microsoft Excel or your preferred spreadsheet application. Next, you'll compare the spreadsheet to the form preview.


    To edit the spreadsheet, you may need to click Enable Editing.

  13. Position the spreadsheet and form preview next to each other. Compare how the spreadsheet organizes and structures the survey questions to how the form preview formats and presents the survey content.

    Form preview and spreadsheet comparison

    The values in the label column of the spreadsheet correspond to the question titles in the form preview. Whale_Template.xlsx contains four worksheets, indicated by the tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet.

    Survey worksheets

    • The survey worksheet is where you add the questions and customization for the survey.
    • The choices worksheet is where you define the potential responses to the questions in the survey. The first time you click this tab, the page contains default examples of how the page works. Entries on this page are the connection between the questions on the survey page and the potential responses that require more than one option.
    • The settings worksheet is where you change the title, ID, and submission URL of the survey.
    • The types worksheet is where you can find a reference guide to various types and features you can add to your survey.

    You're currently on the survey worksheet. It consists of two sections—a left section (Columns A, B, and C) and a right section (all other columns). The first column in the left section, type, defines the question format. Question types can range from multiple choice to a signature form. The name column defines a unique field name, while the label column defines the question text that appears in the survey. These three parameters are mandatory for each question.

    The section on the right contains many more parameters to format questions, add logical expressions, set optional languages, and so on. Most of these parameters are optional or dependent on the certain types of questions.

    Next, you'll review the choices worksheet.

  14. At the bottom of the spreadsheet, click the choices tab and compare the question choices to the form preview.

    Comparison of survey choices

    In the choices worksheet, each row represents an answer choice. Answer choices with the same list_name field are part of a related set of choices and appear together for a question. As before, the label column determines the text that appears in the form preview for each answer choice.


    To learn more about the structure of the XLSForm, see XLSForm essentials.

  15. When you're done reviewing the choices worksheet, return to the survey worksheet.

Group questions

The Whale Monitoring.xlsx file that you've been provided with for this lesson is almost complete. You only need to add a few final components. First, you'll group related questions into appropriate categories.

While reviewing the form preview, you may have noticed that the topics of survey questions vary from species sightings to weather conditions. In the current survey form, the questions appear as one long list. It would be useful to create two question groups. One group for questions related to sighting details and one group for questions related to the tour that made the sighting. To group questions, you'll modify the type column in the survey worksheet.

  1. In the survey worksheet, in the third row of the type column, click the cell and choose begin group.

    Begin group option

    The cell is now marked as the beginning of a group of questions. Later, you'll end the group. But first, you'll give the group a name and format the name using HTML code.

  2. In the third row of the name column, type sighting_details.

    Next, you'll add a label. Rather than use the default label format, you'll emphasize the group name by formatting it differently than the question names. You'll use HTML code to center the label in the survey (you can also change the color, size, and font).

  3. In the label column, type <center>Sighting Details</center>.

    Name and label of new group

    Next, you'll add a cell to mark the end of the group. The questions in rows 4 through 12 relate to marine life sightings, so you'll end the group after those questions.

  4. In row 13 of the type column, click the cell and choose end group.

    End group option

    You don't need to add a name or label to the end of the group, so your group is complete. You'll look at the group in the form preview to confirm it was formatted correctly.


    The Whale Monitoring.xlsx contains additional text that will be used when the resultant survey is completed on a device where the default language is set to Spanish. To facilitate using multiple languages, additional columns with labels in Spanish have been added. These must now include a language description, followed by a locale code in parentheses. This is intended for languages with multiple names or language descriptions, Spanish for example has two, 'Spanish' and 'Castilian'. XLSForm Multiple Language Support

  5. In the survey tab, update the column title label::es to label::Español (es).
    Update label and hint
  6. Update the label hint::es to hint::Español (es).
  7. In the choices tab, update the label label::es to label::Español (es).
  8. Save your Whale Monitoring.xlsx file.

    When you save, the form preview updates automatically.

  9. Switch to the form preview and confirm that the questions located in rows 4 through 12 of the worksheet are grouped together under the centered title Sighting Details.
  10. To the left of the Sighting Details label, toggle the arrow to collapse the grouped questions.

    Form preview of the Sighting Details group

    The group is formatted correctly and functions properly. Next, you'll add a second group that includes all questions related to the tour, such as the captain's name and weather conditions. This group will begin at row 15 and end at row 23.

  11. In row 15, add the following information:

    • type: begin group
    • name: tour_information
    • label: <center>Tour Information</center>

  12. In row 23 of the type column, choose end group.
  13. Save your spreadsheet and preview the survey to confirm the group was added and formatted correctly.

Test multilingual functionality

Tour operators and boat captains in Bahía Ballena are native Spanish speakers, so it's vital to have the survey form available in Spanish. Most of the Spanish language labels are already included in the spreadsheet. You'll add any missing labels and test the survey's multilingual capabilities.

  1. In the survey worksheet of the Whale Monitoring.xlsx file, scroll to the column titled label::es (column P).

    The column name identifies the language. In this case, es is the ISO 639-1 code for Spanish. You can add as many language columns as you want. If additional languages are added, each language must be notated using its own ISO language code. You can also add translations to hints, constraint messages, and even images.


    For more information about adding language columns, see the blog Introducing Multiple Language Surveys.

  2. Compare the label::Español (es) column to the label column.

    Spanish labels

    The survey description and the question names have already been translated into Spanish. However, the groups you created do not have Spanish language labels.

  3. In row 3 of the label::Español (es) column, type <center>Detalles sobre el avistamiento</center>.

    Group label in Spanish

  4. In row 15 of the label::Español (es) column, type <center>Información del Tour</center>.

    Next, you'll test the language switcher in the form preview.

  5. Save the spreadsheet and switch to the form preview.
  6. Click the menu button (three horizontal lines) to the right of the survey title and choose español de España.

    Spanish language switcher

    The survey switches to the Spanish language.

    Survey in the Spanish language

    The default language is determined by your device's location settings. For the tour guides and boat captains in Bahía Ballena, the survey will be displayed in Spanish automatically. Similar to how questions are translated in the survey XLSForm worksheet, answer choices can also be translated.

  7. In the spreadsheet, switch to the choices worksheet.

    Most of the choices have values for the label::Español (es) column. However, some do not.

  8. Locate the entries with list_name values of guide_captain and departure_loc.

    Spanish guide and departure information.

    The only translation provided for either of these sets of choices is for Other, which in Spanish is Otro. The other choices aren't translated because they refer to proper nouns. For all the other sets of choices, proper translations are already included.

Set default date and time values

It's useful to have some survey details prepopulate to save time and ensure uniformity. Most devices contain settings for date and time, so these fields can usually be filled in automatically. Next, you'll set default answers for date and time survey questions so that tour guides and boat captains won't have to spend time answering them. You'll find the values needed to set these default answers in the types worksheet.

  1. In the Whale Monitoring.xlsx file, switch to the types worksheet.

    The types worksheet is a glossary of properties and operators that can be used within your form.

  2. Scroll down to the Default Values section.

    Default Values section of types worksheet

    The default value today() sets the default date to the current date, based on the settings in the user's device. You'll use this value in your survey.

  3. Switch to the survey worksheet.

    The fourth row of the worksheet contains a question about the date.

  4. Scroll to the default column (column J). In row 4, type today().

    Default value for date question

    The column next to the default column is the readonly column. The date question contains the value yes, which indicates that users will not be able to modify the answer. Because the answer will be automatically populated, this setting prevents users from accidentally changing the date.

  5. Save the spreadsheet.
  6. In the form preview, confirm that the date is automatically populated and that you cannot alter it.

    Date in English


    Every time the form preview is updated (which happens whenever you save the spreadsheet), the language switches back to the default language.

  7. Switch the survey language to Spanish.

    The date is automatically translated to the correct language.

    Date in Spanish

    Next, you'll change the question for the hour of sighting to also populate automatically. Instead of the today() value, you'll use a similar value called now(). This question is in row 5 of the spreadsheet.

  8. Return to the spreadsheet. In row 5, in the default column, type now().

    Default value for the hour-of-sighting question

  9. Save the spreadsheet. In the form preview, confirm that the hour of sighting is automatically populated.

    Hour of sighting default value

Set a relevant question

Your whale survey is focused primarily on cetaceans (whales and dolphins). However, the current survey form also contains questions about turtles. It's useful to track sightings of turtles, but the primary focus of the survey is on marine mammals. As such, you'll change the question about the species of turtle to appear only if survey participants answer that they've sighted a turtle in a previous question. A question that appears only if a certain answer choice is chosen is called a relevant question. You can create relevant questions by using specific expressions.

  1. In the form preview, scroll down to the question for species of turtle.

    Species of turtle question

    This turtle question is only relevant if users chose turtle for the previous question. Otherwise, users don't need to see the question for the species of turtle.

  2. In the spreadsheet, scroll to the relevant column (column L). For row 7 (the species-of-turtle question), type ${species}='Turtle'.

    Relevant expression for species of turtle

    This expression means that the question for species of turtle is only relevant if the answer to the species question is turtle. You can use a similar notation with different question and choice values to set other relevant questions.


    To set a relevant question, the expression must use values from the name column, not the label column.

  3. Save the Whale Monitoring.xlsx file and switch to the form preview.

    The question for species of turtle no longer appears by default.

  4. For Species, choose Turtle.

    Turtle answer to species question

    Once you choose the relevant answer, the relevant question becomes visible. In a more advanced survey, you could add more relevant questions based on whether the survey participant is reporting a cetacean or turtle sighting. For the purposes of this lesson, however, one relevant question is enough.

In this lesson, you created a survey for whale sightings based on an existing XLSForm. You edited the form to group relevant questions into categories, add Spanish language functionality, set default date and time values, and make a relevant question. All these changes have improved the usability of your survey and will help both survey participants and researchers. In the next lesson, you'll publish the survey so tour guides and boat captains can get to work reporting whale sightings.