Creating and Editing Forms (4.x)

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Creating a general form
Creating a standard form
Publishing forms
Creating a SMS form
Printing forms

Creating a general form

Form Structure


Building a new form involves the following steps: creating a new form; creating questions for the form; and depending on the user’s needs, creating option sets for those questions. In ELMO, these steps can be done in any order.

In general, however, it’s a good idea to reuse forms, questions, and option sets when possible in order to save effort and encourage consistent, standardized data across missions. You can always customize or build on top of imported forms.

**Hint: look for Import Standard Form, Import Standard Questions, and Import Standard Option Sets when possible — all described more below.

To create a form for your mission, you can import a standard form to build upon or create a brand new form.

To import a standard form:

  1. Click the Import Standard Forms link
  2. Select one or more of the forms you wish to import

Copies of the selected forms will be imported into your mission.

To create a completely new form:

  1. Navigate to the Forms page by clicking on the Forms tab on the main menu bar
  2. Click the Create Form link located under the page title
    1. Name the form where prompted
    2. Check the SMSable box to make the form compatible with SMS form submission if desired
    3. Check the Allow Incomplete box to allow forms to be submitted without required questions filled in

  3. Click Save
  4. You can click the Add Questions link at this time if desired

To add questions to any form on the Forms page:

  1. Click the pencil icon located on the same line as the desired form
  2. Click Add Questions where you can:
    1. Select from existing questions in the question bank OR
    2. Create a new question to add to the form (see Questions section below for detailed instructions)

  3. Click Save when finished editing


A question can be:

  • Conditional: whether or not it appears on the form is dependent upon how a previous question is answered
  • Hidden: it is not shown on the form – (sometimes you may not be able to delete a question and can use this option)
  • Key: it will appear in the Response page as a column for easy viewing. Common key questions are location and overall evaluation
  • Required: it must be answered in order to submit the completed form, unless an override code is provided

To import standard questions from the question bank when creating a form:

  1. On the Forms page, click the Import Standard Questions link

To create a new question that will be used only for the current mission:

  1. Click on the Create Question link (in orange text)
  2. Provide a unique name for the question in the box labeled Code. Observers will not see this box
  3. Select the data type for the question from the following options:
    1. Text: This option is for simple text entry
    2. Long Text: Text designed for paragraphs rather than simple phrases/sentences
    3. Integer: This is a numeric answer that must be a whole number without decimals
    4. Decimal: This is a numeric answer that allows for decimals
    5. Location: This question may be answered with a GPS coordinate derived from the user’s device (i.e. tablet with GPS)
    6. Select One: Only one answer may be selected from a multiple choice Option Set**
    7. Select Multiple: Multiple answers may be selected from a multiple choice Option Set**
    8. Date/Time: Enter both the date and the time
    9. Date: Enter the date
    10. Time: Enter the time

  4. After selecting the type of question (and option set if applicable), enter the main text of the question in the Title box
  5. Tags can be added to questions in order to place them in searchable groups. For example, The Carter Center tags questions for election observation missions based upon Democratic Election Standards, such as secrecy of the ballot. All questions dealing with secrecy of the ballot within a form would then be tagged as secrecy or some other identifier
  6. Add further instructions in the Hint box(es) below the Title box (i.e.: for a ‘select multiple’ question, select all that apply in the Hint box)
  7. Click the Key Question check box if desired
  8. Click Save to generate the question
  9. To edit the question, return to the Questions page and select the corresponding pencil icon

**Note: If Select One or Select Multiple for the question type is selected, another row will appear below titled Option Set.  Use this to choose the set of options for the multiple-choice question.

Option Sets

The Option Sets page is where the answers for Select One and Select Multiple question types can be created. Click the Option Sets tab on the main menu bar to create or edit existing option sets.

To import a standard option set:

  1. Click the Import Standard Option Sets link
  2. Select one or more of the option sets you wish to import

Copies of the selected option sets will be imported into your mission.

To import a new option set (when the link is available):

  1. Click the Import New Option Set link
  2. Select the location of the .XLSX file you wish to import (at this time, we are only able to import .xlsx formatted files.)

Copies of the selected option sets will be imported into your mission.

To create a new option set:

  1. Click Create New Option Set from the Option Sets page
  2. In the Name textbox, create a unique name that summarizes the option set being created. Observer users will not be able to view this name
  3. If this option set represents geographic information check the box labeled Is this Geographic? (i.e. a set of provinces or regions)
  4. If the option set requires multiple degrees of specificity (i.e. country, states, city) check the box Is Multilevel?
  5. Enter the different options for the option set in the box labeled Options
  6. In the Options box, add existing options by typing them and clicking Add (upon typing, the auto-complete feature also allows you to select among existing options). If an option in the drop-down menu is not visible, add a new one by selecting Create New Option
    1. The Options textbox allows multiple options to be typed in a row and added or created together. Simply separate the option names with commas. Conclude by clicking Add

  7. Click Save

To edit existing option sets:

  1. Navigate to the Option Sets page
  2. Click the option set that requires editing by selecting the corresponding pencil icon
  3. Click Save

Multilevel Option Sets (partly implemented as of Fall 2014)

Checking the Is Multilevel? box allows for the creation of multiple layers to an option set. For example, if the option set is built for the question Where do you live? the first level of options may be titled Country, the second may be Province/State, and the third City. The creator of the form can then create options specific to each response. Continuing this example, if the options in the Country level include The United States and Canada, the second level options (Province/State) would be populated with the varying states or provinces in each country. The third level of options would then be populated with cities in each province available in the previous level.

Multilevel options are created in the same way as a normal options. However, multilevel options can be dragged and dropped to locations according to how the user wants them to appear in each level, as seen below. Note that in order to successfully create a multilevel option set the number of levels in the top half of the the screen must match the number of levels in the bottom half. Levels in the bottom half are distinguished by indentation so that USA is level one, Kentucky, Georgia, and Ohio are level two, and Louisville, Lexington, Atlanta, Athens, Cincinnati, and Dayton are level three.

**Note: Multilevel Option Sets will only display correctly in Select One type Questions. Future releases of ELMO will allow the import and export of large (e.g. 10,000+) option sets in spreadsheet form, and modifications to reporting that reflect the multilevel option set.

Multilevel Option

Creating a Standard Form (Admin only)

Forms used on different missions often contain similar or even identical questions. In ELMO’s Admin Mode, administrator-level users can create standard forms, questions, and option sets that remain stored in the ELMO system and can be imported into any mission.  The option to import standard forms eliminates the need to create new forms for every mission. Standard forms also allow for an easier comparison of data across missions. Mission staff should import the standard versions of option sets, questions, and forms that are not country-specific and are used repeatedly, such as the question “How many ballots were spoiled?” or the option set “Yes/No/N/A/Didn’t observe.”

Remember to select Admin Mode to create standard forms, questions, and option sets. The directions for creating general forms, questions, and option sets are the same for creating standard forms. If the Admin Mode link does not appear on the screen, you do not have permission to create standard forms.

**Note: information about how ELMO standardized forms enables better analysis, and more information about the standard form, question, and option set structure, will be made available in the Data Architecture section later this year.

Publishing Forms

Once a form has been created, it must be published before it can be accessed by observers, completed, and submitted.

To publish a form:

  1. Locate the Forms page from the main menu bar
  2. Select the form in the list that appears on the page
  3. On the right side of the page, click the up arrow located on the same line as the form to publish
  4. To unpublish a form click the down arrow and then save the form on the following page

**Note: Once a form is published on ELMO Online and downloaded onto a tablet, any further changes will require that the form is unpublished, edited, and then re-downloaded onto the tablet in order to assure that the most recent version is being used. Editing a form online without instructing data collectors in the field to download the latest version through ODK Collect will result in the collectors using an older version of the desired form.

Creating an SMS form

ELMO allows project coordinators to manage an SMS form-based mission as well. They can:

  • Easily create SMS reporting forms for use during an observation
  • Print SMS how-to guides customized for the form
  • Send, track, and follow up on observer messages that include reported data

As via tablet, data received via SMS from observers can be analyzed in ELMO, or the data can be easily exported for use with other software packages. Instructions for creating an SMS form are the same as those for creating a form to be used on a tablet, smart phone, or via the Internet, with a few small differences:

  • When generating a form, the user must click the SMSable? box, which signals to ELMO that the questions can also be sent and responded to via SMS in order to make the form compatible with SMS. An accompanying SMS Composition Guide is also generated by ELMO that provides observers with instructions for sending SMS responses unique to the form.
  • ELMO SMS does not currently accept form responses that are over 160 characters long, which requires some planning when creating the form; coordinators may need to break up questions over several forms in order to reliably receive all data. A future version of ELMO will address some of these issues, though long text submissions via SMS will need remain less than 160 characters in most cases.

To edit SMS form questions, publish, and print SMS forms:

  1. Locate the Forms page
  2. To edit questions on the form, click on the pencil icon corresponding with the form that requires editing
  3. To publish a form (publishing makes the form available to users), click the blue up arrow, which will transform into the downward position, and also turn the printer icon into a blue conversation balloon that links to the SMS guide
  4. To print, click on the printer icon corresponding with the form that requires printing

The SMS Composition Guide becomes available once a form has been published on the Forms page, and is accessible by observers who have access to the form through ELMO. The SMS guide includes the questions for the form, the response code, and instructions for responding via SMS.

While creating an SMS form is very similar to the process associated with the rest of the forms that can be generated in ELMO, how observers report via SMS is unique. There are also different ways to connect ELMO to SMS messaging services (IntelliSMS or FrontlineSMS), which sometimes may require the purchase of credits or dedicated incoming SMS numbers. Read more about how observers report via SMS in the Submitting data via SMS section.

Printing forms

ELMO allows for forms and data to be printed. In the field, a hard copy of forms, particularly the SMS Composition Guide, is required by observers in order to report. Use ELMO’s print option to print directly to the printer or to a pdf.

To print:

  1. In either Admin or Mission Mode, go to the Forms menu
  2. Click on the form to print
  3. Located above the list of questions will be the words Print Form in orange text
  4.  Click to print and follow the pop-up window directions
  5. Be sure to select Print Background otherwise text boxes may not appear.