For the ODK Scan process to work, the scanned form must be designed using a form designer that creates machine-readable fields for the app to recognize, and the ODK Scan Form Designer is a simple online tool that allows you to create these forms. After forms created using the Form Designer are filled out and scanned, ODK Scan will know where it can find all the different pieces of data entered on the form.
Find the ODK Form Designer here using Google Chrome. Other web browsers are not compatible at this time.
A basic overview of the steps are:
1. Set the page style
3. Add images and data fields
4. Save form (for future editing) and Export form to ODK Scan app
5. Print form for users to complete by hand
You can begin using the Scan app once you've got a form template and forms with handwritten data entered. See here for a guide on using the app.
Video tutorials for each of these steps --from designing to exporting your form template-- are available here, as a YouTube playlist.
Once you have exported your completed form you can transfer the form template to the ODK Scan app and begin scanning paper forms. See the ODK Scan App Guide for more on those next steps.
2 Getting Started
On navigating to the ODK Form Designer you'll find a default, blank page, the Toolbar across the top of the screen, and Form Properties in the grey editing area surrounding the the page.
A few things to consider before adding content:
Tips for Building Your Form for Increased Accuracy in ODK Scan
- Adding images, especially high resolution images, to your form will provide increased reference points for Scan to help with aligning the form. Adding labels as images, as opposed to text fields, can help improved the accuracy of your scans.
- Fields stretched across the page are more likely to appear curved or warped in the photo taken by Scan, and the misalignment can lead to recognition errors. Ideally, each field should only be a few inches wide.
- Similarly, large sized numbers can also appear stretched or misaligned; small to medium sized numbers are recommended with 2pt spacing between each digit is recommended.
- Fill-in Bubbles can be slightly more accurate than Check Boxes.
- Ink pens are recommended over pencil when users are completing your printed form.
- You don't need to worry about leaving space for a printable border, Scan will automatically create a border around your form template.
- Currently Scan is capable of reading one-page, one-sided forms, so the Form Designer will only allow you to create one-page, one-sided forms.
Set the Page Style
You must select the page style you want before you add any images or field boxes. You cannot change the page style later; if you switch the page style later everything will be cleared to the default (blank!). Choose your page format from the toolbar by selecting File > Set page style. The options for page style are:
- Letter portrait
- Letter landscape
- A4 portrait
- A4 landscape
- Legal portrait
- 3x5 index card
In the workspace to the left of the form you are creating is a box titled Form Properties. This is were you can tailor each field for style and for establishing how the data will be organized and presented after it is scanned and digitized. The key properties to note at this point are:
- Name: An identifier for the back end. A name is generated automatically but can be customized if desired. No spaces allowed; if blanks are entered (i.e."Date mo 1" it will be saved with underscores (i.e. "Date_mo1"). If desired, the name can be the same as the display text.
- Display Text: A label for the field that relates the nature of the data input and will be a reference point in Survey when looking at the data answers after collection (e.g. "PolioVaccDate"). If desired, this can be the same as the name. The display text can include spaces if wanted.
- Verify field: Choose whether the field requires validation by the user reviewing the scan when transcribing in Survey.
- Order of fields: Enter the order that the fields will be presented to the person verifying each field of data in Survey. Provide order by listing number, i.e. 1, 2, 3.
- Select Update Field to apply any changes.
3 Add Images
You'll find that the default starting page of the Form Designer has images in each corner. These anchor images act as fiducial markers, or points of reference for the ODK Scan app when the form is eventually photographed with ODK Scan. Points of reference help the app orient the form so it knows which fields on the paper form correspond to the fields in the digital template. Additionally, any typed text fields that you added to the form will be viewed as images by the app and give the app additional points of reference to orient the form for processing.
You can customize the anchor images with your own images:
- Delete the preloaded anchor images by Deleting Field when the image is selected, and follow the following instructions on how to add new images.
- Each corner's anchor image must be unique, and the higher the resolution the better.
- To begin adding images, you must first be working on the image layer by selecting from the toolbar Edit > Images.
- Choose the image from your computer by clicking New Image. The image will appear in the image workspace area to the right of the form you are editing.
- Use cursor to select the area of the image you want to use; this can be scale resized later.
- Add Selection.
- Selected image will be placed in upper lefthand corner of the editing layer workspace. Drag the center of the image to place it where you want on the form, and the corners of the image to resize it.
- You can keep adding selections from the same image while in Image Layer mode.
- Return to Edit > Field to add more fields.
- If you return to Edit > Image to add more images, you will see the previously uploaded files in the righthand corner of the workspace. Click on a file to quickly load the image for reselection.
Uses for Images
In addition to customizing the anchor images on your form and adding additional points of reference to guide the ODK Scan app, you may also want to use images to:
- Add a logo or picture
- Add tables or charts to the form
- You want to add text without typing it out in the “Text” field of the form designer. This is helpful if you are working off an existing form and do not want to retype all of the text from the form. You can grab images of the text instead and upload it to use in the form designer.
4 Add Data Fields
To begin adding data fields, you must first be working on the "Fields" layer by selecting from the toolbar Edit > Fields.
There are seven different field inputs that are supported by the ODK Scan form designer. Of these, five allow for automatic digitization (QR Code, Checkboxes, Fill-in Bubbles, Number, and Formatted Number). To add one of these fields, select Add > (desired field). Once you've added a field, the field will appear in the top, left section of the form. You can then drag and drop the field to the placement you want on the form, as well as shrink or expand the field by pulling the corner.
This will be a blank field where users will write in information. In the scanning process, text boxes capture an image of what has been written in the box, but they do not automatically digitize the letters.
This is one way you add typed text to a form Text fields are not an input field for users, and will not be digitized by scan, but act more as labels for fields that will be automatically digitized. Text fields also help ODK Scan orient the photo of the scanned form to the template file by providing additional points of reference.
Another way to add typed text to a form is as an image.
A matrix barcode that can contained encoded numbers, words, or other data.
When a form with a QR code box is scanned, the ODK Scan App will process any QR code data inside that area. This is designed for a process such as placing a unique patient ID code sticker on a printed form and then using the ODK Scan app to automatically link the encoded data with the other data elements on the form. The only stipulation is that the QR code must fit inside the box whose size you specify in the form designer.
Once you have a QR code saved as an image, you can add it to your form like any other image file. See Adding Images for more information.
Checkboxes and Fill-in Bubbles
For ODK Scan, Fill-In Bubbles and Checkboxes have the same functionalities and options; they only vary in terms of aesthetic and that the fill-in bubble option results in slightly more accurate scan results.
With checkboxes or fill-in bubbles there are a few additional elements to consider in Form Properties.
- Bubble Type allows you to select how to categorize and count user entries.
- Tally: Filled bubbles will be read by ODK Scan as one unit each and will be added up to result in a number value. Each filled bubble/checkbox is one tally mark. (e.g. one filled bubble for each child vaccinated).
- Select one: User chooses only one answer to the prompt. (e.g. Male or Female).
- Select many: User chooses all applicable answers. (e.g. Reasons for extra care: Low birthweight, family history of infant death, twins...).
- Grid Values is the value designated to each bubble or box. The default value for each bubble or box filled in by the user is 1, and you can customize the answers ODK Scan attributes to each box or bubble. For example, if in a grid of one row and two columns, row 1, col 1 is given the value of "yes," when that box is marked by a user in Survey and Tables the digitized answer will be "yes."
Number and Formatted Number
The Number field is to add a number input that does not need any special formatting (e.g. it's not a date, decimal, or a number split up by a dash). It is what you should use for things like number of polio vials in stock, age of child, and patient ID number.
The Formatted Number field has an option for digits to be split up by delimiters, allowing you to create a date, decimal, and dashed-number input. This is what you should use for things like date of registration and infant weight, and for anything likes a serial number or refrigerator product code where the number is broken up by a dash.
Note: How to Write in Numbers
When a person fills out a number field they will be asked to write in the digits by connecting the appropriate dots in each box. The digits will end up looking like the numbers on a digital clock.
5 Group Options
At the far right of the toolbar is Group Options, which allows you to create subforms. With subforms you can link several fields together, useful when wanting to move multiples fields around your form at once and keep them together
- While holding the Shift key, select all the fields you want to group together.
- From the toolbar, select Group Options>Group Fields.
- A dialog box will appear asking to confirm that you want to make a subform. After selecting yes, you will need to name this subform.
If you need to ungroup fields, with the subgroup selected, from the toolbar select Group Options > Ungroup Fields.
6 Save & Export the Form
When you return to continue working on a saved form, go to File > Load and select the .zip from your computer. Make sure it is still in the .zip format and is not an unzipped folder.
When you are completely finished with your form, make sure you SAVE it before exporting. The exported file will NOT work if you try to load it back into the form designer.
Once your form is complete, you are ready to use the export function. Go to File >Export zip. Give the export file the name you will want to see it called in the app and in Survey and Tables, as you will not be able to change this name later.
This will give you a .zip file that you can unzip and use to print hard copies of your form and transfer your form .json template to the ODK Scan App. The exported .zip file will be slightly different that the version created when you saved the form previously.
7 Printing the Form
After you have saved and exported your form, print hard copies for your user to complete.
- From the location you saved it on your computer, unzip the exported file.
- Within the folder, find and open the file called form .jpg. This is the image of the form that you created in the Form Designer is the form you will print to hard copy.
- Print the entire image on one page. Black and white is fine even for forms that were created with colored elements.
8 Tips & Recommendations
- Use only Google Chrome to access the form designer! Other browsers are not compatible and may cause you to lose the form you're working on.
- Make sure your browser zoom is set to 100%. Zooming out can cause the data fields to appear weird on the form.
- Do not refresh your browser without first saving your form-- the form will be reset to the default blank form.
- The Copy function, can be an easy shortcut if you need to create multiples of the same field. This could be useful, for example, if on your form you want to collect the date of birth for each child in the family, or need to create multiple entries for dates of treatment.
- With the field you want to copy selected, go to Copy on the toolbar, and the new field will appear in the top left of the form. Edit any of the Form Properties as needed.
- Grouping fields together can be a shortcut when needing to move multiple fields around as you're working on your form; instead of moving them one at a time.
- You can both Delete and Undo Delete for fields and images from the toolbar.
- Currently Scan is capable of reading one-page, one-sided forms, so the Form Designer will only allow you to create one-page, one-sided forms.
- Numbers left blank will be recognized by Scan as 0.
- Therefore, if for instance you have a field that can have a range in the number of digits (for example, like Patient ID Numbers where one patient's ID could be 5 digits long, and another's 7 digits) create a text field to give your user instructions to leave any blank digits at the front of the field, so that those blanks will not not alter the final value interpreted by Scan.
- Since Scan cannot digitize handwriting, and text will have to be manually typed in when verifying the data set, if the form you are basing your template on is text heavy think creatively and strategically about the ways you can use bubbles or checkboxes instead.
- For example, instead of asking users to write in their symptoms, you can provide bubbles for the most common symptoms, and leave a Text Box for anything not listed.
- Repeat formatting for forms with multiple sections to make it as easy as possible for those writing in information to navigate the fields and the form. I.e. place labels in the same position for each field, group subsections close together and create borders around them, etc.
- Think through the order that users will be collecting information and try to best replicate that in the order that fields are presented on the form.
- For example, if the person completing the form will ask about the child's age before asking about the vaccines they have had (or if you want them to ask about age first), place the number field for age earlier in the form's progression than fields for the vaccines.
- Be strategic about when using fill-in bubbles or checkboxes. To not confuse your user, it is best to use just one type on the form. Alternatively, you can use both to signal the different types of responses that can be given; i.e. use fill-in bubbles for all of your 'select one' questions, and checkboxes for 'select many,' to signify to your user that they are being asked a different type of question.
- Fields by default are created with borders. In the Form Properties box you can change the thickness of borders, number of borders, as well as the margins surrounding the fields.
- Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move selected fields more exactly.
- You can align fields relative to each other by holding down Shift to select multiple fields at once, and then go to Align Field to select the alignment you want for the selected fields.
- Using the Change Position function, located on the toolbar, if fields are placed close enough that they overlap, by sending one field forward or backward, you can overlay them to best fit your form.