ODK Scan: Scanning Forms and Digitizing the Data - rev 126

Page Contents


Transferring a Form Template to the App

Scanning a Form

Survey: View, Verify, & Edit Data

Your Data in Tables

Syncing & Aggregating Data


1 Overview

ODK Scan works in integration with ODK Survey, Tables, and Sync. To be able to take your scanned data through the entire process of scanning, editing, validation, and syncing, (as well as creation of custom reports from the data) please make sure you have all following ODK apps installed.

  • ODK Scan
  • ODK Survey
  • ODK Tables
  • ODK Sync


You can read more about the workflow between each app here, and download and install them to your Android device via this link.


To take the data from paper to digital, a basic overview of the steps are:

  1. Transfer your form template to Scan
  2. Scan your form by taking a photo with the app
  3. Edit and verify the data the app pulls from the scan
  4. Sync your scans to the Aggregate server
  5. Create custom reports using Suitcase


2 Transferring a Form Template to the App

ODK Scan works with machine readable forms created using the ODK Scan Form Designer; refer to the user guide for instructions on how to create these forms.


After creating a form with Form Designer, you'll have an exported .zip file saved to your computer.  To transfer your form template to the Scan app, follow these steps:

  1. On your computer, unzip the exported file from the Form Designer but do not remove anything from it; you'll now have "[your_form] folder."
  2. Connect your Android device to your computer via USB cable. For PC's, a file transfer window should pop up and show you what is on your Android. If you are on a Mac, and do not already have a file transfer program, we recommend Android File Transfer.
  3.  In the file transfer program, open opendatakit > tables>config>scan>form_templates. Drag the "[your_form] folder" from your computer into form_templates.Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 9.40.45 AM
  4. To confirm that the ([your_form] template) has been successfully been transferred, open the ODK Scan app on your device and go to Settings (the wheel icon) > Templates to Use. The folder name should appear in the list of templates.


Scanning a Form


Prior to scanning:

  • Have the forms that completed by your users ready.  For more information on printing the form created in Form Designer see the Form Designer User Guide, as well as for advice for users filling out the hard copies.
  • Open the Scan app, and be sure that the template you want to use this session is selected in the settings. Go to Settings (the wheel icon) > Templates to Use, make sure the correct form is selected, and click ok.

Template to use


Scanning the form:

  1. When you are ready to begin scanning, click Scan New Form from the main page in Scan. This will bring up a camera window.
  2. Adjust your positioning until there is a good view of the form in the viewfinder. When you are ready to take the picture, tap the camera icon.
    • The form should take up 80% of the photo area.
    • Make sure that the form is lying as flat as possible so that there will be no curvature in the form.
    • Tap anywhere in the viewfinder to focus the camera.Scan_form photo
  3.  If the preview of the photo looks good, tap the checkbox icon to move onto the next step. To retake the photo tap the back arrow and to exit the camera tap the X.
  4. Once you select the checkmark to begin photo processing, a small message will pop up saying "Processing photo in background."
  5. When the photo has been successfully (or unsuccessfully) processed, you will see a notification at the top of the screen in the Android toolbar.  Pull the top toolbar down and tap the ODK Scan notification.  This will open Scan and pull up the photo of the selected scan.
    • The successfully processed photo will show an overlay of colored boxes that indicate the fields that Scan has detected. Any bubbles or checkboxes recognized as filled will show an overlay of the value that was assigned to them in the form designer. Number fields will show an overlay of the number that the app recognized for each digit. (If the photo was unsuccessfully processed you will be prompted to retake the photo.)Screenshot_2016-04-29-16-55-02
  6. From this screen, you can choose to either begin reviewing the data from this scan, or save it to review later. Press Transcribe to be taken into ODK Survey where you will be able to view and edit data. (Note: The very first time you scan a form template you may experience a delay or error after hitting Transcribe. Simply return to Scan and scan the form again and the problem should not persist.)
    • Or Press Save.  This scan is now accessible by tapping the drop down options (at the top right of the screen), then Main Menu>View Scanned Forms).  From the drop down options, you can select Scan New Form to continue scanning and saving forms.


Tip:  To increase accuracy of Scan's results, you can consider building a stand with a clear plastic surface to place your phone or tablet on top off while you take the each photo.  The stability can help improve the alignment and reduce blur in photos.  Below is an example of a stand built with PVC piping and plexiglass.

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 4.37.43 PM




4 Survey: View, Verify, & Edit Data


Changing Default Form

The first time you scan a form and click Transcribe, you’ll may get an error about a null form. Here are the steps to to configure viewing form in Survey. You'll only have to do this one time per form template.

  1. Open the ODK Tables app on your device.
  2. Find your “scan_<form name>" in the list and click it.
  3. Go to the gear icon in the top righthand corner and select Settings (wheel icon)> Default Form
  4. Change the selection to Use ODK Survey form and enter “scan_<form title>” as the Form ID. This should match the Display Name you see in General Settings.
  5. Click OK. 
  6. Quit Survey and then go back to Transcribe from Scan. You should now have your form loaded in Survey with the data that was automatically processed from the scanning process.

Reviewing Your Data

You'll be taken to Survey after pressing Transcribe on a scan.  There you'll see a clickable list of all of the fields pulled from your form template, your Table of Contents.  You can return to this screen when transcribing data by pressing the button on the top, left (with your form template's name, the example image below being "scan_TB03_Register1").



To verify and edit any of the data:

  • Select the field you want to view, and you'll be taken to a screen where you'll find an image of the field and the data, as interpreted by Scan, and an editable box below.  Type in any  changes if there are discrepancies between the data digitized by Scan and the ground truth data.



  • Navigate to the next section to validate and edit either by:
    • Pressing the Next or Back buttons at the top of the screen,
    • Or go to the button with your form name and select Contents to return to the main screen of captured data.
    • Note:  the order that these fields are presented can be set when originally creating the form template in Form Designer. With a data field selected, in Form Properties enter a numbered order (i.e. 1, 2, 3, etc) in Order of Fields.


Note: Text boxes and text fields cannot be digitized.  However, Scan will capture an image of text boxes (not text fields; text fields are to be used primarily as labels on your form), and when verifying data in Survey you can type in the data directly into the app.



Saving and Finalizing Changes

  • You have the option of saving changes you've made to the data and returning to it later to further review.  Go to the Form Name>Save Changes + Exit.  You can access this scan's data again from Scan>View Scanned Forms; they will be arrange in the chronological order they were originally scanned.
  • If you've made changes you don't want to keep, Form Name>Ignore Changes + Exit.
  • Once you've verified all the fields, select Form Name>Finalize Changes + Exit.  You will also have the option to Finalize Changes if you are navigating through the data fields by using the next button and reach the end of the data contents. Once you select Finalize Changes the data from this scan will be added to Tables, and you will return to Scan, where you can scan a new form or transcribe a saved scan; both options accessible through navigating to Scan's Main Menu.


Changes and Exit


5 Your Data in Tables

With each verified and finalized scan, a new line of data will be entered into Tables.  To view (on your device) the verified data collected in this instance:

  • Open the Tables app and select the line with your form's name listed.  This will open up a spreadsheet of your data.
    • If you need to need to edit the data in a record from here:
      • Double tap on the cell you want to edit.
      • You'll be given the option to either edit that single cell, or to edit the entire row.  You can also delete the row if needed.
      • You can change the view type, color settings, and more by pressing the settings wheel and making any changes you need.






From the Tables Main Page

There are a few notable icons on the toolbar at the top of the Tables main page.

Tables home

  • The plus sign: create a CSV file of the data present in this Tables instance.
  • The arrow: export the CSV file created.
  • The cloud: view details on the Aggregate URL and the account you are logged in as.
  • The settings wheel: select any app-level preferences you may have created specifically for your use, such as a customized home screen.



6 Syncing & Aggregating Data

Syncing your device's records with an ODK Aggregate server allows data to be accessible across all your devices, and provides a centralized database for all of the data collected using Scan.  This is key if you are collecting data using Scan on multiple devices and/or are continuously scanning new forms.


Using ODK Aggregate


Prerequisites for Syncing:

1. ODK Sync must be installed on your device

2. An ODK Aggregate server can been set up following the instructions found here.

To sync your device-stored data with your Aggregate instance, open ODK Sync and make sure you have the correct settings for your Aggregate URL and Account (you can find these in the Tables app, by selecting the cloud icon on the Tables home page). Make sure your device is connected to the Internet and follow the instructions for proper syncing found here.


Viewing Data on Aggregate

Once you have synced successfully, you can login to your ODK Aggregate instance to view the synced data.

1. Login to your Aggregate instance

2. Go to the ODK Tables tab

3. Find the synced form template from the list and click Table Data.

4. You should see one row of data for each record that was synced from your device for that form template.  This spreadsheet will grow with each synced instance.


To get your data from ODK Aggregate you can: export it, publish it, or create an API.  Read more details and instructions here.

  • Exporting data is a one time pull of all the data that is currently collected.
  • Publishing data is a continuous stream of data to another platform as it comes in or is synced.



APIs, such as ODK Suitcase, allows you to gather and aggregate data locally when without internet connection and automatically push data from Suitcase to ODK Aggregate when you return to connection.  A third party application, Suitcase has been designed specifically for use with Scan (paper-to-digital).  Download Suitcase here, and instructions on use here.

ODK Briefcase is a similar API, but works best with Collect (for use for digital-to-digital information transfers).




Now that you've created a paper to digital pathway for data gathered utilizing Scan and other ODK tools, you can use the exported csv, json, or kml files to further analyze, visualize, or create reports and dashboards to suit your needs.