ODK Scan Instructions - rev 206

The documentation on this page corresponds to rev 206 (August 2016) of the tools suite. See Older Versions for documentation on earlier releases of this suite.

Release Designation

ODK Scan is designated Alpha software.

See Release Designations for the meaning of this designation.


The purpose of this documentation is describe how to use ODK Scan on a tablet.

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 Services. 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 Services


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 generated the machine readable files. To push them to your device, you will use the same mechanism that is used to push Survey and Tables files to the device.

  1. Create a form using the ODK Scan Form Designer. Save that form with the "Save to File System" option
  2. Follow the instructions in the app-designer to push updates to the device
  3. 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.
    • 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


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 are finished here 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 or delete that row. Choosing edit will launch the form in Survey.
      • You can change the view type, color settings, and more by pressing the settings wheel and making any changes you need.






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 Services must be installed on your device

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

To sync your device-stored data with your Aggregate instance, open ODK Services and launch the sync interface (press the circular arrow button along the top bar). Make sure you have the correct settings for your Aggregate URL and Account. Instructions are here. 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.



ODK Suitcase is the mechanism for downloading and exporting data from the ODK 2.0 data tables into local .csv files.

ODK Suitcase allows you to gather and aggregate data locally, maintain accessibility after the internet connection is gone, and automatically push data from Suitcase to ODK Aggregate when you return to connection. Suitcase has specific options to handle Scan's use cases (paper-to-digital). Download Suitcase here, and instructions on use here.




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.