Survey123, Collector and GeoForm (a quick comparison)

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09-04-2015 01:00 AM
IsmaelChivite
Esri Frequent Contributor
77 38 55.5K

[Last updated October 5 ,2019]

A pretty common question, so we thought we would clarify this a bit. Lets start with a simple table:

Survey123 for ArcGIS
Collector for ArcGISGeoForm
Data collection styleForm CentricMap CentricForm Centric
Supports capturing new dataYes (points, lines, polygons)

Yes (points, lines, polygons)

Yes (points only)
Supports editing existing dataYesYesNo
Supports deleting existing dataNoYesNo
Smart formsYes (xForms)NoNo
Supports reverse geocodingYesNoNo
Works offlineYesYesYes*
Can work with versioned geodatabase layersNoYesYes
Can work with related recordsYesYesNo
Supports external GNSS receiversYesYesNo
Supports integration with SpikeYesNoNo
Supports integration via webhooksYesNoNo
Supports anonymous accessYesNoYes
Platforms

iOS, Android, Windows (7,8,10), Mac, Linux, Web

iOS, Android

And Windows 10 with Classic

Web
Technical SupportEsri & CommunityEsri & CommunityEsri & Community
Developer opportunitiesYesNoYes

Lets get into the details:

  • Form centric vs Map centric: Survey123 for ArcGIS is a form centric data collection app. Just like GeoForms it is all about questions! With Survey123 and GeoForms you can certainly capture geographic information, but geo is just one more question in the questionnaire, and not the center of everything. That is why we call them form-centric.  Collector for ArcGIS is a map centric app: it opens maps that you can use to capture geographic information. Of course, with Collector you can also capture attributes associated with those features, but the map comes first and that is where the app excels, the form capabilities are secondary.
  • Supports editing: Survey123 and Collector can edit existing features. This is critical for inspection workflows were a particular asset is visited again and again. GeoForm is just about capturing new data. One relevant limitation in terms of editing is attachments. Collector is the only Esri mobile app that supports editing of attachments in GIS Features.
  • Supports deleting existing data: Simple concept. Only Collector can do that.
  • Smart Forms: Forms in Survey123 for ArcGIS can be quite sophisticated. In fact, if you need to convert a paper form into a digital one Survey123 brings the most features for you. Collector for ArcGIS and GeoForm allow you to edit attributes but the rules you can apply to a form are quite simple (choice lists and basic question types).  Skipping questions, applying expressions to pre-calculate and validate responses, presenting the form in different languages, gridded layouts, multiple pages, capturing signatures, etc. are some of these unique smart form features in Survey123.  Survey123 uses the XLSForm specification to bring forms to life.
  • Supports reverse geocoding: Reverse geocoding automatically calculates the closes address or closest asset ID based on the current location of your device. Using reverse geocode you save users from having to type a ZIP Code, City or entire address if they already have defined a location in the map.
  • Offline: Survey123 and Collector can work while disconnected from the network and sync any changes when online. Offline capabilities are also supported in GeoForm, as long as you never close your browser.  The offline capabilities in GeoForm work reasonably well when you have spotty connectivity, but Survey123 and Collector are much more reliable for offline use.  When working with Collector, you must explicitly enable your map projects for offline use. In the case of Survey123, all projects work offline by default (you do not need to do anything special), except for map questions, which need to be explicitly configured for offline use.
  • Can work with versioned geodatabase layers: A no for Survey123. In the case of Collector and GeoForm, you can work on top of a versioned layer, although you cannot switch the version from the mobile app. Conflict resolution and version re-conciliation are also not exposed through the apps; they remain an ArcGIS Desktop workflow.
  • Can work with related records: The geodatabase model supports a powerful model for relationships. You can use both Collector and Survey123 to work with related records. For example, you can add and update related records to an existing feature. In the case of Collector, you can also delete related records.
  • Supports external GNSS receivers: Survey123 and Collector can be complemented with external GNSS receivers. This enables high accuracy collection for spatial data, even in 3D. Additionally, both Survey123 and Collector let you store GNSS metadata as attributes of your GIS features. In the case of Survey123, you can also leverage this GNSS metadata while in the field, to support data validation rules.  Collector is designed to work in different datums, whereas Survey123 is limited to WGS84. 
  • Spike: Spike is a laser-measurement solution that helps you measure lengths and areas all from a photo. At this point in time only Survey123 supports out of the box integration with Spike.
  • Supports integration via webhooks: Webhooks are a powerful mechanism to integrate Survey123 within larger business workflows. Though a webhook can you can automate tasks after a record has been added or updated from the Survey123 apps. For example, you can automate an e-mail notification, instantly load your Survey123 records into an Office 365 spreadsheet or have your attachments be processed by Google Vision to enrich your GIS attributes with image labels.  Survey123 connectors are included with Microsoft Flow and Integromat.
  • Anonymous access: GeoForms, Survey123 and Collector all can use your ArcGIS identity (named user account) in order to secure access to your data. Using named users also helps with QA/QC workflows because ArcGIS will help you understand what  gets submitted by who and when. GeoForm and Survey123, can also be accessed anonymously.  This means that people without an ArcGIS identity can submit data with them.  This is particularly useful for crowd-sourcing scenarios. To learn more about using public surveys with Survey123 you can read https://community.esri.com/groups/survey123/blog/2016/11/10/getting-started-with-public-surveys 
  • Developer opportunities: Survey123 supports developers in several ways. First of all, the source code of Survey123 is available as part of AppStudio for ArcGIS under the Apache 2.0 license. This allows developers to take the app and make it their own. You can simply white-label it, or extend it with custom functionality. Additionally, developers can automate certain Survey123 tasks such as Feature Report generation through the ArcGIS Python API.  In the case of web forms, JavaScript developers can also use the Survey123 web form API to embed and work with Survey123 web forms within their own web applications.   The source code of GeoForm is also available for download. Web/JavaScript developers can do wonders with it.

Next lets move away from details and present some use cases:

  • Say you want to setup a quick crowd-sourcing exercise so anyone in the city can submit to you the location of stuff that interests you. That is a good fit for GeoForms and Survey123 Web Forms. Keep the questionnaire simple, make it available in the web so anyone can quickly fill it out and submit interesting observations to you.  Nothing to download, quick to setup.  
  • Say you want to capture assets in the field and you want people to be able to work while disconnected. Forget about GeoForms then, because working with it in true disconnected environments will get on your nerves. You should consider Collector or Survey123. Your decision will be driven by whether your workflow is map centric or form centric. If this is all about maps, then you should go with Collector, but if you need complex forms a better choice will be Survey123.  Think about the following:
    • Damage Assessments: Typically a form with lots of questions capturing the location of the asset damaged. Most likely a form-centric workflow.
    • Population Census: Fairly sophisticated forms during enumeration: Go Survey123. Pre-enumeration workflows: go Collector.
    • Inspections: Inspection records are typically persisted in a table related to the asset you are inspecting.  This allows you to keep one feature for your asset, and then use a one to many relationship to keep track of inspections or activities on that asset over time. There are many inspection workflows where Collector is a great choice: You can look at all your assets in the map, then add extra rows into the inspections table.  If the inspection form is simple, and in many cases it is, Collector will do well. In cases where the inspection form is more complex, the smart form features of Survey123 will come handy. You can bring all your assets and their related records into Survey123 and handle inspections that way. Survey allows you to display all assets in a list or map so you can find your assets quickly before opening the inspection form.
    • Map inventories: There are some specific workflows where a map-centric approach is ideal. Say for example you are mapping water infrastructure. Typically, you will want to map the meter, the lateral line and the elbow. That is three assets in three different layers... Collector and its map-centric approach is perfect.  Now say you are working on mapping trees, or hydrants... The simplicity of a form to capture attributes and location quickly may make you lean towards a form-centric approach.

There are some cases that are no-brainers, and many others where one could go one way or the other.  In the end, for these cases in the middle it is a matter of personal preference. Collector and Survey give a choice. If you are of the opinion that choices are bad, flip a coin and go your best luck.  If you want the best, try both approaches and work closely with people who will do the job in the field to learn from them what they prefer. It is no coincidence that Esri is providing multiple mobile applications for field data capture: there are many different different field data collection scenarios and one size does not fit them all.

By now you may be thinking... well I want it all: Something that runs anywhere, offline and with great tools to edit both maps, their attributes and smart forms.  Absolutely having all of it may be a stretch, but you will see some of these features converge over time in Collector and Survey123.  You will see Collector incorporate some more intelligence in the attribute editor; and you will see Survey123 for ArcGIS enhance its mapping capabilities. 

It is also very common for people to combine the two applications. This can render excellent results in some scenarios and here are some examples:

The above will give you some hints, but my recommendation is that you put some time into experiencing the different options. Only with first-hand experience you will be able to make the right choice.  At the end of the day, keep in mind that both Collector as well Survey123 and GeoForm are all great options and they have proven to be quite effective in many different situations. Very often, it is not about the tool, is more about you.  The more you know these tools in detail the more you can get out of them.  There are some workflows where the choice is a no brainer but for many that fall somewhere in the middle, whatever choice you make will be a good one. It will often all boil down to you getting the best of the tool you chose.

38 Comments
simoxu
by MVP Regular Contributor
MVP Regular Contributor

Good stuff. just one question, how well does Survey123 support related tables for features. I am thinking of using the smart form for asset inspections.

Cheers,Simo

IsmaelChivite
Esri Frequent Contributor

Hi Simo,  in our next update (October 1st) we are planning to add support for XLSForm repeats.  You can use a begin repeat and end repeat construct to take a group of questions and have them repeated in your form. Repeats will be modeled as related layers (tables and feature layers).

simoxu
by MVP Regular Contributor
MVP Regular Contributor

Hi Ismael, The repeat function sounds really interesting.

I really like the smart form feature of Survey123, but my situation is like what you said “ want it all, something that runs anywhere…”. Instead of asking people the location, I know where the property is and have some baseline information of the property, now I need to do an assessment/inspection on it. so I kind of need to identify the property and then bring up the question forms to start the assessment/inspection.

Currently, I am using Collector to do it, it works, but the form in Collector is not as ‘smart’ as in Survey123, it does not support the basic logic like “Relevant” function in Survey123.

I even don’t know if my case should be classified as “form-centric” or “map-centric”, we do have lots of forms, but the forms are designed for individual properties which has a specific location!

Cheers, Simo

RonKnepper
Occasional Contributor II

I use collector as well for those type of situations, using related tables can work based on the form types but you do end up with a lot of related tables and it an be a pain to pull out the data as needed.  Related forms in Survey123 will be nice but really I am looking forward to being able to submit a survey and then be able to reopen submitted surveys for just the purpose you stated.  I read somewhere this was in the plans but I don't think near term.

PeterFerretti
New Contributor III

This is a great read. Thank you so much for putting it together. One question regarding Survey123. On the Survey123 home page, a few use cases are presented (Tornado relief, Citizen Science, Crowd Sourcing, etc.). If you have to use an ArcGIS Identity, how is the form distributed? Can the form be used without one, or is there some other way?  Thanks so much.

HendrikBritz
New Contributor III

Hi

Does anyone know when polylines or polygons feature will be available, really need this, please

Thank You

HannahFerrier
Regular Contributor

I can't give you a date - but it is on the list.

Please add your use case to the following issue to help to bump your enhancement request up the list:

Enhancement Request for Support of the Geoshape Field · Issue #160 · Esri/Survey123Community · GitHu...

Thanks, Hannah

AdamMarinelli
Occasional Contributor

The GeoForm does have some support for offline editing and synchronization.  See the README for details.

IsmaelChivite
Esri Frequent Contributor

Thanks Adam, I will update the content of the post accordingly.

JenniferCarter2
New Contributor

Ismael,

Thanks for the great overview of these app options. I would like to know with the current Survey 123 beta  can you share it publicly?  So I have a large group of people that need the survey form and instead of setting up a user group for people to access the survey, Can I publish it out and share it with a URL to those people that need access to the info??

Thanks,

Jennifer

IsmaelChivite
Esri Frequent Contributor

Hi Jennifer,

   at this moment, Survey123 works exclusively with named-users.  There are no options for public surveys. Crowd-source reporter may be your best choice at the moment, or the Quick Report Template in Appstudio  for ArcGIS.

   It always has been and continues to be our intent to enable the use of Survey123 in crowdsourcing scenarios, but we are most likely going to postpone this project  until 2017 so we can give priority to other areas for which we are finding high demand.

   If you really want to use Survey123 capabilities for your crowd-sourcing needs, you can actually use  Appstudio for ArcGIS to build your own branded version of Survey123. The source code of the Survey123 mobile app is included with the Standard Edition of Appstudio for ArcGIS. The source code can be modified to work with a public  feature service.

JenniferCarter2
New Contributor

Howdy Ismael,

I appreciate the follow up, I thought that was the case just confirming. I will take a look at the Quick Report it looks interesting.

Have a Great Weekend!!!

JenniferCarter2
New Contributor

I have one other question do either of these apps have any analysis capabilities, like for instance how many people summited a survey and the percentages of answers to questions?? Similar to Loop Survey??

Thanks,

Jennifer

IsmaelChivite
Esri Frequent Contributor

Hi Jennifer, I am not familiar with LoopSurvey, but you may find in Survey123 what you are looking for in terms of summarizing the results of surveys. Have a look at this video.

JenniferCarter2
New Contributor

Thanks so much this is exactly what I needed to know, I appreciate the info very much!!!

Have a Great Day!! [ ]

JenniferCarter2
New Contributor

Good Afternoon Ismael,

I am wondering what your thoughts are on the accuracy suing Collector with an iphone without a GNSS receiver? I have collected data with an Android device with no receiver and from the imagery it appears pretty accurate to me.

Thanks,

Jennifer

AlixVezina1
New Contributor

Hi Ismael,

I already like GeoForm and Survey 123 seems awesome! BUT of course I want it all.

Wouldn't it be possible to have the Survey 123 capabilities, but being also able to share the form in the same way the GeoForm is being shared (anonymous access)?

In other words - I would like to be able to share my survey in a way that:  the user will receive a URL, click on the URL, the form will open and the user will be able to complete the form and submit it without having to log in to an organizational account or download the Survey 123 application.

 

Is this already possible at this time? If not, anyone if it will be possible eventually? When?

Thanks!

Alix

IsmaelChivite
Esri Frequent Contributor

Hi Alix, we are working on public surveys as we speak. We want to  maintain our commitment to  have this feature available before  the end of the year.  Our intent is to support public surveys to be completed both from a web browser as well as from the native Survey123 app.

IsmaelChivite
Esri Frequent Contributor
MichelleQuak
New Contributor II

Hi Ismael,

May I know what are the differences between Collector and Crowdsource Reporter (Crowdsource Reporter | ArcGIS for Local Government ) as well?

Building on the above question, would you there be a difference between using the two apps if I had to gather data from the public, involving photo attachments with their location?

Thank you. 

JamesTedrick
Esri Esteemed Contributor

Hi Michelle,

There are a few differences between Crowdsource Reporter and Collector.  The main difference is that Collector is a native application installed on devices and can work offline while Crowdsource Reporter is a web application that requires an internet connection.  Crowdsource Reporter also allows for anonymous access for submission, while Collector requires the user to be signed in.  Finally, Collector can both add and edit features (update/delete) in the field; while Crowdsource Reporter is submission (add) only, it has accompanying applications (Crowdsource Manager and Crowdsource Polling) that provide the data management (editing) and commenting on features (not quite editing, but still a revision process).

MichelleQuak
New Contributor II

Hi James,

Great, thank you! With so many apps available, it's hard to keep track of which can do what.

daveostrander
Occasional Contributor II

Any updates on this? I am currently working in the weeds to get this realized. I have posted elsewhere on this, but to reiterate here, ideally we would have a solution that does it all. The reality is that data is often both map centric, and form centric at the same time. 

Here is what I am imagining:

A feature service with its own set of attribute data, related (1:M) to a table containing survey123 data. The idea would be that directly from Collector you could fill in attribute data on a feature service then add one or more related Survey123 form(s) to the feature service. Users would have the nice experience of filling out the form data using the Survey123 UI, but know that once the survey is published all the data (FS attributes, related surveys, and associated attachments) are connected into a single feature service. That feature service could then be consumed by, viewed, edited, or exported in any web map. Right now it seems like every application (Workforce, Collector, Survey123)  is somewhat integrated (URL schemes), but each is creating its own disparate datasets. Maybe I am missing something integral... still working my way through it. 

JamesTedrick
Esri Esteemed Contributor

Hi Dave,

With the 1.10 version of Survey123, you can create a survey off an existing dataset.  This should let you consolidate Collector and Survey123 to the same feature service.

With regard to the split between workforce and Collector/Survey123, I would argue that this makes sense- Workforce is storing information about the collection operation, while the other apps store the information you actually want to collect.  Having these two purposes in the same service might confuse operational issues with the purpose of the operation.

daveostrander
Occasional Contributor II

Hi James,

Thanks for getting back to me on this! I probably should have been a bit more specific on what I am trying to accomplish. In my use case scenario I am trying to replace paper based building inspection forms using a combination of Survey123, web maps, and Collector. I have seen that you can create surveys off an existing dataset (shown here). However, when I attempt to publish the survey I receive an error, which informs me that the schemas don't match (i.e. The custom feature service is not compatible with this survey (Field "Field Name" not found in "Layer Name"). At any rate, I really don't want the schemas to match, instead I want the surveys to act as related tables to the feature service I am attempting to connect them with. What I am really after is to have a feature service that contains it's own separate attribute data (some of which, say a GlobalID that could be transferred to the survey data so that the relationship works), and then have multiple related surveys that contain their own separate attributes (either many different surveys, or a single survey that uses logic to hide/show fields based on a user's answer to a preliminary "survey type" question at the top of the survey).

To illustrate this point let's use building inspection data as the example. In this scenario a single building permit that gets issued may require multiple different building inspection site visits (rough, roofing, plumbing, electrical, finishing, deck, pool, etc..). The process all begins with a building permit that would be created in the office by staff using an ArcGIS Server hosted feature service. The permit feature would have some basic kinds of information stored within it like you would encounter on a one page building permit form. This data may also have attachments like architectural plans, and a scanned copy of the signed building permit itself. The building inspection data that will then need to be collected going forward, is on the other hand far more complex, which really lends itself to using the Survey123 UI in order to fill it out. However, each inspection will happen on different days over the course of the build, each phase of the inspection will require entirely different forms, and because not all builds are the same (house, fence, pool, deck, addition etc...), not all of the inspection forms will always be used. When I envision this process working in the best possible way I return Jeff Shaner's Collector post, where he discusses "what's the big deal about 'Related Tables'". In this scenario a building permit represents the origin layer with related tables representing each survey type (see graphic below (visually substitute the hydrant for a house)).

Given the complexity of some of the building inspection forms, using Collector to collect this sort of data would be a rather maddening user experience (tens of drop downs options, fields that are not required unless certain questions are answered, and so on). Additionally, this kind of table orientated data is not so easily digested by contractors or homeowners, which is why the Survey123 forms provide such an enticing UI.

Is this sort of related record data schema possible by integrating a feature service with Survey123?

JamesTedrick
Esri Esteemed Contributor

Hi Dave,

Yes, I think this sort of workflow is possible with Survey123.  As part of creating a survey from an existing service, you can choose to remove questions or even sections that aren't going to be displayed in the particular form.  For example, you can remove the questions form the 'parent' layer, leaving just the questions from the related table.  You then can remove the begin_repeat and end_repeat questions, making this the main form.  In the setting tab, change the form_id to the name of the related table as seen in the Feature Service, and the form will write to the related table.

There are a couple of caveats about how the data must be set up.  The relationship classes must be based on GlobalIDs (i.e. in the 'main' feature class a GlobalID field and a parentGlobalID field in the related tables).  The service being exposed must have the feature 'applyEditswithGlobalIDs' set to true; this is normally ensured by enabling the 'Sync' editing operation.

daveostrander
Occasional Contributor II

Thanks Again James,

All of my data exactly matches what you have outlined above (GlobalIDs and GUID fields for relationships, offline data preparation for both the sde data, and the published feature service (i.e. sync checked). However, when I tried to connect to my related table layer and publish in Survey123 in playing around with the different options available I got either a submission_url error, or a "this table not compatable" error. I do have a case open with Esri technical support, but so far we haven't progressed too far. Hearing that you think this setup is possible is a huge relief! After today I had begun thinking I would be waiting for the smart form enhancement to be made available in Collector. Aside from theoretical hypotheses, have any of the Devs, or product teams successfully accomplished what I am trying to create here?

JamesTedrick
Esri Esteemed Contributor

Hi Dave,

Yes, we have successfully completed this workflow.  The easiest way is to use the 'Create form feature service' option. Use Survey123 with existing feature services—Survey123 for ArcGIS | ArcGIS  

BedfordGIS
New Contributor II

This is very helpful, but I do have one question. How do you ensure that individual surveys are available for offline use? Thank you.

JohnathanHasthorpe
Esri Regular Contributor

When online you just need to go into the menu and select 'download surveys'. From here you can download one or more of your surveys to the device. You are then able to complete and submit surveys while offline - with completed surveys being saved to the outbox. When online again, you can send the surveys from the outbox to the feature service.

If you need offline access to a basemap for a geopoint question, you will need to create a tile package (.tpk) and copy it to the device (there a few ways to achieve this).

BedfordGIS
New Contributor II

That's great, thank you!

Christopher_L_Rogers
New Contributor III

Thanks Ismael,

What a great write up and chocked full of great information. One thing I'd like to add is that if an organization is interested in routing their workers to the location of an assignment and then wants them to provide data from the field back to Ops, I can't imagine a better way to do this than to incorporate Survey123 or Collector with Workforce to achieve one of the best workflow opportunities I have seen in my 25+ years in technology solution development.

Esri you never cease to amaze me and your teams are top notch always bringing new ideas and capabilities to the user community. With the solutions we now have at out disposal, it is easy for me to stretch and bend them to my agencies needs even beyond the documented uses. A true testament to how awesome the vision is behind these tools and solutions! Please keep up the great work!

Hats off to you and your teams good Sir!

Sincerely,
Chris Rogers

Oklahoma DPS

deleted-user-cjKSaKqSSkVd
New Contributor

Since the helpful feature comparison table at the top of this blog post may not have been updated in the 2 years since this 'long-running' set of comments, questions and answers was started - if the author is still around, and so inclined, it would be great if a copy of this table could be added underneath the original and updated to include the current (Sept 2017) capabilities...

JayBeadnell1
New Contributor

Does Survey 123 support GDB sub-types and domains? I'm trying to determine the best product for capturing vertical assets in a plant. There will be multiple levels of related tables with either domains or sub-types. 
I have used Collector for this type of work before when the related tables were tied to a spatial point. My currents needs don't have a spatial component involved.

JamesTedrick
Esri Esteemed Contributor

Hi Jay,

Survey123 can be used to submit to feature services that have subtypes and domains; these types of questions are modeled through cascading selects (see Cascading and external selects—Survey123 for ArcGIS | ArcGIS ).  

JayBeadnell1
New Contributor

Thanks James

We will have to put on out thinking caps as this is a fairly complex GDB but I think we will give it a try

CraigPoynter
Occasional Contributor III

Hi Ismael Chivite ,

Just wondering if you could do an update on this posting with all of the changes that have been made to Survey123 in recent years. Would be helpful to see an updated comparison please.

Regards,

Craig

AndrewHansford1
New Contributor II

@IsmaelChivite This is an awesome chart and detailed information on Form comparison. Is this something that could include Collector, Field Maps and Quickcapture as this would form a very high level comparison for each app type?