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Add Support for Apple Pencil in Survey123 for ArcGIS

04-10-2017 10:01 AM
Status: Open
Occasional Contributor II

Notes or Comment fields can be a tedious field to fill-in without the aid of a keyboard, especially if you have something wordy to input. Additionally, notes and comments fields are not well suited for common attribute table tasks say, querying. Honestly, as far as I can tell there really is no good reason to store these fields as text fields in the first place.

Wouldn't it make more sense to have the option to digitally write your notes and comments using a stylus, that is stored as an image, and gets attached to the feature service? For example, Survey123 already seems to have this capability as implemented within the signature field. The only problem with using the signature field as a way to take notes is the limited amount of space the signature field allots users. Maybe this is very simple fix; create a new field type called "Comments", and extend the amount of space to a full page, or as determined by the user.

So far I have been using the Notability app as a workaround, but being able to jot down comments, or take a picture and write directly on top of it with a stylus all within the Survey123 application would be a whole lot simpler, and a less clumsy approach. Filling out forms using a stylus; seems like a no-brainer!


Hello Dave,

Thank you for submitting this idea. When you say it would be easier to use a stylus to collect data, what kinds of data or surveys are you completing? Can you provide a little more context surrounding your projects and where this functionality would improve existing workflows?




Scott, thank you for your reply! Essentially, we would use this anywhere we have comments/notes fields that require more than a short sentence of text, or in places where annotating directly on a photo or image would be useful.

While this is not reserved to a single workflow/project, an example that comes to mind is building inspections. Our building inspector often needs to meticulously explain why a contractor has failed a building inspection, and layout what corrective actions will be needed to pass the next inspection. Similarly, having the ability to take photos on the job-site, and then marking them up to better point out the problem areas would also be useful.

You can visit this older ideas post that talks about roughly the same type of workflow:

Add Support for In App Writing Using Collector for ArcGIS and iPad Pro 


I can relate to this.  I've built a UAS Mission form and a pilot has to go through a checklist onsite before flying and he is tasked to describe wind conditions, visibility, cloud ceiling, ground hazards and lastly write risk mitigation notes based on his observation. A multiline text may be sufficient, writing with a pen would even be better. There is a likert scale for quantifiable information on weather conditions but subjective information cannot be quantified.


I'd like to be able to do quick site sketches with a stylus. I have field staff doing surveys and making sketches of the general locations of septic systems in relation to wells, streams and shorelines. The sketches are quick and general, not measuring anything. It is information that would be best captured as a graphic image.


FWIW, I just tried this in Explorer for ArcGIS and it seemed to support my Apple Pencil fairly well. There are some issues with it not using palm detection and dropping points in the markup when it shouldn't (Jeff Shaner‌). Perhaps you could just open the map that S123 is creating in ArcGIS Explorer until the S123 team gets around to this if they decide to do it?


Hi John,

I think the premise of this idea is that Survey123 provides an elegant way to capture attribute data (i.e. using a form), but what is missing is a way to effortlessly capture a notes/comments field where a user might need to input a few sentences or a few paragraphs depending on the data being collected. Currently, that requires using the mobile device's on screen keyboard, a docked keyboard, or the built-in microphone. All of these options have their own drawbacks (i.e. typing using the onscreen keyboard is best suited for small amount of characters, a docked keyboard is not well suited for someone whom is standing/walking while collecting data out in the field, and the microphone to text option often makes mistakes, which are burdensome to fix).

The Apple Pencil, on the other hand, minimizes this effort since it closely replicates filling out at form, which is what Survey123 is all about! A large swath of the adult population is used to/comfortable using pen and paper, so I believe doing that same task, only digitally, makes a whole lot of sense. I did discuss this at length with Ismael Chivite‌ since there is an API available for this very purpose called Interactive Ink. However, I believe in the end it wasn't something Esri could "productize", but I never received any specifics as to why. In the mean time I am using a companion app, called Nebo to convert handwriting to text, and then simply pasting that into my Survey123 forms. Obviously, it's not as ideal as an in app experience would be, but it does get the job done. Maybe some day it will be available natively within Survey123. If history can be my guide, Esri usually sees these things my way, it just takes them a little longer to get there ; )

Filling out digital forms with a digital pen, editing related tables in a feature service, publishing Surveys as related tables, peanut butter going well with chocolate etc....


That makes a lot more sense. For some reason, I was thinking you wanted to markup a Map presented in the a geopoint survey element. You workflow makes a lot of sense for Apple Pencil support