How do I import data to a form using Import CSV?

Using Import CSV to upload data is a great way to add form records in bulk using spreadsheet software. Keep in mind you can only import data into blank forms (i.e. forms without submissions). The safest way to do this is working from a CSV file downloaded from Ona.

Import CSV function is highly experimental, a CSV file exported directly from Ona cannot be uploaded back. The data export needs to be edited or cleaned manually once exported.

XLSForm field names should match CSV column headers
Check that the field names in the XLSForm match the column headers in the CSV word by word.

DONT split select multiple choice answers into separate columns
Use advanced data exports so that select multiple answers are in one cell and separated by a space.

Here’s a step by step process:

  1. Upload your form and send a sample form submission so you can download a data file. Make sure every question has an answer so you have an idea of what new data should look like.

  2. Use a spreadsheet software to delete the sample submission and add new data. Each submission should go into a new row. We recommend Google Sheets because it supports UTF-8 encoding/characters, which is required when you upload the file back to Ona. UTF-8 encoded CSVs support special characters (umlaut, grave accent, acute accent, etc) found in non-English languages i.e. French or Spanish.
  3. When you are done with edits, save the file as a UTF-8 encoded CSV. Microsoft Excel does not currently support this. However, there is a manual workaround. To download a UTF-8 encoded CSV from Google Sheets, go to File-> Download as->Comma-separated values:

  4. Before uploading, delete the sample submission on the Ona website because Import CSV only works with empty forms. Go to the form’s Table view, double-click the row to open the single submission view, and click Delete. After deleting the submission, upload the file to the Importing CSVs tab of the Submit data section your form’s Overview page.

After uploading, your data will update. You may need to reload the page to see changes to the data.

A few rules about how importing data currently works:

  • Currently, Import CSV only works for blank datasets. You cannot add data to a form that has existing submissions.
  • Files should be in CSV format (UTF-8 encoded).
  • Form logic is not applied to data uploaded through Import CSV.
  • Right now, Import CSV has no “undo” option, so please test it out before making large changes.
  • Your data should not contain any characters of the following five characters: less-than character; (<), ampersand; (&), greater-than character; (>), double-quote; ("), and single-quote; (').