Let's Build Something New - Excel Surveys - Hilary Stoupa
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Hilary Stoupa

Let's Build Something New - Excel Surveys

While we wait for Microsoft to announce what's ahead (more here)  I think it would be fun to start taking a look at some other tools for capturing data.

To start with - I'd like to do a quick intro to Excel Surveys. If you aren't familiar, you can find the basics here

Excel Surveys are created in OneDrive. If you are using Office 365, you already have OneDrive storage available. If not, the free plan includes 15 GB of storage - plenty for a spreadsheet or two.

Once you have your OneDrive account all squared away, sign into https://onedrive.live.com/ and select Excel survey under the "New" menu:
New Menu Options - Excel Survey

 

 A window will open with an area for a title, description, and an initial question:
Initial Survey Window

It is pretty and clean - pleasant to use.

You can easily enter a title and description:
Enter title and description

 The questions have a little settings icon you can click to edit the question, select a response type, indicate whether a question is required and even add a default answer:
Question Settings

 Available answer types are Text, Paragraph Text, Number, Date, Time, Yes/No, and Choice:
Available Answer Types

Yes/No and Choice will present the user with a dropdown control when they fill out the survey. For a Choice questions you can enter the available choices in the question's settings, like you can in SharePoint List Choice columns:
Choice answer settings

The Question Subtitle will show up under the question - you could use that as hint or tooltip text:
Question Subtitle

When you are done creating your survey, you can click the Save and View button to preview it:

Survey Save & View button

Clicking Share Survey will bring up a page that allows you to create a link to your survey:
Share Survey Window

Clicking Create Link unsurprisingly does just that:
Create Link Window

Clicking "Shorten link" creates a short link (which again, should not be an earthshattering surprise):
Short Link

 

 Anyone you provide the link to can take the survey. Here's what mine looks like:
Excel Survey

 You'll see I added hint text around the date field - I'd thought that the survey might have a date picker. It did not - but it certainly let me know when I entered an invalid date:
Invalid date - with text entered

I'm all XML-y, so I typed in a date in my preferred format:
Still invalid date

It was still invalid. I finally entered it as mm/dd/yyyy and my Excel Survey settled down.

You can't submit with invalid data. If a field marked required is blank, for example, you'll get a warning and the same pink highlighting:
 Invalid - cannot be blank

Once all data is correctly entered, clicking submit returns a message (which, like so much of what I've shown you thus far, cannot be customized):
 Thanks message on successful submit

Back at the OneDrive site, you can open the spreadsheet to see the data collected:
Survey Data

You can open it in the browser or in Excel. If you want to modify your survey, after opening the spreadsheet in the browser, you can select a number of options under the Survey button in the ribbon:
Survey button options

Generally, I can only see this being useful in very limited scenarios. We can't get any data from external sources.  There is some level of data validation, but no rules, no formatting, no real customization. I don't see any way to prevent someone from skewing the data by replying multiple times. However - if you need to collect simple data and need a survey that anyone can access, this may be a tool worth trying.

If you'd like to fill out my silly survey, just to get a sense of how the various controls behave and overall user experience, feel free to take it out for a spin:http://1drv.ms/1JBtYhr 

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About Hilary Stoupa

I wandered into development after working as a business process analyst for a global manufacturing company. I create InfoPath solutions for our clients as well as work as a developer on company tools that extend InfoPath. I've also been instrumental in creating the InfoPath Master Class training provided by Qdabra.

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