When Should You Export Forms to Native Excel (XLS) instead of CSV?
FormSmarts allows customers to collect online form submissions on the cloud and download aggregated entries in a format, CSV, which is supported by all spreadsheet applications (including Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers and Apache OpenOffice) and many other data analysis tools. We’ve recently added the option to export form responses to native Excel format (.xlsx or .xls) instead of the default CSV for Excel.
The main reason we decided to support the new export format is to solve an issue with phone number fields that may not be displayed correctly when Excel opens a CSV file. The Excel XLSX format also has a few other benefits, but we expect most members to continue using the default CSV format in the foreseeable future. Please read on to find out if and when you would benefit from using the new format.
Benefits of the Excel .xlsx Format
Phone Number Fields
Provided you have set the Allowed Content (data type) of phone input fields to Phone Number, FormSmarts stores phone numbers as character strings rather than numbers to ensure any leading zero is not dropped from phone numbers. Unfortunately, Excel interprets character strings that only contain digits as numbers, thus removing leading zeros. Members who collect phone numbers on their forms, especially in locales where phone numbers may start with a zero (some US states and part of Asia & Europe), should set the Export Format to the Native Excel option in the Report Generator settings, as illustrated above.
If you find out when opening a CSV spreadsheet from FormSmarts that leading zeros were dropped from phone numbers, update the export format and create another report. Provided phone input fields were correctly created as phone number fields, the correct information, with any leading zeros, is stored on FormSmarts. No information was lost, any errors is due to the Excel import process and can be easily fixed by generating a new report after changing the export format.
All settings of the Report Generator but the timezone are kept in your browser, so as long as you use the same browser and allow FormSmarts to store information in your browser, your export preference will be saved from one session to the next.
Form Results with Data in a Non Western-European Language
When a spreadsheet contains data in a language other than English or another Western-European language, customers need to make sure when opening an Excel/CSV report from FormSmarts they select the UTF-8 (Unicode) encoding in Excel’s Import Wizard. The content of the spreadsheet may otherwise not be displayed properly. Alternatively, exporting form entries to a native Excel (.xlsx, .xls) spreadsheet removes the need to select the correct text encoding.
Note that FormSmarts stores data with a universal encoding (UTF-8) that supports all languages, so if you find out that a report appears corrupted when opening the spreadsheet, open the file again and select the UTF-8 encoding or switch the export format to Native Excel: no data was lost or corrupted.
The native Excel format offers a few other benefits and we expect their number to grow in the future:
- The URLs of form attachments are clickable links
- The FormSmarts Reference Number (the penultimate column in the spreadsheet) links to the entry on FormSmarts. Use this link to add a note to an entry, check where it was submitted from (IP address, IP location), export it to PDF, print it, delete it and more. As we add more functionality to the page showing individual form entries (like the ability to tag and edit an entry), we expect more and more customers to rely on links in the spreadsheet.
The native Excel format is supported with Business Plus accounts and above.