Open source survey software are survey creation tools that allow you to host your own instance of them wherever you want, mainly because they are licensed under an open source license.
They can be a good alternative to proprietary solutions like Google Forms and others, because you don’t have to sign up for any company’s services in order to use them. Instead, just download them, install them and you are ready to go.
In this article we’ll be seeing 5 of the top open source survey tools and form builders that you can use for any data collection purposes you wish.
Open Source Survey Software
LimeSurvey is the most famous open source Google Forms alternative. It is written in PHP and uses the MySQL database system as a data storage backend, and hence, can be installed on all hosting options out there.
It is very widely used and adopted, to the level that in 2004 US presidential elections, it was used to gather reports about voting irregularities across the country by the federal government.
Hence, you can think of it as the mainstream open source survey form builder. Released under the GPL license.
- Very simple and modern user interface.
- Support for different types of questions: Free text, multiple choice, multiple answers, numeric forms, array questions… etc.
- The admin dashboard provides beautiful graphs about users who filled the surveys, based on their IP addresses.
- A theme system which supports customization.
- A plugin system for adding extra functionalities.
- A comment system on surveys (if needed).
- Support for exporting surveys in formats like PDF, HTML, XML and others. Same goes for data collected from users.
- Compatible with GDPR regulations.
- Full of options for literally everything in the system.
- Support for many display languages other than English.
As we said, LimeSurvey is nothing more than a PHP script powered by MySQL, and hence, you can install it directly on your server once you have installed the corresponding dependencies. It is as if you were installing WordPress or Joomla on your server.
While it clearly markets itself as an “enterprise open source forms & survey software”, its source code on GitHub hasn’t been updated since 15 months, and hence, perhaps the open source version is not in the same quality as the premium version.
Released under the MIT license.
- End-to-End encryption support.
- GDPR compatible by design, making it one of the few open source survey software that support it.
- Modern user interfaces which are customizable.
- Integration with many 3rd-party services such as Microsoft Active Directory, Google Sheets, Zapier and Google G Suite.
- RESTful web API for data access by developers.
- Advanced reporting dashboard features.
Once you have Angular installed along its dependencies, you can download ngSurvey from GitHub and run the corresponding commands explained in its README file to start development and production deployments.
The enterprise version, however, requires registration and a subscription so that you can fully unlock all the features.
3. Survey Project
This survey form builder is mainly built by Microsoft technologies. It is written in C# and .NET framework, and works only with Windows, Microsoft IIS and MS SQL Server. Hence, Microsoft enthusiasts would love it for its native compatibility.
Released under the GPL license, Survey Project offers a classic survey and data entry web application that is beneficial for most use cases. It has a very classical user interface (Close to Windows XP’s type of interfaces), but it is still maintained and under active development.
Gets the job done for its userbase.
- Basic survey functionalities support like other open source survey software in this list.
- Compatible with Windows and Microsoft’s server tools.
- Data export support in CSV and XML formats.
- Regex expressions support.
- GDPR-compatible and OWASP verified.
After installing the needed dependencies, which are Microsoft IIS, MS SQL Server and .NET 4.5 framework, the software can be downloaded from its GitHub releases page and installed according to the installation instructions.
Very straightforward if you are a Windows user.
4. Open Foris Collect
Written in Java, which is why it works on Windows, macOS and Linux without extra needed tools or libraries. Open Foris Collect is part of the Open Foris collection; which is a set of open source tools designed for data collection and monitoring.
Licensed under the MIT license, Open Foris Collect offers a beautiful and modern user interface for its users who wish to collect data with surveys, and supports most of the features in LimeSurvey as well.
- Different forms supported such as multiple-choice questions, tables, columns… etc.
- Multiple data types support (Text, Boolean, numbers, ranges, files… etc).
- Support for using pre-defined templates for creating surveys.
- Data validation for input fields from users’ side.
- Multi-language support for the same survey.
- Data export in CSV or XML.
- Simple user interfaces.
Open Foris Collect is a Java application, and hence, can be used with any Java server which is installed on any operating system. You can download it from the official website.
After that, you may read the nicely-done user guide for further installation instructions.
5. WordPress as an Open Source Survey Software
WordPress is the most famous content management system on the planet, and it holds alone 42% marketshare of all Internet websites. It is open source as well, and hence, can be extended to become the survey software you need.
Thanks to some WordPress plugins like:
And others, you can turn WordPress into an online survey data collector. Just install one of these plugins and activate them so that you can start creating your surveys directly from your WordPress admin panel.
Quiz & Survey Master plugin, by the way, is the plugin we use on FOSS Quiz; our quiz service, to create online interactive quizzes about open source software. So you can see a simple demo here for it.
While WordPress was not mainly built to become a form builder, these plugins accomplish the same thing standalone survey software accomplish, and provide most of the same features for free.
Using WordPress as a form builder is definitely worth the try. You’ll just need an active WordPress installation so that you can install the corresponding plugins and experiment with them, nothing more.
So we have seen in this list many open source survey software that are more than enough to be a Google Forms alternative. LimeSurvey is generally what most people use, but other solutions in this list can be used as well depending on your requirements and needs.
Remember that you need to have an online server to host the production deployment of these tools (So that you can share a fixed URL with other users to fill your surveys), and hence, you need a VPS. If you don’t have one, consider signing up with DigitalOcean.