ODK Survey "loses" formatting

Dear ODK folks,

We are using ODK Survey (v2.0.3) and sometimes the survey “loses” formatting:


Pretty much everything becomes oddly formatted.

We have had this happen part way through the survey after syncing and then “spread” to other devices when syncing.

Any ideas for what might be happening (and how to prevent!) much appreciated. Thanks!


Hi Caroline,

Based on the behavior, it sounds like someone managed to sync up corrupted data and the other devices also get the corrupted data after a sync. If you could send the form and data so that I can reproduce the issue, I would be able to give you a better answer.


Thanks to the awesome ODK folks, I do believe we have solved this problem.

In an effort to make setup, pushing, and testing faster, we had deleted many of the files that come with the app-designer as examples. Turns out, we went a little overboard and we had deleted the odk-survey.css which is, we learned, where all the formatting comes from after you sync. User error! Don’t delete that file!

If anyone ever gets a chance to make a list of what files you can safely delete from the full app designer to remove the extra tables and size WITHOUT messing up your program, that would be much appreciated :slight_smile:



This is interesting. It seems to me we have two competing ideas:

  • The app/config directory is supposed to be completely under the control of the Deployment Architect. Anything in the app/config directory should theoretically be safe to delete, so that you can start from scratch. Survey formatting should live in the app/system directory.
  • Deployment Architects should be able to customize Survey’s CSS formatting. Customizations live in the app/config directory and we don’t have another place to put them. We don’t want people changing things in the app/system directory.

I see a few possible solutions to this:

  1. Create a default version of odk-survey.css that lives in app/system. If another copy is found in app/config/assets/css then we use that version, otherwise we fall back to the default version in app/system.
  2. Create a new directory that holds config the user can change but not delete. This might only hold Survey config. Add warnings to the documentation about changing things here.
  3. Distribute another version of app-designer that is “clean” and has all example application code removed and leaves only the necessary files (only odk-survey.css as far as I’m aware).
  4. Document which files are necessary. Probably here and/or here.

Do @W_Brunette or @clarice_larson have thoughts on this? I think option 3 is the easiest but option 1 is cleaner. Or am I misunderstanding something with the design?

Your assessment is correct, Jeff. I agree that at the very least we need to document this. Beyond that, I don’t have a preference in terms of how to deal with this issue going forward.

I agree with option 3 Jeff. I have spent several days trying to figure out why I can’t customise the format of my app even though I have been generating a custonStyles.css, it turns out you still need the odk-survey.css. I have copied odk-survey from one of the example apps and I’m now making progress.

On another note, it would be really useful (as a novice) to have a list of what elements in the css affect which buttons etc in the app, much of my success has been through trial and error.

Thanks for all your work.