Free Digital Data Collection Tools

Earlier this month I shared some Esri tools (Survey123 and Collector) that work well for field data collection. Today I’m sharing some free alternatives to Esri products.

Google Forms is an easy alternative to Survey123. If you go to Google Drive and click the “New” button, you’ll have the option to build a new Form, which takes you here: googleformstart.PNG

When you click the question type button, circled in red to the left you get a menu with lots of format options (see below).

googleformquestionmenuThis is a very easy to use menu with a quick visual summary of what each question type means. It’s readily apparent how to make a question required or add more questions, and you can share the form with other users the same way you would any Google document. My favorite feature of Google Forms is that you can make some questions required based on answers to previous questions. By toggling to responses you can get a quick summary of all form entries by question, or see responses in a Google Sheet.

The main downside of Google Forms is that it isn’t very easy to add location data. One way to over come this is to drop pins in a separate map.

There are also great mobile options for spatially explicit data collection, although I haven’t used many. QFields is from many of the same developers as QGIS, and is meant as a mobile extension of the QGIS platform.


For QFields you set up shapefiles with the location information of your data and then can edit attributes from mobile. I believe you can also add new objects from the mobile platform. The functionality is similar to Collector from Esri, but with fewer workforce management options and offline options.

There are countless data collection options, but these are the two I gravitate towards because I already use the Google and QGIS platforms for other things. If you have a favorite desktop tool, check to see if the developers also have an app. Also, let me know if you have any favorite data collection tools– I’m always looking for new options!

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