ArcGIS Online

Smart Forms aren’t just for ArcGIS Field Maps anymore

As a GIS professional, you’re no stranger to a little data editing and maintenance. But what if there was a way to reduce the time spent inputting data and tailor your editing experience in Map Viewer? Smart Forms allow you to do both by setting up your own custom data entry form for geographic features and their attributes. If you’re thinking “Smart Forms? I thought that was for ArcGIS Field Maps!” you’ll be happy to hear that Smart Forms are part of the ArcGIS ecosystem – meaning they work in ArcGIS Field Maps, web apps, Map Viewer, and any other app that uses the JavaScript 4x editor widget. This blog will walk through the key components of a Smart Form in Map Viewer, what’s new as of November 2022 in ArcGIS Online, and what’s coming next.

 

Form Basics

Before digging into the different components of Smart Forms, you’ll need an editable dataset and a web map. If you don’t have a map ready to go, follow along with a sample map here of Wildlife Observations in Tongass National Forest with data shared by the NRIS Wildlife and Aquatic Surveys.

Getting started

With an editable layer selected in the layer pane, click the Forms Forms button button on the Settings (light) toolbar. This will open the forms editor, allowing you to configure and customize a Smart Form without leaving Map Viewer. The Smart Form editor is extremely similar to Field Maps, so after learning the basics you can switch between any of the applications with ease.

Forms button highlighted in the Map Viewer right hand panel

Field selection

To start building a form, drag the desired attribute fields into the center box. These are the fields that will display when you are creating, updating, or deleting a feature with the form. Alternatively, if you want to include previously configured pop-ups, click the Convert Pop-ups button for an instant configuration of the form.

Selecting the convert popups button adds pre-selected fields for popups to the Forms window
Fields are imported in the same order as the pop-ups, but can be reordered as needed

Field configuration

Once you’ve determined which fields will be included in the form, you can begin to fine-tune each individual field. Start by customizing the display name, or title, of form fields in the Properties panel on the right. While short descriptive titles are often appropriate, you can also use display names to ask guiding questions for the data editor like “How many animals did you see?”

You can provide further context for the user by adding descriptions and placeholder text in the form. For example, there is a Total Animals Observed field in the Wildlife Observations sample map. Although the display name gives a good indication of what should be entered here, you can add a description to clarify, such as “Enter the total amount of observed animals.” Additionally, you can include hint text like “1, 2, 3, etc.” so the data editor knows to enter the value as a number, not text. These subtle guides are especially useful for editors who may be unfamiliar with the dataset.

Hint text showing “1, 2, 3, etc.” and descriptions showing “Enter the total amount of observed animals”

Required fields

While descriptions and placeholders are helpful, you may want to further minimize data entry blunders by enforcing required fields. Checking the Required box prevents users from submitting a feature when that field is empty. Additionally, individual fields within the form can be set to read-only which will display a predetermined value and block any attempted changes from the editor.

Required field is enabled through a check box in the properties panel

Input Types

Further customize the form by using various input types, which determine how options appear for data entry. Selecting an appropriate input type for fields can both cut down on QA/QC time and create a more visually pleasing form. For example, the Common Name field has a long list of values (domains). Rather than risk a data editor incorrectly spelling or fabricating a name, you can apply the Combo box input type. Now the data editor can scroll through the pre-populated list and select the correct value. Available input types are listed in the chart below.

Input Type
Display in Form
Single / Multiline (text fields) Text entry input box
Double / Integer (number fields) Numerical (double or integer) input box
Date / Date & Time (date fields) Date input box in MM/DD/YYYY format
Radio buttons Radio button selection input type
Combo box Combo box pick list options
Switch Switch input type
Barcode scanner Barcode scanner input type

Note: Input types are dependent on what field type you are working with. For instance you can’t apply a radio button input for a date field. See the Field Maps documentation for more guidelines on this.

 

Grouping

To enhance the layout of a form, organize the fields into collapsible sections with grouping. To group your form fields, drag the Group element from the Properties panel into the draft, and migrate attribute fields into the group as needed. In addition to logically categorizing fields, groups can make a much cleaner and more efficient form by collapsing sections.

Pro tip: Skip down to the Conditional visibility section to learn how to make groups even more efficient.

Dragging the Group element from the properties panel to into the form

Advanced form tips and tricks

By following the suggestions above, you will end up with an intuitive and descriptive form. If you really want to optimize the editing process, this section will touch on some of the more advanced capabilities available in Smart Forms–but don’t be intimidated! Even beginners can incorporate these features into their own forms.

Calculated expressions

You may already be familiar with Arcade, an expression language that can be used to manipulate or calculate data across the ArcGIS ecosystem. Smart Forms are no exception, as users can create calculated expressions within the form editor. With a field selected, scroll to the bottom of the Properties panel on the right and expand the Calculated Expressions section. Click the Add Expression button to launch the Arcade editor and begin writing the expression.

The following example shows how calculated expressions work in Smart Forms. In the Wildlife Observations form, there is a Time of Day field that prompts the editor to enter the general time of animal observation (morning, afternoon, or evening). Rather than having the data collector manually enter the value in each record, you can write a calculated expression to automatically enter the correct value. To do this, follow the steps below.

  1. Click Add Expression with the Time of Day field selected.
  2. Expand the Calculated Expressions section in the Properties panel, then click Add Expression.
  3. Enter the expression below that evaluates the time of observation from the Observation Date (survey_obs) field.
  4. Click OK to save. Your form will now automatically apply the correct value to the form.

 

The calculated expression automatically changes the Time of Day field based off of the entered value in the Observation Date field
Calculated expressions will automatically populate a read-only value for a given field

This is just one example of how calculated expressions can come to life in a form and minimize time spent entering data. To explore more complex examples, check out the Common calculated expressions for ArcGIS Field Maps article.

 

Conditional visibility

Below Calculated Expressions in the Properties panel is Conditional Visibility. Conditional visibility allows you to build expressions based on a true or false evaluation in your data. The form will then will dynamically show or hide the fields based on the expression results. If you have a dataset with lots of attribute fields that are dependent on other inputs, conditional visibility is an easy way to filter out irrelevant fields.

In the Wildlife Observations example there is an Observation Method field that tracks how the animal was observed. Some values may need further clarification, such as the “In Hand” method. To provide more context on how the animal was captured, an additional form field titled In Hand Capture Method Notes should appear when the editor has selected “In Hand” for the Observation Method. Follow the instructions below to dynamically hide fields.

  1. Select the In Hand Capture Method Notes form field and expand Conditional Visibility in the Properties panel. This will launch the expression builder.
  2. Using the drop-down menus, add the expression pictured below: obs_meth_1 is In Hand.
  3. Click Save to save and exit. Your form will now hide this field until a user enters “In Hand” for the Observation Method.

Note: To create a more advanced expression, launch the Arcade editor in the lower right corner to start scripting.

After entering "In Hand" for the observation method, the conditional visibility expression display a hidden field for capture notes.
Fields dynamically appear based on the conditional visibility expression

What’s new in Smart Forms

As of November 2022 in ArcGIS Online, users can leverage Arcade FeatureSets in calculated expressions. What does this mean for Smart Forms? Using FeatureSets, you can now pull data from other layers in your webmap and automatically calculate fields in your form. For deeper dive into Forms & FeatureSets, take a look at this article.

 

Future form features

Now that you’re a Smart Forms expert, you’re probably wondering what’s on the horizon? Check out the upcoming enhancements for Smart Forms in Map Viewer below.

 

Related Records Editing

With the ArcGIS Online November 2022 update, users can now view related records via pop-ups. Editing is not far behind, and the team plans to develop a full related records editing experience right within Smart Forms. Stay tuned for more information about this exciting capability.

Conditional visibility FeatureSets

Although the team is excited to now allow FeatureSets in calculated expressions we intend to extend FeatureSet support to visibility, editable, and required expressions. This means that fields will be able to have dependent visibility based on other layers in your webmap.

 

Forming forms

As you’ve seen throughout this blog, Smart Forms are an extremely powerful tool to streamline editing within Map Viewer. Taking the time to properly configure forms will make the data editing process more efficient and reduce the need for data review afterwards. Now, go forth and start editing Smarter!

About the author

Bekah joined Esri in 2022 as an ArcGIS Online Product Engineer. She is particularly interested in data visualization and cartography. Outside of mapping, Bekah enjoys going for long hikes and finding cozy coffee shops.

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