Exported Data Makes No Sense

Hi, we finalized collecting data through a form consisting mostly of Yes/No questions and some multiple-choice questions that we built on Kobotoolbox. The was updated a couple of times (some questions were eliminated and some edited + we added an English version of the form later) and and therefore were deployed several times. One of the earlier versions of the form responses were working just fine, but now we cannot see the results correctly listed in any of the two languages when we download the results of the form as an Excel file. The answers are showing as , 1, and other symbols that won’t tell us anything.

Could someone please help fix this?

We looked for solutions all over the Kobotoolbox forum but couldn’t find an answer that works for us and we’re also afraid to lose our data while trying something experimental.

Welcome to the community, @Dulguun! Could you also share with the community a screenshot of your issue so that the community could understand it pictorially and help you out?

Hint: Changes during data collection should better be avoided, e.g. through systematic pre-tests. If nevertheless some changes are needed, first test them with a clone of your form, incl. test of data export.


Thank you so much for responding and wanting to help out, Kal!

Here are the screenshots of the error. We can see that all the submitted data are still there (and the form itself still looks correct). However, when we look at the results and want also download the results, we cannot read the responses. You can also see that the downloading value and header format options are limited:

Can you please help us fixing this? This is a very important part of the project we’re implementing and related to reporting back finances.

We really hope that Kobotoolbox team can help us on finding a way to get this correct.

Hopeful regards,

@Dulguun, could you provide me the following through a private message? Maybe I could have a closer look at your case.

  • Username
  • Project name
  • Server

You should be able to send me a private message as outlined in the post discussed previously:

It might be a problem caused by an incomplete or not well adapted specification of the multiple languages you are using. See documentation Adding Another Language to your XLSForm — KoboToolbox documentation.

You should first check, please, if the problem only appears for one language: switching the language in the report and in the table view.

You could download your (empty) form and check that all languages have a 2-letter code included, all languages have values for all labels (incl. choices), all hints/guidance hints, all messages.

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@Dulguun, when I investigated your issue, I could see that you did not have any other language options at the beginning. You started collecting data, and it seems like the data collection was also over. Then you tried to have multiple languages, Mongolian (mn) and English (en). Did I get you correct?

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@Kal_Lam, the form was first built in Mongolian (mn) and the English (en) translation was added later, as our reports come out in English, but the knowledge tests are taken by Mongolians in Mongolian language.

@Dulguun, but I don’t think you had named the label to Mongolian (mn) then.

I see @Kal_Lam .

I don’t really remember. Is there away to fix this? We need the readable data really urgently out!!!

Hi Kal,

Did you receive the data to check the form that I asked your help for through another private message that I sent you earlier?

Could you please help us to sort it out? It’s really really urgent.


@Dulguun, I made a quick check to see what went wrong and I found this …

So when you have a non-english label, the variable name is seen something like this …

Yes! Is there a way to fix all of this @Kal_Lam ? All our results do like this now.

Hello Kal,

Could you please provide us with a solution for this? We’ve been begging for your support since two weeks and are truly in urgent need to get our data out right.

@Dulguun, kindly please be informed that we are investigating your case and will be back soon.

@Kal_Lam thank you so much for the notice! We really really hope that you can solve this issue ASAP, as we’re meeting a deadline of an important report which will require the results of this test! Do you have an approximate time about when it would be able to get fixed?
We truly appreciate you and your team for working on this. Thank you so much!

@Dulguun, we are still investigating your case. We don’t have an exact timeline but we will reach back to you once we find a solution for it.

Hello @Dulguun, I looked at all of your submissions on this project and found that they used 4 versions of your form. I created an artificial new version of your form that is a combination of all questions and choices from those 4 versions. Because it looked like data collection had already stopped as of last week (March 22), I deployed this artificial version, which allows us to use that version when generating exports.

Important: to use this artificial version when exporting, you MUST uncheck “Include fields from all 9 versions”. By doing that, and choosing Mongolian as the language, I am able to download an XLS file where all questions and choices have their proper, human-readable labels. You can log into your account and do the same right now. Please note that your form has English translations for some labels, but not all of them, so if you attempt to export in English instead of Mongolian, you will still see certain responses appear like ___1.

I would strongly recommend that you NOT modify this form nor use it for any further data collection. Instead, if you need to collect more data, please make a new form and be sure that you name all your languages before allowing anyone to make submissions. You don’t have to remake the form from scratch: our diligent support team can help you clone your existing form or export and re-import it using XLSForm.

Thanks for your patience. We will work on adding safeguards against this type of scenario happening again.


This is what is recommended if one wants to do updates on a form that has been deployed already. Thank you for the education!

Hi @jnm. Thank you so much for your help on this! I downloaded the artificial version as you have suggested, cleaned the data and now it looks complete.

Would you please tell us step-by-step what we should do/not do the next time with our forms in order to not face the same issue again?

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