ODK Central - Single External Dataset for Multiple Forms


Does anyone know if there is a way to have an external data set on ODK central that is not just a CSV file connected to an individual form but a single online data set which several forms can pull from?

If not, does anyone know if this is expected to be a future feature?

Best regards,


Hi @noel ,
you should take a look to the new and growing entities and datasets feature :slight_smile:

Thanks Mathieu!

Should I assume that this is a future rather than current feature?

It does look much more extensive than what I currently am able to do but just wondering whether I am doing something wrong or simply that I need to wait for this new feature to be ready.

I think this post by @LN will give you a good idea of what you can already do and what you will be able to do with datasets :

and this was one of the discussion points at the January TAB meeting:

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Thanks Matthieu, that is great information.

For the moment a centralised entity which cannot be modified meets my requirements anyway. That is assuming it can be "modified" by deleting and replacing a data set.

You can't yet delete or replace, but that's coming soon! https://docs.getodk.org/central-entities/ describe the other limitations.


We have a hacky way of having this function, which uses another application (Drive Autosync) to pair the contents of a shared Google drive with the relevant media folder for our forms on the devices. For us it gets around the current limitation of Central entities, which is that of needing to approve submissions before they get added to the datasets. We run SQL scripts to produce the external csv files and run these as cron jobs - they write the csv files to the Google drive and the field teams sync the folders in their devices. What they registered yesterday becomes available to them today, and without our intervention. We can’t wait for Central to provide this, because it is such added value to the entire tool set, and crucial for our workflows. One of the csv files has the general external itemsets, which doesn’t change often.

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