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Interactive forms in Jupyter Notebooks
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nbforms is a Python package designed to allow forms to be submitted by users such that the data they submit is immediately available for use in the notebook by the entire group. This is accomplished using ipywidgets and a Heroku-deployable Sinatra webapp, nbforms-server.


To install the Python package, use pip:

pip install nbforms



Before using nbforms in a notebook, you must deploy a webapp to Heroku which will collect and organize the responses. If you plan to have multiple notebooks, you only need one server, as you can provide a notebook identifier in the config files that will distinguish responses.

To deploy the webapp, click the deploy button in the nbforms-server README.

Config File

nbforms requires a JSON-formatted config file to set up the Notebook class. The default path that Notebook checks is ./nbforms_config.json, although you can pass a custom path to the Notebook constructor. The structure of the config file is very specific; it contains the information that the notebook needs to create widgets and send requests. The structure of this file is:

    "server_url": "",             # URL to your Heroku app

    "notebook": "",               # an ID to collect responses

    "auth": "",                   # indicates auth provider, defaults to nbforms

    "questions": [{               # questions to ask, a list of dicts

      "identifier": "",           # a question identifer, should be unique within
                                  # this notebook

      "type": "",                 # question type; can be one of:
                                  #   multiplechoice, checkbox, text, paragraph

      "question": "",             # the question text

      "options": [                # options from which to choose if type is 
        ...                       # multiplechoice or checkbox
      "placeholder": ""           # placeholder for textbox if type is text or
                                  # paragraph
    ...                           # more question dictionaries

The server_url key should be the URL to your Heroku-deployed nbforms-server, e.g. The notebook key should be some string or number to identify the notebook that you're deploying. This is used to keep the notebook responses distinguished on the server. The auth key is used to indicate which auth provider you would like to use. _Currently, we only offer Google OAuth (google). If you do not want to use Google, leave this key out of the config file and the default nbforms auth will be used. Finally, the questions key should be a list of dictionaries that define the information for your questions.

Questions can have one of four types: multiplechoice, checkbox, text, or paragraph. The type key in the question is used to create the widget. If you have a multiplechoice or checkbox, you must provide a list of options as the options key. For text and paragraph responses, you can provide an optional placeholder key which will replace the default placeholder.

There is a sample config file at demo/nbforms_config.json. Each nbforms-server comes with a page that will generate a config file for you. The config generator for the demo server can be found here.


Import and Instantiate

To use the nbforms, you must first import it and create a Notebook instance. This will load the config file (defaulting to look at ./nbforms_config.json) and ask the user to input a username and a password. If the username already exists on the server, the password will be checked and an API key will be generated, to be stored in the Notebook class. If it does not exist, a new user will be created, and an API key generated. If the user does exist but an incorrect password is provided, the cell will error.

import nbforms
form = nbforms.Notebook()

If you elect to use a 3rd party auth provider (indicated in the config file), then the cell above will instead provide a link to that provider's login page. Once the user logs in, they will be redirected back to the nbforms server and given an API key, which they will be asked to enter in the notebook.

Collecting Responses

To collect the responses for a question, insert a cell that calls the Notebook.ask function on the identifier of the question. For example, if I had a question q1, I would call


This will output the widget and a "Submit" button that, when clicked, will send an HTTP POST request to your nbforms server with the student's API key, notebook ID, question identifier, and response to be stored on the server.

Notebook.ask can accept multiple questions; for example, form.ask("q1", "q3") would display a widget with q1 and q3 as its tabs. Passing no arguments to Notebook.ask will display all of the questions.

Retrieving Data

nbforms allows you to get your data from the server and collect it into either a datascience Table or a pandas DataFrame. To retrieve the responses from the server, use Notebook.to_table or Notebook.to_df; the optional user_hashes argument (default False) indicates whether or not to include a column with the hashes username.

# datascience Table
form.to_table("q1", "q2", ...)

# pandas DataFrame
form.to_df("q1", "q3", ..., user_hashes=True)

Taking Attendance

nbforms can be used to track attendance. All attendance requests are logged and instructors have the ability to run rake tasks that will open and close the attendance form. If a student submits when the attendance is not open, their submission will indicate that the form was closed when they submitted. If it is open, this will be reflected in their submission. If a student submits attendance for a notebook when it is open and then resubmits after it is closed again, the submission when the notebook was open will not be overwritten.

To open the attendance submissions, run rake attendance:open[NOTEBOOK_ID] on the heroku add. Simiarly, to close it, run rake attendance:close[NOTEBOOK_ID]. To generate a CSV of the submissions for a particular notebook, run rake attendance:report[NOTEBOOK_ID]. In all of these, replace NOTEBOOK_ID with the ID you provided for the notebook in the config file.

To take attendance in the notebook, use Notebook.take_attendance:


The default behavior of nbforms is not to notify students if they submit when the form is closed. Notebook.take_attendance will only error if the submission was not recorded successfully.

Database Maintenance

There is not much database maintance that can be done, but you can optionally delete all responses on the server by running rake clear on your Heroku app.


Setting Up Google OAuth

To use Google OAuth, you need to get set up a GCP project with OAuth and use the Heroku dashboard to set up the necessary environment variables. You should set GOOGLE_KEY to your client ID and GOOGLE_SECRET to your client secret.

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