Surveyor is a Rails gem plugin that lets you easily design surveys, questionnares, quizes, etc... and add them to your app. (See Readme for more information)
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Surveys On Rails

Surveyor is a rails (gem) plugin, that brings surveys to your rails app. Before Rails 2.3, it was implemented as a Rails Engine. Surveys are written in a DSL (Domain Specific Language), with examples available in the "kitchen sink" survey.

Why you might want to use Surveyor

If you have to have a part of your Rails app that asks users questions as part of a survey, quiz, or questionnaire then you should consider using Surveyor. This plugin was designed out of the need to deliver clinical research surveys to large populations of people but it can be used for any type of survey. It has an easy to use DSL to define the questions, response dependencies (if user answers 'A' to question 1 then show question 1a, etc...), and structure (different sections of longer questionnaires).

To build your questionnaire you define it using a custom DSL. Having a DSL instead of a GUI makes it significantly easier to import long surveys (no more endless clicking and typing into tiny text boxes). It also means that you can let your customer write out the survey, edit, re-edit, tweak, throw out and start over, any number of surveys without having to change a single line of code in your app.

DSL example

Our DSL supports a wide range of question types (too many to list here) and varying dependency logic. Here are the first few questions of the "kitchen_sink" survey which should give you and idea of how the DSL works. The full example with all the types of questions is in the plugin and available if you run the installation instructions below.

survey "“Kitchen Sink” survey" do

  section "Basic questions" do
    # A label is a question that accepts no answers
    label "These questions are examples of the basic supported input types"

    # A basic question with radio buttons
    question_1 "What is your favorite color?", :pick => :one
    answer "red"
    answer "blue"
    answer "green"
    answer "yellow"
    answer :other

    # A basic question with checkboxes
    # "question" and "answer" may be abbreviated as "q" and "a"
    q_2 "Choose the colors you don't like", :pick => :any
    a_1 "red"
    a_2 "blue"
    a_3 "green"
    a_4 "yellow"
    a :omit

    # A dependent question, with conditions and rule to logically join them  
    # the question's reference identifier is "2a", and the answer's reference_identifier is "1"
    # question reference identifiers used in conditions need to be unique on a survey for the lookups to work
    q_2a "Please explain why you don't like this color?"
    a_1 "explanation", :text
    dependency :rule => "A or B or C or D"
    condition_A :q_2, "==", :a_1
    condition_B :q_2, "==", :a_2
    condition_C :q_2, "==", :a_3
    condition_D :q_2, "==", :a_4

    # ... other question, sections and such. See kitchen_sink_survey.rb for more.


The survey above shows a couple simple question types. The first one is a "pick one" type with the "other" custom entry. The second question is a "pick any" type with the option to "omit". It also has a dependency where you can ask a follow up question based on how the user answered the previous question. Notice the way the dependency is defined as a string. This implementation supports any number of complex dependency rules so not just "A or B or C or D" but "A and (B or C) and D" or "!A or ((B and !C) or D)". The conditions are the letters used they are evaluated separately using the operators defined for "==","<>", ">=","<", (the usual stuff) the plugged in to the dependency rule and evaluated. See the example survey for more details.


As a plugin:

gem install haml
gem install fastercsv
script/plugin install git:// -r 'tag v0.11.0'

Or as a gem:

# in environment.rb
config.gem "surveyor", :version => '~> 0.11.0', :source => ''

rake gems:install

Or as a gem (with bundler):

# in environment.rb
gem "surveyor", '~> 0.11.0'

bundle install

Generate assets, run migrations:

script/generate surveyor
rake db:migrate

Try out the "kitchen sink" survey:

rake surveyor FILE=surveys/kitchen_sink_survey.rb FIXTURES=surveys/fixtures

The rake surveyor task overwrites previous surveys by default, but can append instead:

rake surveyor FILE=surveys/kitchen_sink_survey.rb FIXTURES=surveys/fixtures APPEND=true

The rake tasks above generate surveys in our custom survey DSL (which is a great format for end users and stakeholders to use). After you have run them start up your app:


(or however you normally start your app) and goto:


Try taking the survey and compare it to the contents of the DSL file kitchen_sink_survey.rb. See how each type of DSL question maps to the resulting rendered view of the question.


The surveyor generator creates config/initializers/surveyor.rb. There, you can specify:

  • your own relative root for surveys ('/' is not recommended as any path will be interpreted as a survey name)
  • your own custom title (string) for the survey list page
  • your own custom layout file name, in your app/views/layouts folder
  • your own custom finish url for all surveys. you can give a string (a path), a symbol (the name of a method in ApplicationController)
  • if you would like surveys to require authorization via the restful_authentication plugin
  • if you would like to extend the surveyor_controller (see Extending Surveyor below)

The initializer runs once, when the app starts. The block style is used to keep multiple options DRY (defaults below): do |config|
  config['default.relative_url_root'] = nil # "surveys"
  config['default.title'] = nil # "You can take these surveys:"
  config['default.layout'] = nil # "surveyor_default"
  config['default.index'] =  nil # "/surveys" # or :index_path_method
  config['default.finish'] =  nil # "/surveys" # or :finish_path_method
  #config['authentication_method'] = :login_required # set to true to use restful authentication
  config['extend'] = %w() # %w(survey surveyor_helper surveyor_controller)

You can update surveyor's configuration at any time. Use the block style (above), or the individual style:

Surveyor::Config['default.title'] = "Cheese is great!"

To look at the current surveyor configuration:


Extending surveyor

Surveyor's models, helper, and controller can be extended from custom modules your app/models, app/helpers and app/controllers directories. To generate the sample files and sample layout, run:

script/generate extend_surveyor

Any of surveyor's models class_eval, class methods, and instance methods can be modified. Include the following in config/initializers/surveyor.rb:

require 'models/survey_extensions' # Extended the survey model

SurveyorHelper class_eval and instance methods can be modified. Include the following in config/initializers/surveyor.rb:

require 'helpers/surveyor_helper_extensions' # Extend the surveyor helper

SurveyorController class_eval, class methods, instance methods, and actions can be modified. Action methods should be specified separately in the Actions submodule. Set the following option in config/initializers/surveyor.rb Surveyor::Config block:

config['extend_controller'] = true

Sample layout

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN"
<html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en">
  <meta http-equiv="content-type" content="text/html;charset=UTF-8" />
  <title>Survey: <%= controller.action_name %></title>
  <%= surveyor_includes %>
  <div id="flash"><%= flash[:notice] %></div>
  <%= yield %>

The surveyor_includes helper just calls surveyor_stylsheets + surveyor_javascripts which in turn call:

stylesheet_link_tag 'surveyor/reset', 'surveyor/surveyor', 'surveyor/ui.theme.css','surveyor/jquery-ui-slider-additions'

javascript_include_tag 'surveyor/jquery-1.2.6.js', 'surveyor/jquery-ui-personalized-1.5.3.js', 'surveyor/accessibleUISlider.jQuery.js','surveyor/jquery.form.js', 'surveyor/surveyor.js'


Surveyor depends on Rails 2.3 and the SASS style sheet language, part of HAML ( It also depends on fastercsv for csv exports. For running the test suite you will need rspec and have the rspec plugin installed in your application.

Test Suite and Development

To work on the plugin code (for enhancements, and bug fixes, etc...) fork this github project. Then clone the project under the vendor/plugins directory in a Rails app used only for development:



  • basic csv export. closes #21
  • add unique indicies. closes #45
  • add one_integer renderer. closes #51
  • constrain surveys to have unique access_codes. closes #45. closes #42
  • covering the extremely unlikely case that response_sets may have a non-unique access_code. closes #46. thanks jakewendt.
  • current user id not needed in the view, set in SurveyorController. closes #48. thanks jakewendt


  • surveyor config['extend'] is now an array. custom modules (e.g. SurveyExtensions are now included from within surveyor models, allowing the customizations to work on every request in development. closes #39. thanks to mgurley and jakewendt for the suggestions.
  • remove comment from surveyor_includes
  • css tweak
  • automatically add backslashes and eliminate multiple backslashes in relative root for routes
  • readme spelling and line breaks
  • fixing a failing spec with factory instead of mock parent model
  • upgrading cucumber to 0.6


  • adding rails init.rb to make gem loading work. thanks mike gurley. closes #52.
  • Repeater changed to only have +1, not +3 as previous
  • added locking and transaction to surveyor update action. Prevents bug that caused duplicated answers
  • some light re-factoring and code readability changes
  • some code formatting changes
  • added require statement to specs so the factory_girl test dependency was more clear
  • spiced up the readme... may have some typos
  • readme update


  • styles, adding labels for dates, correcting labels for radio buttons


  • count label and image questions complete when mandatory. closes #38
  • validate by other responses. closes #35


  • if @current_user isn't nil. Closes #37


  • fixing typos
  • remove surveyor controller from load_once_paths. fixes issue with dependencies and unloading in development. closes #36


  • response set reports progress and mandatory questions completeness. closes #33
  • adding correctness to response sets
  • adding correctness to responses


  • allow append for survey parser. closes #32


  • making tinycode compatible with ruby 1.8.6


  • fix for survey parser require


  • fixing specs for namespacing and move of tinycode
  • namespacing SurveyParser models to avoid conflict with model extensions


  • fix for tinycode, more descriptive missing method


  • validations in dsl and surveyor models
  • preserve underscores in reference identifiers
  • dsl specs, refactoring into base class
  • adding display order to surveys
  • moving columnizer and tiny column functionality to surveyor module
  • columnizer (and tiny code) refactoring, columnizer spec extracted from answer spec
  • cleanup of scopes with joins
  • refactoring dependency


  • question group dependencies
  • expanded examples in kitchen sink survey
  • specs


  • custom index page
  • custom classes and renderers
  • fixing typo in kitchen sink survey


  • new kitchen sink survey with better documentation of DSL
  • migration misspelling
  • fixing ordering, dependency conditions evaluation, and changing named scopes for now
  • DRYing up surveyor DSL models
  • working on adding dependencies for question groups

Copyright (c) 2008-2009 Brian Chamberlain and Mark Yoon, released under the MIT license