Skip to content

HTTPS clone URL

Subversion checkout URL

You can clone with
or
.
Download ZIP
SMERF is a Ruby on Rails plugin that allows you to easily create dynamic forms which you can use for surveys, questionnaires, data collection and other forms. It records which forms a user have completed and saves the users responses so that they can easily be analysed via SQL. Currently forms are defined using YAML files.
Branch: master
Pull request Compare This branch is even with springbok:master.

Fetching latest commit…

Cannot retrieve the latest commit at this time

Failed to load latest commit information.
app
lib
CHANGES
MIT-LICENSE
README
Rakefile
about.yml
init.rb
install.rb
uninstall.rb

README

*** IMPORTANT ***
This branch contains as yet untested Rails3 changes supplied by ferrisoxide (thanks Tom). If you want to use SMERF in production use the 1.0-stable branch.
*****************


= Simple MEta Rails Form (SMERF)

SMERF is a Ruby on Rails plugin that allows you to easily define dynamic  
forms which you can use for surveys, questionnaires, and data collection  
forms for example. It records which forms a user have completed and saves
the users responses so that they can easily be analysed via SQL.

== Requirements

1. You need to have a table that stores details about the users of your
   application. SMERF will keep track of the forms a user completes as
   well as the users responses to questions on these forms.
2. The name of this users table as well as the primary key and model needs
   to conform to the Rails convention, i.e.     
    - DB table name needs to be plural, e.g. users
    - Primary key assumed to be named id
    - Model name is singular of the DB table, e.g. user
3. SMERF is a RESTful plugin
4. It has only been tested with Rails V2

== Download

=== Get it from GitHub
    http://github.com/springbok/smerf

== Installation

The plugin is easy to install, once you have downloaded the source code run 
the following command from the root directory of your Rails application

    ./script/generate smerf usermodelname

Replace UserModelName with the model you use for storing details about your 
applications users, for example

    ./script/generate smerf user

Please note the model name needs to be specified in lowercase.

== Configuration

1. Run the DB migration    
    rake db:migrate
2. Include smerf in the controller where it will be used, if you want all 
   controllers to have access add it to the application.rb, e.g.
    include Smerf
3. Set the record ID of the current user so that SMERF can save responses 
   for each user. This can normally be done once the user has been authenticated 
   by using the following code as an example:
    self.smerf_user_id = current_user.id
4. You can use the example stylesheet(smerf.css) supplied with the plugin 
   which was copied to the /public/stylesheets directory by adding it to your 
   application layout, e.g.
    <%= stylesheet_link_tag "smerf", :cache => true  %>
5. To create a link to display a form you can use the Standard REST Path 
   method used for the show action passing the name of the form definition file
   as a parameter, for example
    link_to('Complete Test Smerf Form', smerf_form_url('testsmerf'))

== Testing your installation

To test the installation you can display the test form that comes with SMERF when
you install it. Everything will work as is as long as you have an existing user record
with id = 1. If not you need to modify the smerf_test_cotroller.rb file found
in vendor/plugins/smerf/app/controllers.

Simply change the line
    self.smerf_user_id = 1
and set smerf_user_id to an existing user record id.

To display the SMERF test form by doing something similar to this
    http://localhost:3000/smerf_test

== License
SMERF is Copyright(c) 2008 Etienne van Tonder, Cascadia Software Pty Ltd,
released under the MIT license

== Support
The SMERF homepage is http://smerf.cascadia.com.au and the project is hosted on  
SourceForge at http://rubyforge.org/projects/smerf. If you go to these 
sites you will find links to downloading the plugin, documentation and forums 
for requesting new features or to notify us of bugs.
 
Also feel free to contact me by sending an email to smerf@cascadia.com.au

== Please Consider
1. If you find this plugin useful it would be greatly appreciated if you could
   recommend me at Working With Rails. I'm a freelance developer and would value
   your recommendations.

   http://workingwithrails.com/recommendation/new/person/10053-etienne-van-tonder

2. That you consider freely sharing any changes that you make to the plugin. 
   Also that you share any new functionality that you creare for use with the 
   plugin that you consider may be useful to other users.

== Usage
The SMERF form definition file allows you to define the contents of a form. 
Each form is made up of groups and within each group there are any number of 
questions which can accept free form text as the answer or presents a list of 
possibilties to the user. 

In some cases an answer may ask for additional information by asking another
questions, these can be defined using the subquestion field when defining the 
answer. Subquestion fields are defined using exactly the same fields as a 
normal question, you can nest subquestions to any level. An example subquestion 
may be for the answer 'Other', in some cases additional information is required 
when the user selects this answer, a subquestion can be defined to accept free 
form text where the user can add additional information.

=== Form Definition File

To create a new form we define the content of the form using a YAML file. I 
decided to use YAML as it seems to be the defacto standard for Rails, 
its simple and has a nice hierarchical structure which suits the way forms 
are structured. At a later date I or someone else may develop a web based
form definition interface. All form definition files are assumed to be located
in the /smerf directory.

The definitions within the file is space sensitive, be very careful to get 
this correct otherwise items will be grouped incorrectly. The structure must be 
as follows with items at the following levels:

    smerfform
        groups
            questions
                answers

<em>The name of the form definition file is used to identify the form.</em> If you 
change the name of the file then a new DB record will be created with the new 
code and all links to any history will be lost as this will be treated as a 
brand new form. When the system loads the form file for the very first time a 
new record will be created with a code that is set to the name of the file. 

To create a link to display a form you can use the Standard REST Path 
method used for the show action passing the name of the form definition file
as a parameter, for example

link_to('Complete Test Smerf Form', smerf_form_url('testsmerf'))

=== Defining the Form

When setting up a new form the first thing we do is define some settings for 
the form as a whole. Currently the following items can be defined for the form:

name:: Name of the form (mandatory) 
welcome:: Message displayed at the start of the form (optional) 
thank_you:: Message displayed at the end of the form (optional) 
group_sort_order_field:: Nominates which group field to use when sorting groups for display (mandatory) 
groups:: Defines the question groups within the form (mandatory) 

Here is the definition for the test form included with the plugin:

    --- 
    smerfform:   
      name: Test SMERF Form
      welcome: | 
        <b>Welcome:</b><br>
        Thank you for taking part in our Test survey we appreciate your
        input.<br><br>

        <b>PRIVACY STATEMENT</b><br>
        We will keep all the information you provide private and not share
        it with anyone else....<br>

      thank_you: | 
        <b>Thank you for your input.</b><br><br>

        Should you wish to discuss this survey please contact<br>
        Joe Bloggs<br>
        Tel. 12 345 678<br>
        e-mail <A HREF=\"mailto:jbloggs@xyz.com.au\">Joe's email</A><br><br>

        February 2007
      group_sort_order_field: code

      groups:
      ...

=== Defining Groups

Each form is divided up into groups of questions, you must have at least one 
group per form. Here are the fields that are currently available when 
defining a group:

code:: This code must be unique for all groups within the form as it is used to identify each group (mandatory) 
name:: The name of the group, this is displayed as the group heading (mandatory) 
description:: Provide more detailed description/instructions for the group (optional) 
questions:: Defines all the questions contained within this group (mandatory) 

Here is the definition for the Personal Details group of the test form:

    personal_details:
      code: 1
      name: Personal Details Group
      description: | This is a brief description of the Personal Details Group
        here we ask you some personal details ...
      questions:
      ...

=== Defining Questions 

A group can contain any number of questions, there must be at least one question 
per group. When defining a question you must specify the question type, 
the type determines the type of form field that will be created. 
There are currently four types that can be used, this will be expanded as 
needed. The current question types are:

multiplechoice:: Allows the user to select all of the answers that apply from a 
                 list of possible choices, check boxes are used for this question 
                 type as multiple selections can be made 
singlechoice:: Allows the user to select one answer from a list of possible choices, 
               radio buttons are used for the question type as only a single answer 
               can be selected 
textbox:: Allows the user to enter a large amount of free text, the size of the 
          text box can be specified 
textfield:: Allows the user to enter a small amount of free form text, the size 
            of the text field can be specified 
selectionbox:: Allows the user to select one or more answers from a dropdown list 
               of possible choices

The following fields can be used to define a question:

code:: Unique code that will identify the question, the code must be unique within 
       a form (mandatory) 
type:: Specifies the type of field that should be constructed on the form for 
       this question, see above list for current types (mandatory) 
question:: The text of the question, this field is optional as subquestions do 
           not have to have question text 
textbox_size:: Specifies the size of the text box to construct, rows x cols, 
               defaults to 30x5 (optional) 
textfield_size:: Specified the size of the text field that should be constructed, 
                 specified in the number of visible characters, default to 30 (optional) 
header:: Specifies a separate heading for the question. The text will be 
         displayed above the question allowing questions to be broken up into 
         subsections (optional) 
sort_order:: Specifies the sort order for the question 
help:: Help text that will be displayed below the question 
answers:: Defines the answers to the question if the question type displays a 
          list of possibilities to the user 
validation:: Specifies the validation methods (comma separated) that should be 
             executed for this question, see Validation and Errors section for 
             more details
selectionbox_multiplechoice:: Specifies if the selection box should allow multiple choices
 
Below is an example question definition:

      questions:
        specify_your_age:
          code: g1q1
          type: singlechoice
          sort_order: 1
          question: | Specify your ages  
          help: | Select the <b>one</b> that apply 
          validation: validate_mandatory_question
          ...

=== Defining Answers

If the question presents a list of possible answers to the user then we can 
easily define these answers by using the following fields:

code:: Code to uniquely identify the answer, code needs to be unique for each 
       question (mandatory). The value specified here will be saved as the users 
       response when the answer is selected.
answer:: The text that will be displayed to the user (mandatory) 
default:: If set to Y then this answer will be selected by default (optional) 
sort_order:: The sort order for this answer (mandatory) 
subquestions:: Some answers may need additional information, another question 
               can be defined to obtain this information. To define a 
               subquestion the same fields that define a normal question is 
               used (optional) 

Here is an example answer definition:

      answers:
        1_20:
          code: 1
          answer: | 1-20
          sort_order: 1
          default: N
          ...

=== Defining Subquestions 

Additional questions can be defined for an answer if more information is 
required if the user selects the answer. For example you may have an 
answer 'Other' that requires additional information from the user. A 
subquestion can be defined for the 'Other' answer that takes an additional 
input from the user. To define a subquestion you use the same fields as for a 
normal question (Refer to the Defining Question section above).

Below is an example subquestion definition:

      subquestions:
        other_industries:
            code: g1q3a4s1
            type: textbox
            sort_order: 1
            question: 
            help: | Please specify 
            textbox_size: 30x3
            validation: validate_sub_question
            ...

=== Data Store

There are three tables used by SMERF:

smerf_forms:: contains details about each form 
smerf_forms_users:: contains a record for each of the forms a user completes
smerf_responses:: contains a record for each response given to each question on 
                  the form. This allows analysis of answers via SQL queries.

When a user selects to view a form the system checks the form definition file 
to see if any changes have been made since the last time the form was loaded, 
if it has the form definition file is processed and validated. A set of classes 
and objects are created that describes the form including SmerfFile, 
SmerfGroup, SmerfQuestion, SmerfAnswer, these are serialized to YAML format 
and stored in a single database field within the smerf_forms table. If no 
changes have been made to the definition file then the form is simply read 
from the smerf_forms table and unserialized from YAML with all classes and 
objects reconstructed.

The users responses to questions on a form are stored in the smerf_responses 
table which stores a separate record for each response to a question. If a 
question has multiple answers then multiple records will be created for the 
question. Responses for a question can be found by using the unique question 
code assigned within the form definition file. So for example if we had a 
question with code 'g1q1' and the user selects two answers which have been 
assigned code values 3 and 5 then two records will be created, i.e.

    g1q1, 3
    g1q1, 5

Check your DB or the migration file to see the table and column definitions
for each table.

=== Validation and Errors

All validations are specified as part of the question (or subquestion) definition
using the 'validation:' field. The SMERF validation system is very flexible and
allows any number of validation methods to be specified for a question by comma
separating each method.

    validation: validate_mandatory_question, validate_years 

Currently there are two validation methods provided with the plugin:

validate_mandatory_question:: This method will ensure that the user has answered 
                              the question
validate_sub_question:: Only applies to subquestions and makes sure that the user 
                        has selected the answer that relates to the subquestion, it 
                        will also ensure the subquestion has been answered if the 
                        answer that relates to the subquestion has been selected.

SMERF also allows you to define your own custom validation methods. During
the installation process SMERF creates a helper module called smerf_helpers.rb in 
the /lib directory. You can add new validation methods into this module and 
access them by simply referencing them in the form definition file. For example
we have question 'How many years have you worked in the industry' and we want
to ensure that the answer provided is between 0-99 we can create a new validation
method called 'validate_years'.

  # Example validation method for "How many years have you worked in the industry"
  # it uses a regex to make sure 0-99 years specified.
  #
  def validate_years(question, responses, form)
    # Validate entry and make sure years are numeric and between 0-99
    answer = smerf_get_question_answer(question, responses)    
    if (answer)
      # Expression will return nil if regex fail, also check charcters
      # after the match to determine if > 2 numbers specified
      res = ("#{answer}" =~ /\d{1,2}/)      
      return "Years must be between 0 and 99" if (!res or $'.length() > 0)      
    end
    
    return nil
  end

Note: There are some helper methods that you can use within these methods included
in the smerf_system_helpers.rb module which you can find in the plugins lib
directory.

Your question definition may then look like this:

    how_many_years:
      code: g2q3
      type: textfield
      sort_order: 3
      header: 
      question: | How many years have you worked in the industry
      textfield_size: 10
      validation: validate_mandatory_question, validate_years
      help: 

When the form is validated your custom validation method will be called. When 
an error is detected, a summary of the errors are displayed at the top of the 
form, additionally an error message is displayed for each question that has an 
error. This makes it very easy for the user to see which question they need 
to fix. 

=== Complete Example

Here is the complete form definition file for the test form included with the
plugin:

    --- 
    smerfform:   
      name: Test SMERF Form
      welcome: | 
        <b>Welcome:</b><br>
        Thank you for taking part in our Test survey we appreciate your
        input.<br><br>

        <b>PRIVACY STATEMENT</b><br>
        We will keep all the information you provide private and not share
        it with anyone else....<br>

      thank_you: | 
        <b>Thank you for your input.</b><br><br>

        Should you wish to discuss this survey please contact<br>
        Joe Bloggs<br>
        Tel. 12 345 678<br>
        e-mail <A HREF=\"mailto:jbloggs@xyz.com.au\">Joe's email</A><br><br>

        February 2007
      group_sort_order_field: code

      groups:
        personal_details:
          code: 1
          name: Personal Details Group
          description: | This is a brief description of the Personal Details Group
            here we ask you some personal details ...
          questions:
            specify_your_age:
              code: g1q1
              type: singlechoice
              sort_order: 1
              question: | Specify your ages  
              help: | Select the <b>one</b> that apply 
              validation: validate_mandatory_question
              answers:
                1_20:
                  code: 1
                  answer: | 1-20
                  sort_order: 1
                  default: N
                21_40:
                  code: 2
                  answer: | 21_40
                  sort_order: 2
                  default: N
                >40:
                  code: 3
                  answer: | > 40
                  sort_order: 3
                  default: N
                  subquestions:
                    >40:
                      code: g1q1a3s1
                      type: singlechoice
                      sort_order: 1
                      question: | Are you aged over 40
                      help: | Select the <b>one</b> that apply 
                      validation: validate_sub_question
                      answers:
                        41_50:
                          code: 1
                          answer: | 41-50
                          sort_order: 1
                          default: N
                        51_60:
                          code: 2
                          answer: | 51_60
                          sort_order: 2
                          default: N
                        >61:
                          code: 3
                          answer: | > 61
                          sort_order: 3
                          default: N
                          subquestions:
                            >61:
                              code: g1q1a3s1a3s1
                              type: textfield
                              sort_order: 1
                              header: 
                              question: | If you are older than 61, please specify
                              textfield_size: 10
                              validation: validate_sub_question

            are_you_married:
              code: g1q2
              type: singlechoice
              sort_order: 2
              question: | Are you married  
              help: 
              answers:
                no:
                  code: 1
                  answer: | No
                  sort_order: 1
                  default: Y
                yes:
                  code: 2
                  answer: | Yes
                  sort_order: 2
                  default: N

            hobbies:
              code: g1q3
              type: multiplechoice
              sort_order: 3
              question: | What are your hobbies 
              help: | Mark <b>all</b> that apply      
              header: Another header that you can group questions under
              answers:
                chess:
                  code: 1
                  answer: | Chess
                  sort_order: 1
                  default: N
                woodwork:
                  code: 2
                  answer: | Wood work
                  sort_order: 2
                  default: N
                sleeping:
                  code: 3
                  answer: | Sleeping
                  sort_order: 3
                  default: N
                other:
                  code: 4
                  answer: | Other 
                  sort_order: 4
                  default: N
                  subquestions:
                    other_industries:
                        code: g1q3a4s1
                        type: textbox
                        sort_order: 1
                        question: 
                        help: | Please specify 
                        textbox_size: 30x3
                        validation: validate_sub_question

        employment_details:
          code: 2
          name: | Employment Details Group
          description: | Brief description of the employment details group  
          question_sort_order_field: sort_order
          questions:
            which_industry:
              code: g2q1
              type: multiplechoice
              sort_order: 1
              question: | Which industries have you worked in  
              help: | Mark <b>all</b> that apply    
              validation: validate_mandatory_question
              answers:
                it:
                  code: 1
                  answer: | Information Technology
                  sort_order: 1
                  default: N
                accounting:
                  code: 2
                  answer: | Accounting 
                  sort_order: 2
                  default: N
                finance:
                  code: 3
                  answer: | Finance 
                  sort_order: 3
                  default: N
                other:
                  code: 4
                  answer: | Other 
                  sort_order: 4
                  default: N
                  subquestions:
                    other_industries:
                        code: g2q1a4s1
                        type: textbox
                        sort_order: 1
                        question: 
                        help: | Please specify 
                        textbox_size: 30x3
                        validation: validate_sub_question

            how_many_years:
              code: g2q3
              type: textfield
              sort_order: 3
              header: 
              question: | How many years have you worked in the industry
              textfield_size: 10
              validation: validate_mandatory_question, validate_years
              help: 


Something went wrong with that request. Please try again.