Enketo: Why so awesome?

Martijn van de Rijdt, 13 Dec 2012

It has been 3 months now since Enketo was quietly launched on formhub.org and I have had a great time so far at Modilabs. We are getting encouraging feedback from users and have many ideas on how to make Enketo even more awesome.

Enketo screenshot I started Enketo to provide a way to address the lack of modern and efficient IT tools in the developing world. As a former aid worker, I had first-hand experience of this problem and it seemed mostly related to poor Internet connectivity. Enketo was designed to have the benefits of a modern web application but without the ‘always-online’ dependency. This became possible by utilizing new offline-capable web technologies related to HTML 5.

Enketo was initially targeted at aid organizations working in emergencies to conduct collaborative needs assessments. However, during the course of the project its potential in a much wider context became clear. It evolved from a basic app using a custom JSON form format to a powerful application that is able to handle complex forms in the open-source OpenRosa Xform format. It is fully compatible with other applications in the OpenRosa ecosystem,  and like formhub, OpenRosa and ODK, Enketo is 100% free and open-source.

Enketo is a lightweight app that does one thing – data entry – and tries to do that well. It forms one component of a system that together with form building, data aggregation and data analysis tools provides a complete solution to collect, create and share information. The unique combination of key features that Enketo offers are:

  • low technical requirements - It only requires a modern browser to run. It can therefore be deployed by users very quickly on pretty much any laptop or desktop and is becoming quite usable on mobile devices as well.
  • print-friendly forms - This facilitates old-school data collection (and modern data entry) with pen and paper without the need to maintain a separate print-version of the form.
  • offline-capable - Forms in Enketo open without an Internet connection (after a form has been opened once online, a copy is kept inside the browser). A user can just bookmark a form and from then onwards access it whether offline or online. Enketo also safely stores entered data in the browser and uploads records automatically (e.g. to formhub) when the user is connected to the Internet. Only after a successful upload, the data is deleted from the browser. A user can safely close the browser or laptop and work for weeks (or months) without an Internet connection!
  • open, free and compatible - Due to its openness and compatibility with a popular standard, it is relatively easy to integrate Enketo into existing OpenRosa systems such as was done in formhub.

In the next few months users can expect improvements in the general user interface, print-friendliness, mobile-friendliness and support for authentication. Moreover, in my spare time, I’m working on the launch of Enketo as a standalone app that will be hosted on enketo.org.