Composing Free Format Questions

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Warning:  Because of the complexities of the Free Format Question type, you must completely test your survey to ensure that it functions properly and that the data for your entire survey are being saved correctly.  We do not provide support to help you troubleshoot  your own HTML and JavaScript.


Response Types


Currently the Free Format Question allows you to use any of the following types of variables:




SELECT (Combo Box)

TEXT (Numeric)

TEXT (Text Box)






Lighthouse Studio provides pre-set templates for you to construct commonly used question types.  Most users find these adequate to compose their surveys.  However, some projects (or clients) may require that you create a certain look/layout with a question type that our templates don't allow.  For such instances, the Free Format question type can provide those who know HTML near total control of the look of a question or entire survey pages containing many questions.  For example, you can create complex "grid" questions, with combinations of numeric, open-end, check-box or radio button responses.  To see an example of the possibilities, please see the "Free Format" study that was installed in your /Samples directory.


You must be familiar with HTML to use the Free Format question type.  See for a simple HTML tutorial.


As the name of the Free Format question suggests, you supply your own HTML code to display the question and input controls.  Like all other question types, you can specify a Header 1, Header 2, and Footer text (if you are applying Styles to your survey, you may wish to utilize these question sections for better uniformity of look across both your standard and your free format questions.)


Lighthouse Studio still provides the <form> tag and its parameters.  But, most everything that you would put within (but not including) the <body></body> tags is up to you (with the exception of the "submit" button control).  Free Format question HTML code cannot have any <html>, <body>, or <form> tags (like all general survey questions, Lighthouse Studio generates these tags).


If you are applying Styles in your questionnaire (most surveys do), your HTML must include proper CSS "hooks" for the question to look like the others within your survey.


Adding a Free Format Question


A Free Format question can contain a single, or multiple questions (variables).  If using multiple variables, they do not necessarily have to be all of the same response type.  You can include combinations of numerics, combo boxes, radio buttons, check boxes and open-end text fields within the same Free Format question.  To add a Free Format question to your survey, click the Add... button from the Write Questionnaire dialog.  The new Free Format question is inserted directly after any highlighted question in the List of Questions.  If no question is highlighted, the new question is inserted at the end of the list.


The Add to Questionnaire dialog is displayed.  Choose the Free Format option.  Type a question name in the Question Name field.  Question names can include up to 24 letters or numbers (no spaces or underscores permitted, and cannot start with numbers).  


Please note that the name given to the Free Format question plus an underscore character that Lighthouse Studio supplies acts as a prefix to all of the variables you define within this particular Free Format question.   For example, you may wish to add a multi-part numeric question that has three response blanks.  If you name your Free Format question "FF1", you later assign three variable labels with FF1_ as a prefix (e.g. "FF1_A", "FF1_B"," FF1_C").  By requiring you to provide a unique prefix name for Free Format questions, Lighthouse Studio can help you make sure you do not accidentally give two different variables within your survey the same name, resulting in potential data loss.


Click OK.  The Free Format Question dialog is displayed, with three tabs: Question Text, Variables/Question HTML, and Skip Logic.



Question Text Tab


Like all other question types, you can specify a Header 1, Header 2, and Footer text.  Even though free format questions let you specify all the HTML for your question (and you could specify all the HTML within the Variables/Question HTML tab), you may wish to type text/HTML into these three different sections so that if you apply Styles, your free format questions will carry many of the same style formatting as your other standard Lighthouse questions.


Variables/Question HTML Tab


The Variables/Question HTML tab is divided into two parts.  The lower section contains a text box where you  compose your HTML code.  (HTML can also be written in a separate editor and then copied and pasted into this section.)  The upper section contains a list box of Free Format variables.  Remember, a Free Format question actually can contain many sub-questions (Free Format Variables).  The Free Format Variables you add to the Variable Names list must correspond exactly to the input tags and variable names you write within your HTML section (including distinction between upper and lower case).  (If you use the Free Format Controls icon Tools this helps ensure that your variable names match.)   Each Free Format Variable counts as a question against your license limitation.


Free Format Variables


Free Format Variables must have unique names that begin with the name of the Free Format question.  When specifying the name of a variable, the Free Format question name is made the first part of the variable name automatically.  It is very important that the full variable name be exactly the same as the name parameter for the corresponding input tags in your HTML code section (including case).



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