Quick start guide - LimeSurvey 3.0+

From LimeSurvey Manual

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Help.png Note: Please note that this is just a basic quick start guide. Its aim is to get new users acquainted with the main functions and features provided by LimeSurvey. If you would like to know more about LimeSurvey and its capabilities, continue reading our manual. If further questions arise, please post them on our forum or join the IRC channel. We are looking forward to hearing from you!
Help.png Please note that with the upgrade from LimeSurvey 2.50+ to LimeSurvey 3+, the GUI (Graphical User Interface) changes slightly. The following tutorial was written using LimeSurvey 3.7.0.

Introduction - What is LimeSurvey?

LimeSurvey is a free and open source online survey application written in PHP and distributed under the GNU General Public License 2. The software enables users to develop and publish online surveys, collect responses, create statistics, and export the resulting data to other applications. You can either install LimeSurvey on your own server (LimeSurvey CE), or use one of our hosting services (LimeSurvey Pro).

The following start guide was written using LimeSurvey Pro. To install LimeSurvey on your own server, refer to the installation section in the LimeSurvey manual.

Create a Free LimeSurvey Account

LimeSurvey allows users to create a free account to test its features and core functions. To try it out, you can either select Sign Up For Free or Pricing from the LimeSurvey website and complete the registration.

Editions and Pricing - LimeSurvey Pro.png

Help.pngCheck the following link for a short comparison between LimeSurvey Pro and LimeSurvey CE.

Selecting Sign up For Free will take you directly to the registration page.

Four options will be displayed when Pricing is selected: Free, Basic, Expert, and Enterprise. Click on the Register Now button in the FREE option box (the registration page will be displayed).

Free LimeSurvey Pro.png

The next step is filling in the following fields:

  • Username: the username of your account which will also be used to access your LimeSurvey installation
  • Email: the email the activation link will be sent to
  • Password: the password of your account which will also be used to access your LimeSurvey installation

Join LimeSurvey pro.png

Click in each text box for more details about each field. You can also subscribe to the LimeSurvey newsletter in order to receive help, tips, updates, service discounts, and the latest news.

Help.png Note: You can unsubscribe at any time: (1) Sign into your account. (2) Click on your username at the top of the page and select Your LimeSurvey Profile. (3) Select Community Profile from the Profile Menu on the left side of the page. (4) Click on Mailing Lists in the middle of the page. (4) Uncheck the LimeSurvey Newsletter box.

For faster registration, LimeSurvey allows each user to sign up via their Twitter, Gmail, or GitHub account. LimeSurvey will gather the basic information required from your selected source.

After creating your LimeSurvey account by clicking on the SIGN UP button, you will receive an email from us. This email contains the account activation link that you should click on to access your newly created account. Clicking the link takes you to the LimeSurvey website and automatically logs you into your LimeSurvey account.

Create a Free LimeSurvey Installation

To access your survey link, you have first to create an installation. Click on your username from the main toolbar and select Your LimeSurvey profile.

TestLimeSurveyNow profile.png

Choose Survey Application from the Profile Menu located on the left side of the screen to create an installation.

Installations - Create an installation.png

You will be asked to:

  • Type in the Domain name (the URL link of the questionnaire).
  • Choose one of the four server locations that best suits your needs.

Profile Menu - Installations.png

When the domain-related fields are completed and saved, the installation process will start. This can take up to 10 seconds. Please refer to the example installation setting page below.

LimeSurvey Pro - your installation settings.png

You can now access your server by clicking on the administration URL. To sign in to your LimeSurvey installation, use your credentials.

Sign in to your LimeSurvey installation.png

Start Using LimeSurvey

Logging in takes you to the LimeSurvey home page, which contains a toolbar located in the top right corner and a set of boxes located in the middle of the page corresponding to six LimeSurvey functionality shortcuts.

The toolbar contains the following options:

QSG LS3 Homepage toolbar LimeSurvey.png

  • Tutorials: Here, (in any LimeSurvey 3+ installation), you will find a "Beginner Tour" tutorial to help you get a basic understanding of LimeSurvey and its most essential features.
  • Configuration: Select this option to access all of the Advanced, User, and Settings functions to administer your LimeSurvey installation.
    • Settings: Here you will find options that can help you customize your LimeSurvey installation.
      • Home page settings: You can use this option to tweak the settings of the home page.
      • Global settings: The changes done here affect the entire LimeSurvey installation, influencing also the setting of non-superadministrator users for all users.
      • Plugin manager: Here is where you find the options to activate a series of plugins that are supported by the LimeSurvey team. New plugins can also be added to your installation.
    • Users: Here you can find options related to the management of the users and survey participants.
      • Manage survey administrators: New survey administrators can be added from here.
      • Create/edit user groups: This function allows you to separate administration users into groups.
      • Central participant database: You, as an administrator, can use this function to store the participants' information in a central table/database that is independent of any table with survey participants.
    • Advanced settings: Non user- or survey settings-related options are found here. These are options that can be used to enhance your LimeSurvey installation.
      • Theme editor: Click on the Theme editor option if you would like to add/edit/delete survey themes, admin themes, or question themes. The themes allow you to control the look and feel of pages of your survey or of your LimeSurvey GUI.
      • Manage label sets: Label sets are basically list templates where each list has a set of codes with labels and it can be used in most question types either as answers or as subquestions.
      • Check data integrity: This checks the consistency and the redundancy of the data.
      • Backup entire database: Used to backup the LimeSurvey data when important LimeSurvey upgrades are pushed or when you move your LimeSurvey installation to another server.
      • ComfortUpdate: a tool that can be used to easily update your LimeSurvey installation from your web browser with just a few mouse clicks (instead of performing a manual LimeSurvey reinstallation).
  • Surveys: A survey includes, via different interconnected databases: languages, question groups, questions, question attributes, answers, subquestions, default answers, assessments, quotas, quota members, and quota language settings. Clicking on the green arrow will display a window with the following options:
    • Create a new survey: Allows you to create a new survey.
    • Import a new survey: Allows you to import a survey.
    • Copy a survey: Allows you to quickly copy a survey. The copied survey will appear in the surveys list where it can be edited.
    • List surveys: Lists all of your existing surveys.
  • Response Balance: Shows the number of responses left from your subscription. Because you only have access to a free account at the moment, 25 responses per month are available to you. If you run out of responses, purchase more using the following link.
  • Storage: This is the amount of MBs that are at your disposal to store your surveys and answers. Because you created a free account, you have 10 MB storage space. If you would like to receive more storage space, choose one of the following paid options from here.
  • Username: Here you can either access your user preferences or sign out of your account.
  • Notifications: Click the green bell to display notifications related to your LimeSurvey installation.

There are six default boxes on the home page of your LimeSurvey installation.

QSG LS3 LimeSurvey homepage.png

  • Create survey
  • List surveys
  • Global settings
  • ComfortUpdate
  • Label Sets
  • Themes
Help.png The boxes are shortcuts (click on them) for the different LimeSurvey functionalities. The boxes and their number can be changed from Configuration -> Home page settings.

Create a Survey

To create a survey, click on the Create a new survey box.

Create a new survey - Example.png

The Create survey page will be displayed.

QSG LS3 Create a survey model.png

The following options will be displayed:

  • Survey Title: The title of the survey has to be typed in here. You cannot proceed further if no name is given to your survey. No worrires if you do not feel inspired at the moment, the title of the survey can be changed later.
  • Base Language: This is the main language of the survey. Additional languages can be added later from the settings of the survey.
  • Sample Question: This feature is disabled by default. If you enable it, a question group and question examples will be added to your survey.
  • End URL: You have the possibility to redirect users to another page when they finish filling in the questionnaire. If you wish to redirect them, type in the URL and activate the "automatically load URL" option that is located under the Presentation & navigation tab.
  • URL Description: A short "End URL" description can be added in cases where the user is redirected to a non-related survey webpage. It may helpful if the survey administrator adds notes (explaining the purpose of the redirection to the respective URL).
  • Date Format: This option is important when you want to record timestamps together with the survey participants' answers. If you click on it, a drop-down list will display with a list of date formats. Choose the one that your survey respondents will be familiar with (do not forget that different date formats are used across the world).
  • Decimal Format: Two options are available: dot (.) and comma (,). Choose the one that is used in the region where your survey will be conducted (e.g., US vs Germany).
  • Description: A short description of the survey can be added here.
  • Welcome Message: The survey participants will be greeted by this welcome message if something is typed in.
  • End Message: Type in a message that will be displayed to the survey participants when they submit the answers to the questionnaire (when the survey is complete).

There are six options on the tool bar at the top. The one you just read about is Text elements. The other five are: General settings, Presentation & navigation, Publication & access control, Notification & data management, and Participant settings (known as Tokens). By clicking on each of them, more advanced menus will be displayed. They are used to enhance your survey. Choosing enhancements here is not required because they can be edited later from the settings of the survey once it is created.

Once you are done completing the fields, click on the Save and close button located in the upper-right part of the window. You will be redirected to the home page of your recently added survey.

QSG LS3 General view.png

Create a Question Group

A question group is used to group different elements of a survey like descriptions, questions, and answers.

To create a question group, first select the survey that you want to add the question group to. To do that, click on the Surveys button located on the top toolbar from the LimeSurvey home page.

Quick start guide - Surveys list.png

Click on the survey you wish to add the question group to - the survey page will be displayed. The menu on the left contains two tabs: settings and structure. To add questions and question groups, you have to work from the Structure tab.

QSG LS3 Visualise settings tab.png

Once the Structure tab is selected, the menu on the left will be displayed as follows.

QSG LS3 Add question group.png

Now, click on the Add question group button. The following page will be displayed.

QSG LS3 Question group options.png

  • Title: This is the name of the survey group.
  • Description: A short description of the question group can be typed in. It can be displayed to the survey participants if the corresponding option is enabled from the settings of the survey.
  • Randomization Group: This function is used when you would like to randomize certain question groups (the same has to be allocated to the respective question groups).
  • Relevance Equation: This feature is used to restrict survey participants to certain question groups, based on their previous answers.

Once done, click on the Save button located in the upper-right part of the window.

The last two fields from the screenshot are left empty because knowledge about the expression manager of LimeSurvey is required. If you would like to read more about them, start with our wiki on question groups.
  Warning : You must create a question group first in order to start adding questions to your survey.

Create a Question

To create a new question, always remember that you need first to create a question group. Please check the steps presented above to see how you can add a question group to a survey.

Once done creating the survey and adding a question group, select the Structure tab again and click on the add question button or select the question group from the menu on the left and click on the “add new question to group” button located under the Group quick actions.

QSG LS3 Add question.png

Once clicked, the Create question page will be displayed. It contains the following options:

QSG LS3 Create question menu.png

  • Code: This represents the individual question name/code with which the survey is saved in the database and can be used further in more complex and advanced types of questions.
  • Question: This is the name of the question that will actually appear in the survey for the survey participants.
  • Help: This is a short text that can be provided in order to help the survey participants better understand the question.
  • General Options: The functionalities located under this option allow you to modify the most important question-related settings. It includes four options:
    • Question Type: Many question types can be used in LimeSurvey. To better understand them, hover the mouse over each option or read our wiki on questions.
    • Question Group: Here you can choose which question group you would like to add the question to.
    • Validation: This feature is available on all free text type or numeric questions. It is used for response validation. If the response is not validated, the user will be prompted to try again before they can progress.
    • Mandatory: This option is available for all question types. This setting allows you to require users to answer the question before they can move on to the next question.
    • Relevance Equation: This is a setting for advanced users. We recommend that the default value of "1" is used (it means that the item will be always shown).

Please note that, according to the selected question type, different tabs will be displayed below the General settings tab. To find out more about this, we suggest that you to first read the following wiki section.

For example, if the Long free text question type is selected (the default option), then the following tabs will be displayed: General options, Display, Input, Logic, Other, Statistics, Timer. Click on the Save button. You will be redirected to a page that contains the summary of the recently added question.

QSG LS Summary question added.png

To add more questions, follow the same procedure described above.

Add Subquestions and Answers

Different types of questions require subquestions, predefined sets of answers, both or neither. For example, a question that requires the age of a survey participant does not require any subquestion or predefined set of answers. On the other hand, a simple array question requires both subquestions and answers.

Help.png The lack of subquestions and/or sets of answers is emphasized in the question summary if they are absent.

The next screenshot contains an array-type question.

QSG LS3 Subq q example.png

Add subquestions

To add subquestions, go to the top toolbar and click on Edit subquestions. Type in the subquestions you wish the survey participants to answer.

QSG LS3 Edit subq.png

Help.png Click on the green plus sign located under the Actions column to add more fields.

Add Answers

To add a set of predefined answers, go to the top toolbar and click on Edit answer options. Type in the answers.

QSG LS3 Edit answers.png

Help.png Click on the green plus sign located under the Actions column to add more fields.

Save the set of answers and preview the question (look for the Preview question button located on the top toolbar).

Quick start guide - Toolbar Preview question.png

Our question looks like this:

QSG LS3 Preview queston.png

Congratulations! You have successfully created your first array-type question.

Organize Questions

If your survey already contains dozens of questions, it is a time-consuming process to access each question and/or question group and edit the order one-by-one. Therefore, to quickly reorganize your questions and question groups, you can change the order of the questions and question groups from the Survey Structure menu. Once accessed, click on the three-lines symbol that is located in front of the question (group) name and start dragging it to the desired position.


Activate/Stop Survey

Now that you have at least one question and question group added to your survey, you can activate it. Select the Settings tab from the menu on the left and click on the Overview option. The following page will be displayed.

QSG LS3 Activate survey.png

Check the toolbar and click on the Activate this survey button.

Before activation, a window will be displayed asking you about some general survey settings.

QSG LS3 Save and activate survey.png

  Attention : If you decide to activate a survey, no edits can be done to the groups, questions, subquestions, and their corresponding codes.
  • Anonymyzed Responses: This option allows you to determine whether responses to your survey are matched with information from your survey's token table or kept "anonymous". If you decide to enable it, your survey is set to anonymize responses - there will be no way to connect answers and participants.
  • Save IP Address: If enabled, the IP address of the survey respondent will be stored together with his/her answers.
  • Save Timings: If enabled, the time spent on each page of the survey by each survey participant is recorded.
  • Date Stamp: Turn this option on if you would like to see the date the answers were submitted.
  • Save Referrer URL: If enabled, the referrer URL will be stored together with the answers.

Once you are done enabling the desired functionalities, click on the Save & activate survey button. The following message should be displayed.

QSG LS3 after activating a survey.png

Select the option No, thanks to disable the closed-access mode! This will allow everyone access to your survey.

Congratulations! You have activated your first survey! If you want to start sharing the survey URL, go to the home page of your survey, and look for the survey URL in the Survey summary.

QSG LS3 Survey url.png

Copy the link and start sharing it.

If you want to deactivate (stop) the survey, click on the Overview tab from the left-side menu and look for the Stop this survey button located on the top toolbar.

Quick start guide - Stop this survey.png


To quickly see your survey statistics, click on the Survey button located on the top toolbar of your LimeSurvey home page. A list with all the available surveys will be displayed. Now, go to the last column and click on the Statistics button (Quick start guide - see Statistics survey.png) that corresponds to the row of the survey you wish to analyse.

QSG LS3 Survey statistics.png

A new window with a set of graphs will be displayed. If you want to use them in a report, scroll down and click on the Export images button located on the bottom-left part of the page. All the charts will be separately saved as .png files and archived in a .zip file.

On the upper-right part of the window, you can see the Expert mode button. Click on it in order to access more statistics-related filters.

Once you select the filters for your analysis, click on the View Statistics button located on the upper-right part of the window.

QSG LS3 View statistics expert.png

The results are displayed in HTML, Excel or PDF based on the chosen format.

Exporting the Questions and Responses

If you want to export the results in a different format in order to produce statistics and graphs using other apps such as SPSS, R, STATA, etc., access the survey you want to analyse. Click on the Responses button located on the top toolbar, and then on Responses & Statistics.

QSG LS3 Responses and statistics.png

Now you are on the Browse responses page. Look at the top toolbar for the Export button and select the desired format you wish to export to. If you select the first option, all the availalbe formats in which you can export the data will be displayed.

QSG LS3 Export responses.png

Quick start guide - Export different formats.png

Once the filters are set, click on the Export button located in the upper-right side of the window.

Other LimeSurvey Features - Advanced Users

Check the features of LimeSurvey Pro package by clicking on the following link:

If further questions arise, please post them on our forum or join the IRC channel.