This feature requires a CommCare Software Plan
commcare-export is a command line tool designed to let you export your data from CommCare HQ in a simple, configurable, and reusable way.
commcare-export will automatically pull your form and case data from CommCare HQ and save it locally, typically to either an Excel spreadsheet or to a local database (like MySQL). You can configure it to pull data on a schedule to automatically keep your data up to date, or run it as a one-time data dump. Here are the basic steps:
- Install the commcare-export tool
- Create an Excel Query File
- Write a command-line query to run export
- (Optionally) Configure export to be re-run automatically
- Use data
The rest of this page describes how to use
commcare-export in more detail.
Who should use this tool
- You are looking to export data from CommCareHQ into a SQL database or Excel Workbook.
- You are moderately technical, comfortable running command-line programs on your platform of choice.
Exporting to file vs to a database
One major consideration is whether to export to a file (Excel, CSV, JSON, etc) or to a SQL database. Exporting to a file allows you to get a full results set without setting up a local database. However, the major advantage of exporting to a database is that
commcare-export supports incremental updates. By default, each time the
commcare-export command is run, it will only import results that were modified after the most recently imported form or case. This means that, for very large datasets, you do not need to export a full results set every time you need to access your data. This can be an incredibly powerful feature for a data pipeline. (See more information about Selecting Tools for CommCare Data Processing and Analysis here).
If you are looking to export into a SQL database, you must have this database set up, and you should know how to provide a URL for it.
- Pro Plan or higher, your project space must be on the Standard Plan or higher in order to use this tool.
- Edit Data permissions, the user that you use to authenticate with must have Edit Data permissions.
This section guides you through getting your system ready to use the
commcare-export command-line tool.
1. Install Python
Visit the Python for Windows page and download a package appropriate for your system. The following instructions assume that you have select Python 2.7, but this only affects the location of Python on your hard drive. This tool works with all recent version of Pythons. If you use a different version (i.e. Python 3.2) then you will need to replace each instance of "python27" with your version number (i.e. "python32")
pip (a program that automatically installs Python programs)
Install pip for windows (https://sites.google.com/site/pydatalog/python/pip-for-windows)
1. Install Python
Some versions of MacOS come with outdated versions of Python. To be safe, you should upgrade; this is very easy. The best way to install software on a Mac is via Homebrew. To install Homebrew and then a modern version of Python, open a terminal and run the following two commands. The first installs Homebrew, interactively telling you each thing it is going to do before it does it. The second installs Python and any prerequisites. (BTW, Mac does not have apt-get)
After that, usage of Homebrew is brew install <SOME PACKAGE>.
1. Install Python
If you are on a Linux-based operating system, you probably have an automatic package manager available. Lucky you! You probably already have Python installed or know how to install it, but if not, then you will need to invoke the package manager for your operating system. Here are some possible commands.
pip (a program that automatically installs Python programs)
Upgrade the tool to the newest version
If you have installed an earlier version of the commcare-export tool and need to upgrade you can do the following:
In case you have any problem setting up python on MacOS, reference here: http://docs.python-guide.org/en/latest/starting/install/osx/
If you get an error "ValueError: Invalid column index 0" you should run this command to downgrade one of the python libraries:
$ pip install -U openpyxl==1.8.6
Demo data and examples
This section describes how to run the examples that come with commcare-export against a sample project from the CommCareHQ exchange. After working through it, you should have some familiarity with the, its configuration, and how it is used.
1. Set up some demonstration data in CommCareHQ
- Create a new application (or use your existing application).
- Select the 'Deploy' tab, select 'Make a New Version', star the build.
- Visit Web Apps and fill out a bunch of forms.
2. Modify and run the examples and see the output in the Terminal
Download the examples demo-registrations.xlsx, demo-deliveries.xlsx and demo-pregnancy-cases.xlsx attached to this page. Open the file and edit it, modifying the "Filter Value" column to match your form XMLNS / case type. See this page to determine the XMLNS for your form. You should also edit the "Field" and "Source Field" columns to data that exists in the form you will export.
Then run the following commands. Note that you will need to adjust the path to the file to be wherever you downloaded them and fill in the name of your project - the bits in bold. The following commands will run the examples in such a way that the "tables" will be simply printed.
Many different fields are available for output in this way in addition to what is shown in these examples. The fields can be determined form the JSON output as they follow the JSON structure down to each property. For instance, based on the form output here: https://www.commcarehq.org/a/YOUR_PROJECT/api/v0.5/form/ - you would be able to use form.case.@caseid or form.meta.username.
YOUR_PROJECT is the name that you gave to the project space for your application. The name of your project is listed on the first page, Dashboard, when you sign into CommCareHQ. You can also see your project space name in any url while working in your : www.commcarehq.org/a/yourprojectname
- 'YOUR_PROJECT' refers to the name of your project space, not the entire domain URL. For instance, the URL would be https://www.commcarehq.org/a/YOUR_PROJECT. For the tool, simply type in YOUR_PROJECT.
- If you are using a domain that isn't stored on www.commcarehq.org, then you will need to use the "--commcare-hq YOUR_URL" flag in the command prompt.
- In this example, the output will just be printed in the Command tool. If you want to save the data to a file or database, continue to the next section.
3. Run the examples and save the output to an Excel Workbook
Nearly the same command will save the output to an Excel Workbook.
(try modifying the command above to save the results of each of the examples to a file)
On MacOS / Linux:
(try coming up with this command yourself based on reading the Windows example above!)
- If you are using windows, the command line for any path reference to folder names with spaces in the titles need to be included in quotes. For exampe, the folder 'My Data' would need to be referenced by "C:\Users\YOU\My Data" (quotes included in the command). If you start typing the filepath and when you are almost done, hit the "tab" key, the file name will automatically populate with quotations.
- If you are not going to save data to a SQL data base, you can skip ahead to Excel Configuration Details so learn how to set up the export for your project space.
4. Save the output of an example query to a SQL database
When saving to SQL you should make sure all your sheet names (table names) and field names (column names) are lowercase since not all database correctly handle case.
See Exporting to SQL section for more details.
By choosing "
--output-format sql" and
"--output URL" you can save the output to a SQL database. First, let us try it with SQLite, a simple database that is almost certainly already installed and ready to be used on any modern computer, so you do not have to have anything set up to run these examples. In the following, when you see a lite that starts with "
sqlite>" it is mimicking what it is like to interact with the database, so you should type in the bits that come after that.
In these commands, the term
DATABASE_URL is a standard URL format for databases. If, for example, you have a PostgreSQL database hosted on
registrations that you would like to save into instead, the URL might look like
postgresql://db.example.com/registrations (you may need to include username and password in the URL, but fully explaining the format is beyond the scope of this tutorial).
5. Synchronize recent changes periodically
Note: This only applies when exporting to a SQL database.
One expected way to use this tool is to run a weekly/daily/hourly export of just those forms and cases which have changed. To set this up you will need knowledge of how to set up scheduled tasks, so this tutorial will just show a single example command and trust that you are comfortable adjusting it to suit your needs.
When exporting to a SQL database the export tool can pick up where it left off after the previous run. This means that once you have completed an export all you have to do in order to get the most recent data is re-run the same command again.
How to Generate an Excel Query File
This section describes in detail the Excel query file required for commcare-export. You should open one (or many) of the examples (demo-registrations.xlsx, demo-deliveries.xlsx, demo-pregnancy-cases.xlsx) and compare them to the explanations below.
Excel Worksheet Naming
Each sheet of the configuration workbook is the configuration for an output table. Each sheet should have a unique name. The name of the Excel sheet will become the name of your output table.
The sheet consists of a series of columns with names that are special to commcare-export. These column headers are required but also freeing - you may have any other columns you like as long as they do not have one of the reserved titles.
Columns of a Configuration Sheet
- Data Source: (required) Possible values are
(Advanced Usage: You may specify a deep JSONPath into the data in order to iterate over repeats. For example, if you have a repeat called "child" in the root of the form, the data source would become "form.form.child". Also note that fields are then relative to the source, not absolute. See the Data Export Tool: Tips and Tricks page for more information. If these terms don't sound familiar, then you probably don't need them!)
- Filter Name: (optional) Including both "Filter Name" and "Filter Value" columns allows you to limit the set of forms or cases that are returned from the commcare-export tool.
- Forms: By default, if your data source is
form, every form submitted to a project space will be returned. Most users will, at a minimum, want to download data for one particular form at a time. To select a particular form type, set Filter Name to
xmlns.exactand Filter Value to your form's XML namespace. You can find this for any given form by going to your form -> Advanced -> View (Source XML) and look for the address in the header of your XForm. See additional form filtering options here: List Forms API.
- Cases: If your data source is
case, every case in a project's casedb will be returned. Most users will, at a minimum, want to download data for one case_type at a time. To download one particular case type, set Filter Name to
typeand Filter Value to the name of the case type you'd like to download. See additional case filtering fields here: List Cases API.
- Forms: By default, if your data source is
- Filter Value: (optional) Filter Names are paired with Filter Values in order to filter the results you request from CommCareHQ. See API documentation listed above for details or acceptable values and formats. Results are limited to the set of forms or cases whose Filter Name property matches the value listed in this field.
- Field: Each row of this column specifies the name of one output field.
Note that for use with a SQL database, a field named
Note that there is no maximum number of output fields.
Source Field: Each row of this column specifies where the data of the corresponding Field should be extracted from. Note that form properties must be prefixed with
form.and case properties must be prefixed with
properties. (See more details about the proper format for Source Fields below in the How to Reference Fields in Forms and Cases section).
Alternate Source Field [N]: (optional) In instances where different source fields should be placed in the same output field (for example when renaming fields in the app) alternate source fields can be specified. Each Alternate Source Field
column must be named Alternate Source Field [N] where "[N]" is replaced by a number. For example:
Source Field Alternate Source Field 1 Alternate Source Field 2 dob date_of_birth date_of_birht
The source fields are each considered in order and the first one that appears in the data is used (even if it's value is empty).
- Map Via: (optional) This column allows you to convert the raw value to another form (only relevant if you're exporting to SQL). See section Data Type Conversion Support for SQL below for details
Table Name: (optional) By default the table name is taken as the Excel Sheet name. This can be overridden by adding this column with a single value in the column for the table name.
Include Referenced Items: (optional) (advanced) Each item in this column is a referenced id for which the entire object will be included. For example, when fetching from the case API, if you put
xformsinto this column, then instead of just getting the
xform_ids, you will get the entire forms in a property called
xforms. For cases, you can include:
child_cases, parent_cases, xforms. For forms, you can include:
Including referenced items in the results may decrease the performance of the tool significantly due to the additional data that is being requested which must be fetched separately from the main form or case data.
Here is an example:
How To Reference Fields in Forms and Cases
One of the easiest ways to confirm form and case field names is by looking at the column name in a regular form/case export from CommCareHQ.
See also this reference page on commonly exported fields called Export Field Reference
In general, the name of form and case fields matches those that you wrote when you created your application, with predictable modifications. You should open an example Excel configuration file right now to compare what you see there with the explanations below. When referencing properties in the Source Field column, ensure that you've typed them in exactly as they're defined in CommCare - case sensitivity matters.
Top-Level Form Fields: A field named FIELD in a form is referenced by
form.FIELD. For example, the field
age is referenced by
form.age in an Excel config file.
Top-Level Case Fields: A field name FIELD in a case is referenced by
properties.FIELD. For example, the field
delivery_date is referenced by
properties.delivery_date in an Excel config file.
Nested Fields: A field nested more deeply within a form or case may be referenced by separating each level of nesting with a period. For example in demo-deliveries.xlsx you will see the nested field
form.delivery_information.delivery_type which will pull out the value the delivery_type question inside the group delivery_information. This will always match the structure of your application.
(Power Users / Programmers Only) To find out exactly what fields are available, you must view the raw output of the CommCareHQ Case List API and Form List API. You can then reference these fields using an arbitrary JSONPath into the structure.
Aggregation and Calculation Functions
The following are functions which can be used to change the value of a column. They can be added to the Map Via column in the Excel query.
|Function name||Description||Example usage||Since version|
|count-selected||Count the number of options selected for a multi-select value.|
Get the option at the given position for a multi-select value. Note: the position index is zero-indexed.
This means that to choose the first item, you need to enter 0, the second item, 1, etc.
|selected||Checks to see if a value was selected from a multi-select value. Outputs 'True' or 'False'.|
|attachment_url||Converts a value into a URL that can be used to download attachments|
|substr||Returns the substring indexed by [first arg, second arg), where indexes start from zero. Suitable for truncating long strings to fit a column's maximum length.|
Example Query File
|Data Source||Filter Name||Filter Value||Field||Source Field||Map Via|
|Email message||email_message||substr(0, 4000)|
The --users and --locations options export data from a CommCare project that can be joined with form and case data. The --with-organization option does all of that and adds a field to Excel query specifications to be joined on.
Specifying the --users option or --with-organization option will export an additional table named 'commcare_users' containing the following columns:
Foreign key into the commcare_locations table
The data in the 'commcare_users' table comes from the List Mobile Workers API endpoint.
Specifying the --locations option or --with-organization options will export an additional table named 'commcare_locations' containing the following columns:
|parent||Text||resource_uri of parent location|
|location level code||Text||Column name depends on project's organization|
|location level code||Text||Column name depends on project's organization|
The data in the 'commcare_locations' table comes from the Location API endpoint along with some additional columns from the Location Type API endpoint. The last columns in the table exist if you have set up organization levels for your projects. One column is created for each organization level. The column name is derived from the Location Type that you specified. The column value is the location_id of the containing location at that level of your organization. Consider the example organization from the CommCare help page. A piece of the 'commcare_locations' table could look like this:
In order to join form or case data to 'commcare_users' and 'commcare_locations' the exported forms and cases need to contain a field identifying which user submitted them. The --with-organization option automatically adds a field called 'commcare_userid' to each query in an Excel specifiction for this purpose. Using that field, you can use a SQL query with a join to report data about any level of you organization. For example, to count the number of forms submitted by all workers in each clinic:
Note that the table names 'commcare_users' and 'commcare_locations' are treated as reserved names and the export tool will produce an error if given a query specification that writes to either of them.
The export tool will write all users to 'commcare_users' and all locations to 'commcare_locations', overwriting existing rows with current data and adding rows for new users and locations. If you want to remove obsolete users or locations from your tables, drop them and the next export will leave only the current ones. If you modify your organization to add or delete levels, you will change the columns of the 'commcare_locations' table and it is very likely you will want to drop the table before exporting with the new organization.
Exporting to SQL
- Note that for use with a SQL database, a field named
- Exporting to SQL requires installing additional python libraries. These are listed in the table below.
Supported SQL Databases
|Database name||URL format||Maximum field name length||Dependencies|
Requires the 'psycopg2' library:
Requires the 'pymysql' library:
Requires the 'pyodbc' library:
Also requires the SQL Server drivers to be installed.
Requires the 'cx_oracle' library:
This section is only relevant if you're exporting to SQL.
Data Type Detection
By default, the data export tool will choose the data type of the SQL column based on the incoming data. Strings, integers and boolean values are supported.
Columns are created dynamically when data is received and the types of columns may be updated dynamically as new data comes in to make it compatible.
You can also use the command line option "--strict-types" which will prevent SQL column types from being changed. This may result in errors if incompatible data is received from CommCare HQ.
Explicit Data Types
You can also explicitly set data types by adding a column with heading "Data Type". Allowed values for this column are:
If you specify a data type column, then the column will be created when the table is first created, instead of dynamically based on data. Note that if you use explicit data types you are responsible for ensuring the data going into the database is valid for that column. Specifying these conversions may be necessary for some data types - especially when converting string / text values to other types.
Data Type Conversion
To convert data of one type to another type before it goes into the database, you can provide the following functions in the Map Via column:
Convert a string value to a boolean. The following values result in a True output:
'true', 't', '1' (case doesn't matter)
If the value is already a boolean then it will be output without change. All other values result in a False output.
|bool2int||This supports converting boolean values and booleans represented as strings to the integers 1 or 0.|
|str2num||Convert a string representation of a number to a number.|
|str2date||Convert a string representation of a date or timestamp to a date or timestamp.|
Running commcare-export on the Command Line
Once you have a query file ready, it's time to run your tool on the command line! Here are the required arguments that you will need to provide:
Required commcare-export flags
|--output||Filename or path to SQL database|
|--project||Project space name (i.e. the PROJECT_NAME value in commcarehq.org/a/PROJECT_NAME/dashboard/project/)|
|--query||Filepath to Excel query file|
|--username||E-mail address used for CommCare log-in|
|--password||Password used for CommCare log-in|
Your query should look something like this for:
Optional commcare-export flags
For a full list of flags, you can run
DATE value in format YYYY-MM-DD. Will export all data after this date
|--until||DATE value in format YYYY-MM-DD. Will export all data before this date|
|--verbose||Includes more detailed output to the user.|
Value to use when a field is missing from the form / case.
|--api-version||Specify the version of the CommCare API to use for exports|
|--start-over||When saving to a SQL database; the default is to pick up since the last success. This disables that.|
|--strict-types||When saving to a SQL database, don't allow changing column types once they are created.|
|--version||Output the version of commcare-export that you're using (useful for debugging)|
Using the CommCare Data Export Tool to extract data from a domain with Two Factor enabled
If you're using Two Factor Authentication on your domain, you will be required to add an additional argument to the command line prompt: --auth-mode apikey. An example query is below.
Instead of entering your password, you will be required to enter your API Key as defined under the "My Information" section of "My Account Settings."
- The SQL table or Excel sheet does not get created
- The export tool will only create the SQL table or Excel sheet if there is data to export. If there are no forms or cases matching the filters then it will do nothing.
- The number of results returned does not match what you expect
- Columns in the Excel Query file are missing from the eventual SQL export
commcare-exporttool will only export fields if they exist in the version of the application that the end user was using when they submitted each particular form and case. If you are exporting older forms or cases, keep in mind that their property names may be different from what is currently visible in the application.
- commcare-export seems to be running, but no data is coming in
- See note in the Columns in the Excel Query file are missing from the eventual SQL export section above.
- Verify that a
commcare_export_runsdatabase table has been created, and that the query is visible there.
- Verify that the sheet name inside your Excel Query file doesn't match another database table that's already been created.
- commcare-export repeatedly terminates prematurely due to a server error
- There are a variety of underlying causes for this. There might be transitory server issues, there might be server maintenance going on, there might be a timeout due to too much data being downloaded.
- After retrying your query a couple times, you should contact email@example.com directly for help