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If you are working with a partner or a collaborator who needs to access form data for a particular form, but you don't want to give them access to your whole server or team, you can share access directly by adding them as an external viewer for a form. This will give them the ability to monitor and explore the data as it comes in, without needing to set them up with a user account on your server (and without needing to manually export the data and send it to them).

Sharing view-only access

Default workbooks
Each form starts out with two default Data Explorer workbooks: a monitor workbook and an explore workbook. You can find monitor workbooks in the Form submissions and dataset data section of the Monitor tab, and you can find explore workbooks in the Your data section of the Export tab. There are very few differences between these two, but it is important to note that they are separate workbooks, and they can each be shared with separate lists of external viewers. While you can certainly share the default workbook associated with a form, we recommend using advanced mode so that you can customize and share a separate workbook just for external viewers. Consider naming the workbook and adding annotations to give more context for the external viewers (see annotating workbooks).

By default, external viewers will only have access to view form data through the Data Explorer. To share access in this way, you'll need to add the external viewer's email address to a Data Explorer workbook. This workbook will act as the gateway through which they are able to interact with the form data. (See Using the Data Explorer to monitor incoming data for more on the Data Explorer.)

Once you have your Data Explorer workbook ready, click on the External viewers button in the workbook's toolbar (found either on the Monitor or Export tab, depending on which type of workbook you're using). You will see a list of any existing external viewers for that workbook. To add a new one, click the Add external viewer button, then enter the email address of the person with whom you wish to share access. Leave the Level of access option set to Can view form data if you only wish to share view-only access. This will automatically send an email with further instructions to that email.

Note: you will only be able to share access in this way if you have permission to both manage users and view the form's data.

Sharing download access

Setting the Level of access option to Can view and download form data will allow that external viewer to export data from that workbook. In other words, they will see the Download button in the header in that Data Explorer workbook, and they will be able to download and export the form's data using SurveyCTO Desktop. Giving an external viewer permission to download form data will only allow them to download form data for that specific form.

Note: you will only be able to share access in this way if you have permission to both manage users and download the form's data.

Accessing shared workbooks

External viewers never need a password to view or download form data. Instead, all security is managed through temporary, single-use hyperlinks and access codes sent via email. External viewers will be able to access workbooks in the following ways:

  1. The email that they receive when they are initially added will contain a link. If clicked within 24 hours, this link will take them directly to the Data Explorer workbook to which they were added. (Otherwise, if the link has expired or has already been used, they will be able to request a new one be emailed to them.)
  2. After you have added an external viewer to a workbook, you will see a "share URL" below the list of external viewers. You can share that link with an external viewer to lead them directly to that workbook.
  3. At any point, an external viewer can go to (where servername should be replaced with your particular server name) to request links to all the workbooks to which they've been added.

All emailed hyperlinks are valid for one use only, expiring either after 24 hours (for the first invitation) or after 30 minutes (for all subsequent links). Once an external viewer has successfully used one of the one-time links, their web browser will remain logged-in and able to continue accessing data until they log out or their browsing session times out (after 8 hours of inactivity). External viewers can request new links at any time, to begin new secure browsing sessions.


Viewing a Data Explorer workbook in this manner will be almost identical to normal viewing, with a few key limitations:

  • Review and correction functions will be disabled. External viewers will not be able to modify submissions in any way, including approving or rejecting submissions, making comments on submissions, or correcting data. They will be able to see any comments and/or corrections which were made, but not edit or add their own.
  • External viewers cannot make changes to workbooks. While external viewers will be able to add and remove data filters and exclusions, they won't be able to add, edit, or delete summaries, and they won't be able to save any changes.
  • Direct links to individual submissions will only work once an external viewer is already authenticated. If an external viewer is having trouble, have them first verify their email at, then click on a temporary workbook link in their email. That will start a new authenticated session, and they should then be able to follow direct links to individual submissions.
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