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What is IDSS?

IDSS  (Interface for the development of statistical surveys) is an open-source application designed for authoring and parsing HTML electronic questionnaires. It is released under version 3 of the General Public Licence (GPLv3)     License [en]
Developed as an alternative to web-based surveys, IDSS implements a de-centralised approach to survey management, thus running against the grain of common statistical lore and PHP-centered programming.
Using e-mail attachments to get in touch with people surveyed rather than asking them to connect to some site has many advantages. Experience shows that many respondents are put off by the technical aspects of website surveys while they would be ready to click on the "reply" button with a filled-in attachment.

IDSS uses HTML questionnaires as input files. These can be authored using common commercial sotfware, like Microsoft Word (with .doc files converted to .htm). However, it is advised to create questionnaires with 'native' HTML code, using a webpage designer like GNU Gedit, Open Office Write or KOMPOZER (
The resulting HTML code will be much shorter and so will computing times as a result.

No coding experience is assumed to put IDSS to good use and no knowledge of network programming is involved to set up a survey. IDSS should be particularly useful for surveys with high pressure on deadlines, as a medium-sized questionnaire can be designed and distributed within a day's work.


1.1 Objectives

Input parsing of e-questionnaires filled in by people surveyed yields a database with separators. Optionally, a SAS (R) DATA step program is automatically created, which allows easy conversion of any flat database to the SAS format.
Tools for checking execution and coherence of data are available (correspondence tables between questionnaire lines/variables/questions and database values, colorised layout of questionnaires, detailed log).
IDSS running times have been optimized in later development stages (see Comparative tests). Performing database authoring currently takes barely more running time than gzip compression of the survey questionnaires, under Linux at least. IDSS can thus be used to parse and analyse fairly large numbers of e-questionnaires and create large databases (10, 000 lines and more in tests).

1.2 On-line help

On-line help is displayed by command line  IDSS -h -p (See Command-line help).
Software development and news are available on the project's website,


IDSS has three verbosity levels:


displays all error warnings, error or information messages, correspondence tables being displayed in addition.

Errors are identified by an [ERR] tag, and warnings by a [WARN] tag.
Information (on process status or the value of internal variables) is displayed with an [INFO] tag.
Information on command-line parameters (external variables) is tagged with [PAR].

standard level: no command-line specification. This verbosity level corresponds to -v I/O yet without the extra correspondence tables.

-W triggers silent mode (no on-screen display).

Log generation is ensured by  -J  either in the current folder as "Log.txt" (default behaviour) or with the filepath specified as an argument of -J.

Final pauses are suppressed by option -p.


On launching IDSS, a set of default directories is created, whatever the command line.
This security procedure makes it possible to backup all IDSS output if command-line options do not happen to mention explicit output directories. An  annexed table  indicates paths to backup directories.
All directories are erased if empty before end of process. If at least one subdirectory contains a file, the ./DATA folder is preserved with all non-empty subdirectories.
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