Chapter 26 Archiving a LimeSurvey study

Here I briefly explain how to back up a LimeSurvey study.

When saving files, stick to the following conventions:

  • Use file names that are as much as possible self-explanatory so that they are easily comprehensible for others, including future you.
  • Use English-language file names, to facilitate easy sharing with others who may be interested in the future.
  • Stick to the general file naming conventions, only using lowercase (a-z) and uppercase (A-Z) Latin letters, Arabic numerals (0-9), dashes (-), and underscores (_), and avoiding all other characters such as spaces, parentheses, quotes, or any other character (see

26.1 LimeSurvey 2

In the LimeSurvey admin interface, once you’re logged in, open the survey. Then hover over the icon showing a database symbol, an eye, and an arrow pointing right (this image has Alt Text “Display / Export”; you can also reach this option by repeatedly using the Tab key). This will open the corresponding menu with options “Export…”, “Printable version”, and “queXML PDF export”. If you hover over the “Export…” option, a submenu will open with options “Survey structure (.lss)”, “Survey archive (.lsa)”, “queXML format (*.xml)”, and “Tab-separated-values format (*.txt)”. I’ll now explain each of these versions.

The “Printable version” opens a new browser tab containing your survey. Cascading Stylesheets (CSS) have been applied to optimize the appearance for printing in greyscale. You can save this HTML page using CTRL-S. You can also save it as a PDF by using CTRL-P. This will open the printing dialog, where you can select “Save to PDF” in Firefox or Chrome. It is recommended to save both versions.

The “queXML PDF export” creates a ZIP archive with a PDF file of the survey, the queXML file of the survey and a queXF banding XML file which can be used with queXF (see for automatically processing scanned surveys. If you used this functionality for your study, it is important to also save this ZIP file. If you did not, you can safely skip it. On the other hand, these files are small, so why not back up everything?

In the “Export…” submenu, the “Survey structure (.lss)” exports the survey’s structure: its groups, questions, answer options, logic (conditions, tailoring etc), and some or all survey-wide settings (I have never systematically checked this). This is definitely a file you have to save. It will allow future you and other researchers to import your survey again, which is important to facilitate replications.

In the “Export…” submenu, the “Survey archive (.lsa)” exports the survey archive. This is a ZIP file that contains both the Survey structure file and the survey responses, and it allows you to import both at the same time. This is a way to import the data back into LimeSurvey, which you might want if you ever want to continue a study and have the data appended to the same dataset.

In the “Export…” submenu, the “queXML format (*.xml)” allows you to export to queXML, a simple XML schema for questionnaires. For more information, see You will probably not need this.

In the “Export…” submenu, the “Tab-separated-values format (*.txt)” allows you to export to a spreadsheet (in tab-separated values format). This can be a useful way to quickly edit a survey. However, note that not all survey-wide settings are exported, so always also export to .lss format.

In general, because I’m not certain that all survey-wide settings are saved in .lss and .lsa files, I’m certain that not all survey-wide settings are saved in .tsv (or .txt) files, and the formats optimized for viewing by humans (e.g. printable survey and queXML PDF) certainly don’t include survey-wide settings, it’s wise to make screenshots of any specific (non-default) settings that are important for your survey to work properly.

Finally, if you use a non-default theme, don’t forget to export that, too!