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Decipher Technology: Python




The entire Decipher platform is written mostly in the Python programming language.

The language is easy to learn, powerful, open source and has an effective approach to object-oriented programming. Python's dynamic typing and interpreted nature makes it an ideal and flexible language for creating surveys.

If you're new to Python or would like to learn more, you can find a variety of free coding tutorials at

When is Python Used?

As a programmer, you will use Python often to:

  • create condition/skip logic
  • create, read, update and delete variables
  • automate tasks (such as importing data)
  • validate respondent data
  • call various built-in functions

Python code can be written in cond, exec, validate and virtual elements.

How is Python Written?

Applied to survey programming, Python code will be written as an expression or as a statement. What's the difference?

  • A Python expression is a bit of code that represents something and evaluates to a value (e.g. True, False, 0, 1, 99, "red", etc...)
  • Python statements are instructions of code that are executed and do something (e.g. if x: do_y();, etc...)

Python Expressions

Expressions are commonly written within the cond attribute. For example:

<radio label="Q1">
    <title>Did you enjoy your vacation?</title>
    <row label="r1">Yes</row>
    <row label="r2">No</row>

<textarea label="Q2" cond="Q1.r1">
    <title>What did you enjoy about your vacation?</title>

If "Yes" is selected at Q1, then the expression, cond="Q1.r1", will evaluate to True. Questions will only be shown if the cond attribute is True (by default, it is True).

The variable Q1 holds the results of the question with label Q1 and contains all of the information relative to the question object. To access the question's data information and attributes, we use the dot . operator (e.g. Q1.r1).

Question data can only be accessed after submitting the responses (e.g. after a <suspend/> tag, through a <validate> tag, etc...).

Each survey object is equipped with a number of attributes that can be accessed using the dot operator. Learn more:

Python Statements

While Python expressions reside mostly in the cond attribute, Python statements are normally written inside an <exec>, <validate> and <virtual> element. A Python statement is one or more lines of Python instruction code that are executed to do something. For example:

question = Q1

count = 0
row_items = []
for eachRow in question.rows:
    count += 1

print "There are", count, "rows in", question.label

def print_items(items):
    for i in items:
        print i


<radio label="Q1">
      Python Statement Example
  <row label="r1">Row Item 1</row>
  <row label="r2">Row Thing 2</row>
  <row label="r3">Row 3</row>

The code above would show the following to someone testing the survey:

The green box reflects the printed statements in the <exec> block. This is used for debugging purposes only and will not appear in the actual survey.

This code uses several Python statements to accumulate the number of rows in Q1 and print each row's text value. There are many ways to control the flow of instructions. Learn more: More Control Flow Tools

Python Logic Operators

Use Python operators to add logic to your surveys. For example:

<exec cond="Q1.ival gt 5 or (Q2.r1.ival gt Q2.r2.ival)">
if Q1.ival gt 5:
    Q3.val = "More than 5 selected at Q1"
    Q3.val = "More value given to Q2.r1 than Q2.r2"

In the code above, several of the operators described below are used to properly add value to Q3.

Operator Description Example
gt Compares two values and returns True if the left side is
GREATER THAN > the right side
1 gt 2 == False
ge Compares two values and returns True if the left side is
GREATER THAN OR EQUAL TO >= the right side
2 ge 2 == True
lt Compares two values and returns True if the left side is
LESS THAN < the right side
2 lt 2 == False
le Compares two values and returns True if the left side is
LESS THAN OR EQUAL TO <= the right side
1 le 2 == True
or Returns the evaluation of the first value if it's True
otherwise returns the second value
0 or 1 == True
and Returns the evaluation of the first value if it's False
otherwise returns the second value
0 and 1 == False
not Returns the inverse of a value not False == True

Learn more: Adding Condition/Skip Logic

Python Reserved Words

There are numerous words that you should avoid using as labels or variables in your survey. Both the Python language and Decipher programming platform have reserved words that may become problematic if overwritten:

  • and
  • as
  • assert
  • break
  • chr
  • class
  • continue
  • def
  • del
  • dict
  • djs
  • dollar
  • elif
  • else
  • enumerate
  • eval
  • except
  • exec
  • file
  • filter
  • finally
  • float
  • for
  • from
  • getattr
  • getMarker
  • global
  • globals
  • goto
  • gv
  • hasattr
  • id
  • if
  • import
  • in
  • inf
  • input
  • int
  • is
  • iter
  • js
  • lambda
  • len
  • locals
  • map
  • max
  • min
  • not
  • o
  • open
  • or
  • ord
  • p
  • _p
  • pass
  • print
  • qjs
  • quote
  • raise
  • range
  • reduce
  • removeMarker
  • return
  • round
  • set
  • setMarker
  • str
  • sum
  • sum
  • this
  • timing
  • try
  • type
  • uqjs
  • vars
  • while
  • yield

You should not overwrite any of the reserved words above, but if you do, use the globals()["WORD"] syntax to access the variable (e.g. globals()["if"]).

Python Tutorials

The official Python documentation page is a great resource for all Python-related questions. Be sure to check out:

Here are some other great resources for learning Python:

The following knowledge base articles use Python extensively: