Simplify App Building in CommCare with Easy References

We are excited to announce Easy References, an update that will help you unleash the power of case management in your application, and save you time in the app building process.

This update is two-fold: (1) there will be a new look and feel for question references in form logic, and (2) referencing case properties in a form will be much faster and easier. Find more details on these two updates below.

What’s new?

1.    A new look for question references

Drag-and-drop question references have a new, simplified look. Hovering over the reference will show details about the question, including the question id and label.

form question drag and drop - small



On hover, you see a shortcut reference: “#form/favorite_color.” To create an easy reference, you can either drag and drop from the “Questions” tree on the left, or use hashtag to type a shortcut reference. Try typing “#” in a display condition – you will see a list of all the questions in your form to choose from.

In fact, you can just type # followed by the question id or some text in the question label. The dropdown will show all questions whose id or label matches what you have typed in.

form question special syntaxt - sm

For those familiar with the /data/questionid used in older CommCare apps, this update replaces /data/ with #form.

2.    Easy References for case properties in your application

Easy references aren’t limited to questions in the form – you can also create easy references to case properties. In new applications, you will see a “Case Properties” window on the bottom left of the form builder (as seen below). 

Previously, to reference case properties, you needed to follow a complicated, multi-step process. In new applications, you can simply drag and drop case properties from the Case Properties window, just like you do with form questions. You can also use the hashtag shortcut to reference case properties by typing “#” and the name of the case property – just like with form questions. We have removed the “loading” section from the case management tab on the form settings page. You no longer need it!

case reference drag and drop - sm

I’m used to the old way of “loading” case properties, what does this mean for me?

Easy References will simplify your app building workflow and save you time! This new feature will minimize your process from four step to two. Let’s go through an example…

I have an app using case management. In the Registration form, I ask for the respondent’s favorite color.


In the Followup form, I want to ask a question specific to the people whose favorite color is “blue.”


I need to add logic to this question “Is blue still your favorite color,” so that it only appears if the respondent answered “blue” during registration. Previously, this was your process:

  1. You went to the settings page for the Registration form and saved “favorite_color” as a case property.
  2. You opened the follow-up form in the form builder and added a hidden value “favorite_color”
  3. You went to the settings page for the follow-up form and loaded the case property “favorite_color” into the hidden value “favorite_color”
  4. You opened the follow-up form in the form builder, and dragged the hidden value “favorite_color” into the display condition for “Is blue still your favorite color” 

Now, with Easy References, you can achieve the same results in two steps:

  1. Go to the settings page for the Registration form and save “favorite_color” as a case property. Note: this is the same as the old process .

save to case

2. Open the follow-up form in the form builder and drag “favorite_color” from the Case Properties window into the display condition for “Is blue still your favorite color.”. Or use the #favorite_color shortcut to create the Easy Reference!

case reference drag and drop - sm

For more information on how Easy References change the workflows you are used to, see our FAQ.



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