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Survey Publishing & Versions

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About Publishing Surveys & Versions

Publishing enables greater control over response data quality. Instead of every edit to an active survey going live the moment you make it, you can instead moderate when all edits will be presented to new respondents using publishing.

Publishing is a vital step in the survey distribution process, since it determines the edits that are live to your respondents.

Survey versions allow you to save multiple iterations of your survey. You can preview or even restore old versions of your survey at your convenience.

Qtip: Want to watch a video on how to use survey publishing? Visit Finalizing Your Project on XM Basecamp for a guided learning experience. Access is included as part of your Qualtrics account.

Publishing a New Survey

When you publish a survey, it’ll be a little different if your survey is active and open to responses than if it is new. If your survey is new, the first time you publish will also activate a survey.

  1. When you are ready to save your changes and present them to your respondents, click Publish.
    Publish button on upper-right of the survey editor
  2. Read the description and note that your survey is about to be activated. This means you will have to press publish after making changes, or else the active survey will look like the last published version.
    Publish window warning the survey will go active
  3. In addition to publishing your survey, you are saving a new version of it. Add a description of the changes you’ve made. This can be whatever you like. Dates will automatically be stored with the version, so don’t worry about adding date labels.
  4. Click Publish.
  5. Your survey has now been activated! On this window is the anonymous link. You can copy this by clicking Copy link.
    Anonymous link and distributions link on the final survey publish and activate window

    Qtip: Learn more about how this feature works on the Anonymous Link support page.
  6. If you plan on recording participant data with responses, emailing the survey through Qualtrics, sending through SMS, or something else, you can see all your distribution options by clicking Go To Distributions. This will bring you to the Distributions tab.
  7. If you aren’t ready to distribute yet, click Okay to resume editing your survey.

Publishing Changes to Active Surveys

Sometimes after sending your survey out, you’ll notice you need to fix something, or that there’s some important content you left out. If you edit your survey after it has been distributed, the changes will not go live until you publish the survey. This allows you to carefully review all of your changes before your participants see them.

Qtip: Publishing changes to your survey will never change the survey link.

Publish Status and button

Click the Publish button when you decide that you want the edits you made to be pushed to the active survey.

Qtip: If your survey is not yet activated, clicking Publish for the first time will activate it. See section above.

The publication status will appear to inform you which version of the survey you are currently viewing. Here, it says Published.

Example: After sending your survey out, you realize you forgot to add three different questions. You don’t want there to be respondents who see just one or two of these new questions, which is what would happen if the survey automatically published every time Qualtrics saved your changes. Instead, you can wait until you’ve added all three questions to press Publish. (And you can always send a retake link to the respondents who never got the three missing questions, of course.)
Qtip: Publishing a survey only affects new, incoming respondents. Responses in progress will be unaffected.
Qtip: If you’re testing your survey with the anonymous link and you don’t see your edits after publishing your survey, chances are the old version of your survey is cached on your browser. Try clearing your browser’s cache or opening the survey in a new browser. For more information on testing with the anonymous link, read the Testing/Editing Active Surveys page.

Saving vs. Publishing

Your changes are always saved automatically in Qualtrics, and they work exactly as explained in the Automatic vs. Manual Saving support page. Publishing just determines when your respondents see your saved changes.

Qtip: The publishing system exists to protect your survey’s data. It makes you think twice before pushing a change to an active survey that may invalidate your previously collected data. For more guidelines on editing active surveys, see our Testing/Editing Active Surveys support page.

Publishing Statuses

You’ll notice there are statuses that change at the top of the editor every time you edit or publish your survey. Click the grey icon next to the status to learn more about it.

Published status in green on upper-right of the survey

  • Published: The version of the survey you are looking at is the published version. It is what your respondents will see, so long as they didn’t start the survey before you published these changes.
  • Draft Version: You have made edits to the survey, but not published them. You will need to click Publish for your respondents to see those changes.
    Qtip: If this is the case, a yellow banner will also appear to warn you.
  • Changes Live: You activated this survey before the survey publish feature was added to your account. That means that every edit you make will automatically go live. If you want to use the publishing system instead, click Publish. Then changes will only go live when you click Publish.

Features that Don’t Require Publishing

There are some features that will automatically impact your incoming respondents without you having to click Publish.

Qtip: Any feature not listed there must be published before it will take effect. This includes all features in the survey builder, Look and Feel menu, survey flow, survey options, and tools that are not listed here.
Qtip: Export survey exports the current draft, not the published version.

Version History

Every time you publish or save your survey, you create a “version” of it. You can view, preview, or even restore past versions of your survey this way.

Warning: Restoring to a previous version and then publishing can affect previously collected data. It can restore data that was invalidated by later changes to questions, but it can also invalidate data that was collected after the changes. See Restoring Previous Versions below for more details.

Creating new versions

Aside from publishing or saving your survey normally, you can choose to create a new survey version any time.

  1. Navigate to the Survey tab and click Tools. Creating a new version
  2. Highlight Versions.
  3. Select Create New Version.
  4. Add a description. This can be whatever you like. Dates will automatically be stored with the version, so don’t worry about adding date labels.
    Creating a new version description
  5. Click Create Version.

Qtip: Qualtrics will also automatically save new versions for you in the following circumstances:

  1. If you have made changes and the last version was saved more than an hour ago
  2. Every time you navigate away from the Survey tab after making a change
  3. Every time you publish the survey

Additionally, you can’t save a new version if you haven’t made any changes from the previously saved version.

Viewing Past Versions

  1. Navigate to the Survey tab and click Tools.
    Viewing the version history
  2. Highlight Versions.
  3. Select View Version History.
  4. Along the left, select a version you wish to view or restore.
    Version History window
  5. Select View in Editor to preview the version in the editor. Click Restore to restore.
Qtip: Restoring a version of the survey does not automatically publish this change.

Version Options

When you select View In Editor, you will not be able to edit the version you see. However, you have several options:

Version options bar along top of the survey builder

  1. Date: Choose a different version to view.
  2. Back to current draft: Go back to the current draft of the survey. This can even include edits you made that haven’t been saved yet.
  3. Export: Export a QSF of the version to store as a backup or import as a separate copy of the survey.
  4. Dropdown next to Export: Print the survey or export it to Word.
  5. Restore: Restore this version of the survey as the active version. This saves the latest draft for retrieval later.
Warning: Restoring to a previously saved version and then publishing can affect previously collected data. It can restore data that was invalidated by later changes to questions, but it can also invalidate data that was collected after the changes. See Restoring Previous Versions below for more details.

Restoring Previous Versions

If your questions have been permanently deleted or changed in a way that you want to reverse, you might be able to restore an earlier version of your survey using the version in your version history. Restoring to an earlier version will bring back deleted questions and alter all settings to what they were at the time this version was created. It will also bring back that same version’s data.

Because of the publishing system, restoring a survey does not affect your respondents or hurt your data. You can restore a version, export old data and a survey QSF, and change back to the version you want to edit. Just make sure not to publish the restored version unless you are sure you want to overwrite your current survey and affect your respondents’ experience.

Attention: Just restoring a previous version of a survey will not affect the respondent’s experience – clicking Publish after you restore a survey will. Once changes are published, those currently taking the survey won’t experience a change, but new respondents will see the restored survey. Publishing will also overwrite data you have collected. Restoring and publishing versions too many times may invalidate old data, so proceed with caution.

Differences in 360, Engagement, and other EmployeeXM Projects

For the most part, publishing EmployeeXM projects and restoring versions works as described on this page. (EmployeeXM projects include 360, engagement, lifecycle, and ad hoc employee research.) However, there are a few small differences to take into account:

  1. When you publish an EmployeeXM project for the very first time, you are not activating the project. However, it is still important to publish so your edits get pushed to the live links you will generate later.
  2. Publishing an EmployeeXM project for the first time also does not give you an anonymous link to distribute the project with.

Other than these two differences, publishing is the same in EmployeeXM as it is in the Survey Platform.