How to use reference data

You can publish apps with data from outside sources. Our reference data feature allows you to upload information like:

  • Lists of customers
  • Product lines
  • Pricing
  • Accounting codes
  • Other data specific to your business.

You can set up these lists by importing comma separated value (also called CSV) files or using Canvas web services.

Two main purposes of Reference Data

  1. Populate a Value List (Drop-Down) -Have a long list of parts or customers and don't want to hand-enter them into a drop down list? You can use a reference file that you upload with the data on it.
  2. Auto-Populate Fields - If you want to auto-populate a field based on a value chosen in a previous field, then this feature is for you. So if you choose a "part" from a price list you can then have the price of that part auto-populate within your Canvas app. 


You will also find a step-by-step tutorial with videos by clicking here.

How to import reference data

To import reference data into Canvas, make sure you have a valid CSV file that contains a header row (first row of your spreadsheet). You'll need to remember these column headers when you map the Canvas app to reference this file. 

We recommend that you name your fields in Canvas the same as your column headers so they are easy to map.

Example of CSV file in Excel

Once you have the CSV file created, follow the steps:

  1. Login to the Canvas website with your Canvas login at
  2. Click the My Account in the blue navigation bar. (If you don't see it, click My Home first).

    Note: If you are adding reference data to a Department, click My Department.
  3. Click the orange button Manage Reference Data on the left side of the page.
  4. The current page will list the reference data associated with the account.
  5. To add new reference data, click the New Data button on the left side of the screen.
  6. Enter the name and description of the reference data.
  7. Click Choose File and select the CSV file to upload.
  8. Click Save.

How to map reference data to populate a value list

Once your reference data has been uploaded, it needs to be mapped in your Canvas app.  Follow the steps below:

  1. Log into Canvas at, click My Apps and either create a new app or open an existing app.
  2. Drag a Value List field onto your application
  3. Expand the Advanced section of the value list.
  4. For Reference Data select the reference data you uploaded.
  5. For Reference Col drop down fields select the column from your reference data that has the data you want your field to access.
  6. Save, close and publish your application.

This is an example of the value list above on an iOS device:

Reference data gives customers a powerful, easy to use method to upload data for use in their mobile apps.

Extended Video - Uploading a Customer List and a Price/Parts List

Below is a video walking you through the entire process of using Reference Data. It will show you how to populate a Value List and also auto-populate subsequent fields in your Canvas app.  This video is broken out into 4 parts in this step-by-step tutorial.


You can also read this blog post that walks you through how to upload a Price List and populate Value Lists and auto-populate a price field.

Watch Now

If you have any questions about Canvas or need help replacing paper based forms with an Android or Apple device, please don't hesitate to contact us.