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Central to Open Data Capture is the concept of an instrument. An instrument is a tool that may be used to collect data. Instrument have a number of properties in common, such as tags and version. However, different types of instruments (e.g., form, interactive) have different structures of content. This content is what determines what the user sees when completing the instrument. For example, the content of a form instrument will contain the fields in that form, whereas an interactive task will contain the code required to render that task to the user.

When an instrument is completed, the result is stored in a record. Since records may be of any data structure, instruments may optionally define measures, which accept the record as an argument and return a fixed data structure that is used to power visualizations, such as tables and graphs.