Thursday, 13 August 2009

To use InfoPath on SharePoint or not that is the question

We all make mistakes and sometimes we have to change our first impressions. This happened to me twice last week. Firstly, after all my moans about the Villa manager’s lack of transfer activity over his summer holidays I discovered how good the crop of youngsters from the title winning reserve team last season really were. As they sensationally won the global tournament ‘The Peace Cup’, which included teams like Real Madrid, Juventus and Porto. Then on the SharePoint front I had to change my mind about using InfoPath in SharePoint. Although, I could happily spend the next ten minutes describing the achievements of the talented Villa youngsters I think most of you are probably more interested in the Forms in SharePoint argument. I have always tried to stay away from InfoPath Forms with SharePoint because most companies do not have InfoPath as a client application. It comes as part of Microsoft Office Enterprise Edition but is not included in the more common ‘Standard’ or ‘Professional’ versions. Instead I have tended to use the basic Custom Lists inside SharePoint to very quickly design online forms. So what are the advantages of using InfoPath in SharePoint instead of just SharePoint Forms? I will list a few that I have found; 1. Copy layouts/text straight in from Word or Excel 2. Produce a nice looking printable form (that you can sign) 3. Take fields from multiple data sources (including SharePoint lists from different SharePoint sites). 4. Fields integrate perfectly with your metadata in SharePoint 5. You can easily add validation and logic to fields. 6. Can easily add increased formatting of how data is displayed (more date options and does better number format options). 7. Some powerful wizards and for once actually useful templates (the expenses one is nearly useable). 8. The InfoPath forms are very portable and can be easily added to Content Types. 9. Forms can be published so it can be viewed in the browser for people without InfoPath. So why was I so anti InfoPath in the past and an ‘infopathist’ (thought I would invent a new word)? Well, I can still think of a few reasons to use SharePoint Forms instead; 1. They are easier to create as they have less fiddly options. 2. Nobody needs to have InfoPath installed (if you view InfoPath through the Browser somebody stills needs InfoPath to create and manage the forms). 3. Every individual change involves re-Publishing the form. 4. The inbuilt design error checking can drive you mad. 5. Forms are slower to load. So suddenly I have decided that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. In much the same way that the Villa new signing combined with the terrific youngsters (I realised that a lot of the team are now half my age which is scary) more than compensate for the loss of Gareth Barry and Martin Laursen. So if you do use SharePoint (either MOSS or WSS) then I recommend you purchase one copy of InfoPath and start creating forms to publish to your SharePoint. The available free Microsoft templates include Expenses, Travel Request, Purchase Orders and Absence Reports. But Office Talk have already created for their customers Exit Interview Questionnaires, Job Appraisals, Claims Forms and IT Helpdesk Requests. If you ask us for a quote we will happily create one tailored to your needs for you. Now, the new Premier season is just three days away and with the rumour that Villa are about to sign the Turkey captain Tuncay from Boro I have my ‘Villa Performance Season 2009/10’ SharePoint site ready to fill in. Don’t forget that the free template I have produced for any supporter of an English Premier League team to record all their teams’ games, players and goals next season is only available until August 21st 2009. So if you want it drop an email to me at with the subject being the team you support.


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Aditi said...

Thanks for providing very detailed explanation.

That was very helpful.

Do you know about following exception, any idea??

James Denyer said...

Andy, thanks for the list of reasons to use InfoPath in SharePoint.

As I'm a newbie to both, would you recommend getting to grips with InfoPath 2010 or SharePoint 2010 first?

BTW, the formatting seems to have disappeared on this post - it's one long paragraph!

Amber Salm said...

I am not very much familiar with this technology. But I read and heard about it. This article helped me to learn so much about it. Thank you.

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