Introduced in MOSS 2007, InfoPath Forms Services allows forms created using the InfoPath client application to be rendered as HTML, allowing users to complete forms without having the client application installed.
Most services in SharePoint 2010 are implemented as service applications and are configured via the Manage Service Applications option in Central Administration. InfoPath Forms Services works a bit differently and can be configured as follows:
BrowserForm Web Part
Rendering of InfoPath forms in the web browser is carried out by the new BrowserForm web part. So that we can see this in action, we’ll create a basic Hello World InfoPath form.
In this simple example, you’ve seen how to create an InfoPath form and use it within a web part page. In the examples that follow, we’ll delve further into the functionality of InfoPath. However, as you’ll see, the publishing mechanism remains pretty much the same regardless of the type of form you’re creating.
Using InfoPath Forms in SharePoint
In SharePoint applications, InfoPath forms are used in four main ways: to create form templates, custom forms for SharePoint lists, document information panels, and workflow forms.
Creating Form Templates
SharePoint form templates are similar to forms used by other Office applications such as Word and Excel. Using the InfoPath client, you create form templates that are used for a SharePoint document library. As users complete the form and submit the data to SharePoint, the form is stored in the document library in the same way a Word document or any othercontent would be stored. The main benefit in using InfoPath in this context as opposed to Word is that, although the InfoPath form can be completed using the InfoPath client application, for users who don’t have the client application installed, the form will be automatically rendered for completion in the browser. Another key benefit is that the individual data items captured in an InfoPath form can be bound to columns in the document library. Although this is also possible using other Office applications, with InfoPath it’s a bit more transparent.
NOTE In SharePoint 2010, you can install Office web applications so that a web-based version of applications such as Word and Excel will be available for use via the web browser if a user doesn’t have the client application installed. In this case, using a Word template would also allow users to complete forms within the browser. In the preceding example, you learned how to create a basic form and publish it to a form library. In effect, we created a form template that SharePoint can use to create new documents for storage within the MyForms library. To see this working, navigate to the MyForms library, open the Documents tab in the ribbon, and select New Document. You can see that our InfoPath template is displayed in a new page. Click Save and then enter MyTestFile as the filename. Click Close to return to the MyForms document library. You can see that a new document named MyTestFile has been added to the library. Let’s take a look at a more in-depth example of this type of form to see how you can capture data in InfoPath and save it within specific columns in SharePoint. In this example, we’ll create a custom form that can be used by employees to request demonstration equipment. We’ll create a new form library for this example.
We can now start adding controls to capture data for our fields. The design experience in InfoPath is very much data-led. When we define the data source first, creating a user interface is often a case of simply dragging the appropriate data elements onto the page. InfoPath Designer automatically inserts an appropriate input control that is bound to the correct field.
Now that we’ve added controls to capture details of the customer that’s requesting demonstration equipment, the next section of our form allows users to enter details of the equipment required. Since more than one piece of equipment may be required by a customer, we’ve added a repeating Item section to our data set. We can allow users to add as many items as they need by creating a repeating table on the form.
Adding Formulae to FieldsOur Item data element contains two columns, LineTotalCost and LineTotalValue, that should be calculated based on the values entered in other columns in the row. To add formulae for these fields, take the following steps:
Publishing a Form Template to SharePointOur basic Demonstration Equipment Request form is now complete.
To publish it to SharePoint and use it for capturing data for our Demonstration Equipment Request library, take the following steps:
Creating Custom Forms for SharePoint Lists
Another use of InfoPath forms, and one that’s become more prevalent with SharePoint 2010, is in the creation of custom new and edit forms for SharePoint lists. Custom forms differ from the form templates that we saw earlier: the form itself is not stored in the library. Since custom forms can be used only with lists, only the field data that we elect to include is copied to columns in the list as opposed to the entire completed form. Let’s create a custom form for a SharePoint list:
Creating Document Information Panels
When creating Office documents for use with SharePoint, certain metadata is required by default, such as a title for the document and any relevant tags. Along with the default metadata that’s required by the Document content type, you can add additional metadata that will be stored as specific columns in the document library. This data is captured using a Document Information Panel, and customization of such a panel is another important use of InfoPath.
NOTEWe’ve touched on a few key concepts of the SharePoint data structure in the course of setting up this example.
Creating Workflow Forms
The final use, and one that I’ll cover in more detail, is the creation of workflow forms. Often, as part of a workflow process, you’ll need to capture additional user input. InfoPath, and particularly the ability of SharePoint Designer to create appropriate InfoPath forms automatically, makes it easy to capture this additional information.
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