Join Gini von Courter for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding data sources, part of InfoPath 2013 Essential Training.
We use InfoPath to create forms to capture what's called structured data. Described and defined: data that can be validated, because if you enter incorrect data then a rule can say that data is wrong. That's not what a phone number looks like. Or if you have data that's missing, we can have a rule in our form that says well, wait a minute, we actually require you to enter both your first and your last name. So we have the ability to create a structure that says we expect first names, last names, email addresses and so on.
And we have the ability to enforce that structure. If you want to simply type anything you'd like in any order and omit data when you wish, then you're better off with a tool like Word. That's one of the reasons that we use InfoPath as opposed to Word when we want to create really structured forms that help our users provide the information we really need. So this is a form here in InfoPath and it has three simple fields. We're asking the user to enter their First name and their Last name and then to choose a Department.
And that Department actually comes from a list, because we don't want people to make up their own department names. We want them to choose from the departments in our organization. This data comes from another structured data source. This dropdown list of data actually comes from Microsoft SharePoint server. So we're going to go over and look at SharePoint and I want to tell you just a little bit about it. When Microsoft InfoPath was first developed, it was developed to be the form collection tool for a totally different product that was called BizTalk Server and BizTalk server was used for workflows in our organization for helping a piece of information move through an organization from one desk to the next.
Much of functionality of BizTalk is now included in SharePoint and InfoPath is the tool for editing forms for SharePoint. But what is SharePoint? Well, SharePoint is a collaboration zone. SharePoint is a place that you and I can work together and can keep calendars and share documents together, have announcements list, manage tasks that we need to manage together or keep a calendar, post for examples some links to particular documents. And in our case, SharePoint is the place to go to get some data to go get department names, structured data, that we can then use in our form.
One of the forms that we create in this course will be designed to be published right here in SharePoint so that users can go here and fill the form out. That's another use of SharePoint is as a form's distribution center. So the form that we saw a moment ago is actually part of SharePoint it's been published here in this library. And if someone wants to add a new item to it, they can click and they can open up the same form that you just saw. But now, it's opening here in the browser. So SharePoint is one of the tools that we can use to create a data source in InfoPath, but this isn't where it stops this is just where it begins.
So here's our form in InfoPath, a sample of our form. And in this case, we're pulling data out of the SharePoint list that list of departments we saw a moment ago. But I could also grab information from any database and use it in a dropdown or information could be typed into a list, a small list Visa, MasterCard, Discover and so on. Or, I can have a file of XML data that I can even store right here with the form; so I have a variety of sources that I can use for information that we're going to capture in our form.
So we could have our user fill out the form and submit the information through email or they could send it to SharePoint like the form that I'm showing you now or they could save it in a database. So we have all of these different structured data sources and structured data repositories that we will send our submitted data to. So with so much structure, there also has to be some in InfoPath. Let's see where that lives. This is our user view of this form. This is how it looks when we're filling it out. But this is what it looks like under the hood.
This is the space where you and I will spend time working with data sources. So in addition to structured data coming into this form for a dropdown and leaving this form, we have a data source right here in the form that it actually describes what this data will look like when it leaves and goes to SharePoint or to email or somewhere else. This is our main data source and this kind of a data description has another name and that's a schema. So here in InfoPath, we have structured data because we've described it in a schema. We use structured data from other sources and we write the data that our users provide to yet another data source that matches up with this definition or schema here.
So InfoPath is all about info, all about data. We're going to spend a lot of time working with data sources in InfoPath. In the next movie, we'll start by creating a schema from scratch as we develop our form.
- What is InfoPath?
- Creating a template from scratch
- Importing Word and Excel forms
- Creating and modifying data sources
- Adding and formatting a layout table
- Choosing a theme
- Working with form controls like date pickers and check boxes
- Using tables and sections for repeating data
- Publishing forms and templates
- Enabling digital signatures in a form