Join Gini von Courter for an in-depth discussion in this video What you can do with InfoPath, part of InfoPath 2010 Essential Training.
If you're new to InfoPath form development, it's helpful to think about what you can do with InfoPath before you jump in and begin creating forms. While some of us create forms that we will use, most of us create InfoPath forms for others to use. So before I jump in and say, "What can InfoPath do for me?" it's helpful to think, what can InfoPath do for my users? Onscreen you're seeing a form that we actually create in this course, so we'll be creating the Web Post Express Request and a more detailed request form, and it's just a beautiful form, and this is the user experience of this form.
If they're using the InfoPath Filler, they have the ability to type text and make sure that they do. So we're doing some basic validation to choose dates using date pickers, to choose departments from dropdown lists, to say actually, I want to enter a whole new section in this form, and insert or delete optional sections. So it's a good-looking form. It's a form that works amazingly well, that allows users to enters hyperlinks, allows them to attach files, a powerful form.
So assuming your users actually want to provide some data to someone else, this form creates a great mechanism for that. But when you look at the user community as a whole, there is even more than great form creation available because they use InfoPath. We already know that users get the right to fill out a form, but one of the more amazing things is that they don't now have to print, put it in an envelope for inter-office mail, and send it around. They can actually choose to click the Submit button, and based on how you've developed the form, have it emailed to one or more people, to a distribution list, or to post box in Microsoft Exchange.
They can submit it to a SharePoint library. They can submit it to a database that you have provided a connection to, and there are other methods as well. And then finally, that user or another group of users will have the ability to aggregate form data and do some analysis if you've used SharePoint as your form- publishing location. So the user community gets to fill out forms and analyze data, something that they can't easily do in a form created in Excel or in Word.
So what can you do with Microsoft InfoPath as a developer? Let's go behind the scenes of this form. Then what we see is the design view of the form that the user was filling out a moment ago. You get to specify the kind of data that goes into this form, and in doing so, you are creating an XML schema. You get to choose controls for users to enter data and add rules that indicate how the form will behave when users omit data or make particular choices.
You get to format the form, and you get to determine its data connections, how the form will be submitted and where it will go, what kind of external data is available to the form. Finally, not included in this course, but in your development future potentially, you can actually write some custom code that this form would use. Before you start developing forms, there are two broad classifications of forms in InfoPath. You can create forms that will be completed in a browser. These forms require SharePoint running InfoPath form services, but this is how many InfoPath forms are used in enterprises right now.
When you create then that browser form hosted by SharePoint Server, it could be a form that is published and returns data to a SharePoint library. It could be a more specialized form that is simply the front end or user interface to a SharePoint list. You could also embed a Microsoft InfoPath form into a web page in SharePoint. Those are the kinds of things that you can do. Notice that browser forms though are SharePoint-centric. You can also create a form that is going to be filled out by somebody using the InfoPath Filler client, in 2010, or even in 2007, or InfoPath 2003 for that matter.
The Filler form could be a form that we intend to distribute using email, or save on a network share and then email to users. Or we could have that Filler form be a form that is actually completed on a SharePoint site. You might wonder why we do that. Well, there are more controls that InfoPath can host than that a browser can host. So we can create some specialized forms using the Form Filler client that wouldn't be available in a browser. And if every person in our enterprise has InfoPath Filler on their computer, they can open those from a SharePoint site just as easily as they can open them in email.
SharePoint is what gives us the ability to aggregate information that come out of multiple forms created in InfoPath. So, Microsoft InfoPath Designer 2010 is a powerful design tool, allowing you to connect to a wide range of data sources, to design specifically themed form document, provide different views for different numbers of your user group, and use a rich array of controls to capture data and to present choices and options to your users.
Microsoft InfoPath Designer isn't just a tool to create the most amazing forms you've ever made; it's a tool to help you create business solutions.
- Creating a template from scratch
- Understanding and modifying data sources
- Formatting a template
- Inserting text controls, data pickers, and check boxes
- Catching incorrect or missing data
- Using tables and sections for repeating data
- Calculating a value with form data
- Checking spelling and testing a template
- Creating views
- Developing data connections to SharePoint lists and XML files
- Understanding publishing options for InfoPath templates
- Importing Excel and Word forms