CHAPTER 6 InfoPath and SharePoint Online

Introduction


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Microsoft InfoPath 2010 is a software product that is part  of the Microsoft Office suite  and  is geared toward creating and  using  forms for gathering structured data. InfoPath is built  around XML standards, and  data gathered falls within XML guidelines. A key advantage of using  InfoPath in a SharePoint Online environment includes presenting a better user  interface than the built-in forms  and  web pages found in standard SharePoint lists and  libraries. InfoPath forms can be used as substitutes for standard list and library  forms, within workflows, and  to provide a mashup of data collected from multiple data sources.


InfoPath is a client software product sold by Microsoft both on its own and  as part  of the Microsoft Office Professional Plus and  higher Office package offerings. InfoPath consists of two programs: Microsoft InfoPath Designer 2010, and  Microsoft InfoPath Filler 2010. Microsoft InfoPath Designer 2010 is the product that allows users to design and  create form templates, which interact with SharePoint Online and  Office 365. Microsoft InfoPath Filler 2010 is used for the local instance of InfoPath that does not interact with SharePoint or display in a browser. We will not cover functionality for Filler 2010 in this chapter.

 

Goals

The goals for this chapter do not include providing an in-depth exploration of all of InfoPath’s intricacies and  features sets. Other books deal with that exclusively and  that are dedicated completely to InfoPath.


It is a recommendation that you investigate the full capabilities of InfoPath to augment this chapter with additional research information. The goals for this chapter include focusing on Office 365 and  the SharePoint Online use of InfoPath. We do hope to provide enough of an introduction to InfoPath to get you up and  running and  being able to productively use InfoPath in an Office 365 SharePoint Online environment. We also hope to provide several clear use cases  and  examples that represent a full use pattern of InfoPath together with SharePoint Online.

 

Hardware and  Software Requirements

Prior to using InfoPath, you must plan  for the proper hardware and  software requirements for the product. These  requirements will also hold  true  for other software related to InfoPath such as Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010, SharePoint Designer, and  Microsoft Visio 2010.

 

Hardware Requirements

Because InfoPath 2010 is part  of the Microsoft Office Professional Plus suite,  the hardware requirements can be found at http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/products/microsoft-office-2010-system- requirements-HA101810407.aspx (http://bit.ly/cOqAfe). Table 6.1 lists the components and requirements.

 

Table  6-1. Basic Hardware Requirements

 

Software Requirements

 

First, you must obtain a license for InfoPath, which you can do in a couple of ways:

 

•   Purchase a license directly for InfoPath, either from Microsoft or a reseller. You can purchase a copy of InfoPath online from Microsoft directly here: http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msstore/en_US/pd/productID.216500500 (http://bit.ly/tC8JLs).

 

• Purchase an Office Professional Plus 2010 license online from Microsoft as part  of a Volume License agreement. They are available for both small and  larger businesses; details at http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/buy/how-to-buy- office-2010-through-volume-licensing-HA101809925.aspx – (http://bit.ly/b7sdTF).

 

•  The Office 365 E3 and  E4 subscription plans come with Office Professional Plus 2010. Once  users are subscribed to an E3 or E4 plan, there is a Download button on the RH side when they log in. This Download form leads  to the screen as shown in Figure  6-1.

 

 

Figure 6-1. Download Microsoft  Office Professional Plus

 

Plans Required

To be able to take advantage of InfoPath and  Office 365 together, you must have an Office 365 subscription that includes InfoPath Forms Services (such as the E3, E4, or SharePoint Online Plan 2 plans). For an idea of which plans offer InfoPath services, refer to the Microsoft SharePoint Online for Enterprise Services  Description document available at http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/ details.aspx?id=13602. Table 6-2 is an excerpt from that document.

 

 

Yes (1): Can view and upload Visio diagrams; view and build external lists; build and visit Access-based web pages; build and view embedded Excel graphs; and create/publish, fill in, and submit InfoPath forms. Yes (2): Kiosk workers  have read-only rights except they can edit web-based and InfoPath Forms only.

 

Optional Software

Along with the preceding hardware and  software requirements, there are a few scenarios with InfoPath that will require other software as well. If you are going to use InfoPath forms  to support custom workflows, you’ll use SharePoint Designer 2010 to build your workflows. Visual Studio 2010 can be used as well to define custom actions for use in your workflows (SharePoint Online supports only declarative workflows, but custom actions are allowed if they’re built and  deployed as sandboxed solutions). Optionally, you can also use Microsoft Visio 2010 (Premium edition) to prototype workflows that can then be exported and  fully implemented in SharePoint Designer.

 

InfoPath Overview

InfoPath was first designed as a client software program released with Microsoft Office 2003. For the SharePoint solution provider, InfoPath is a fantastic way to rapidly develop rich user  interface (UI) at the list and  library  level for interacting with SharePoint 2010 and  Office 365.

 

InfoPath Forms Services Overview

InfoPath Forms Services is a built-in feature and  service  of SharePoint Online and  provides a browser- based experience for filling out InfoPath forms  without the need for an InfoPath Filler 2010 license. To allow for this, forms  based on browser-compatible form templates (.xsn files) can be opened in a web browser from computers that do not have InfoPath 2010 installed, but they will open in InfoPath 2010 when it is installed. Additionally, because the same form can be used in the browser or in the InfoPath editor, the form template design and  management process is greatly  simplified.
A browser-compatible form template created in the InfoPath 2010 Designer is rendered by a special control in SharePoint Online: the XmlFormView web part  (see http://bit.ly/MjGtAz for information on this web part). This web part  allows InfoPath forms  to be viewed  directly in a browser. Because web parts can be placed on a page in SharePoint in a free-form manner in conjunction with text, images, and  other web parts, it is also possible to design a SharePoint page that has multiple InfoPath forms  on one page.

 

Office 365 Differences

Office 365 SharePoint online has some limitations surrounding InfoPath Forms Services  as compared with an on-premise SharePoint 2010 installation. In an on-premise SharePoint installation, it is possible to add  custom code  in a managed .NET language (like C# or VB.NET) to an InfoPath form for more control over the form and  elements than is available through InfoPath Designer directly. These  special InfoPath forms  are sometimes referred to as “InfoPath admin forms” because they must be deployed by an administrator with full trust rights  and  be stored and  managed in a list of global form templates (that is, managed through the SharePoint Server Central Administration site). These  InfoPath admin forms require being deployed as a full-trust solution in SharePoint 2010 as opposed to a sandboxed solution.


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In SharePoint Online and  Office 365 sites, it is not possible to deploy full-trust solutions. As a result, InfoPath forms that depend on custom code are not an option in Office 365. However, you can use the full features of InfoPath Designer to design form templates (.xsn files) and  upload them to a SharePoint Online site to be stored in a Forms library.