CHAPTER 6 InfoPath and SharePoint Online
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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 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.
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.