InfoPath 2010 Improvements

Tech Trek – 2011.04.27

Finally, I got into doing another InfoPath 2010 form where I’ll highlight a couple of new features that I liked in a current project.

Design Templates
One of the great new design elements is the availability of commonly used templates. This makes form building quicker so that as a Developer, you don’t have to come up with a layout from scratch.

New Controls
If you had a chance to work on InfoPath 2007 or earlier, you will welcome a couple of new built-in controls that were unavailable in previous versions. A couple of them that are useful are the following:

  • Person/Group Picker – though, I’d wish for an easier method of returning Active Directory profile properties
  • Date & Time Picker
  • Browser-based support for combo boxes, lists, etc.

Rules Designer
It will be very much hard pressed creating a form without some formatting (hiding/showing elements) or data validation requirements. An improved rules designer and inspector are now available in 2010 version which makes it more easier to define these in the form.

Data Connections
This leads to an existing feature that InfoPath extended since most likely forms require connecting to an existing SharePoint list, database, XML, and the newly added REST web services.

Ribbon UI
One thing that drives me nuts is the lack of consistency for application interface, although, this maybe a cliché at this point with Microsoft. Finally, they have caught up InfoPath, Visio, and Project with the rest of its product family so you’ll have to re-orient yourself again.

Publishing Options
There are a couple of new options when publishing forms into a SharePoint site and by far Quick Publish will likely be taken for granted but a nice addition especially since it makes it easier to push the changes to the server.

This is not meant as a comprehensive list and not all of them maybe perfect but I’ve touched only a couple of the elements that have been useful to me by far. A couple of new features that is next on my list is to integrate a digital signature solution that I spearheaded for our organization and the ability to create custom forms for a SharePoint list.

In summary, we are now able to realize the n-tier application architecture that has been promoted more than a decade ago because of the maturity of technologies that are not necessarily built by Microsoft. What I like about it most is the ability to quickly develop fancy looking functional business forms so that you can give it a “form” (no pun intended). This is not something new in Visual Studio and other “drag & drop” development tools but good luck on teaching that to business users, or those who may not have the team to build them.

Now, if it can only be as pervasive as the PostScript Document Format.


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