jump to navigation

Building Applications with InfoPath and SharePoint Designer 2010: From SPC09 Las Vegas October 20, 2009

Posted by willhlaw in InfoPath, SharePoint, Sharepoint Designer, SPC09.
Tags: , , ,

Live from Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay. I am at the SharePoint Conference 2009 and listening to a presentation on InfoPath and SharePoint Designer 2010. I will tend to use IP2010 and SPD2010 for short. I type fast, but not that fast to keep up with some of these fast talking presenters who apparently are very expert on the subjects. Presenters are Roberto Taboada and Darvish Shadravan from Microsoft.

My top 3 features for InfoPath 2010 are listed at the bottom of this post.

InfoPath 2010 and SharePoint Designer 2010

  • Overview
    • IP2010 for capturing the right information
    • SPD2010 to get the information into the right hands
    • Introducing the Procurement Application
    • Review the Key app components
    • Demo, building the application – highlight new IP2010 features and best practices
    • Q & A
  • Presenters are stressing that it is a 300 level session so we need to follow along closely. (keyboard may need to quiet down a little.)
  • Demo, Procurement app for BlueYonderAirliens
  • From user perspective, a user needs a new laptop.
    • User fills out a form from the webpage. It is a pretty good looking form. Audience laughs because justification for new laptop is “Office party + beer + spill = broken machine J“.
    • A data connection uses an external list, not a SharePoint list.
    • New product details are selected via connected cascading dropdowns
    • Form is submitted and the request is updated on the web portal.
    • A workflow assigns an ID to the request and routes it to an approver.
  • Now, from approver’s point of view
    • A Portal for approver’s have list of tasks from workflow assignments in upper-left. Master-detail with details on the right.
    • Details view has hyperlink to the form. Ok, nice UI. No brainer.
    • Once request is approved, it turns green on the detail view.
    • A custom action in the workflow generates a word document that is an order form to place the order. To implement this, the SDK is used. XML is taken out of the IP2010 form and is used to generate the word document.
    • Word document looks good. It even includes a + expando when the mouse hovered over the details paragraph. Hmm…wonder what action that does.
    • Bad joke, Darvish calls Roberto, “Tub of water”. Nobody laughs.
    • An excel web part is used to see insight and stats on orders.
    • Another web part, shows aggregate view of grouped number of requests by user.
    • Then, approver goes into the form and updates a comment with, “I don’t think so dude.” Hmm…some laughed. These guys are making this fun, but not too fun, obviously.
  • Back to Roberto with a come-back joke. Not worth explaining.
    • End user would get a rejected e-mail from the approver’s rejection activing a workflow.
    • From the end user’s requests portal, end user can see a Visio generated workflow of where his requests currently stand. Pretty neat!
  • That was the demo, now to talk about the components. Everybody clapped after realizing it was the end of the demo.
    • Line of Business Data.
      • Store product & category info in external lists.
    • InfoPath Form
      • Combine product info & user input.
      • Create requests in form library
    • Approval Workflow
      • Create tasks in task list
      • Assemble order form in doc library.
    • Requester & Approval Portal
      • Start & manage requests
      • Track status with Excel & list Web Parts.
    • They will package and deliver code to the public. Several clappter. Is that even a word?
  • Details on each component
    • Line of business data
      • Form is themed to fit with portal
      • Product key is read only
      • External content type provides the secondary data connection for the product subcategories.
      • Final piece is actual Products list.
      • SharePoint Designer is used to manage the external data source, which is a database table, which drives the product data.
    • InfoPath Form
      • Shows that rules are MUCH easier to manage in IP2010. Great job InfoPath team!
      • If it is a new form, it can be detected because ID will be blank. If it has an ID, then the other section is shown.
      • A people picker control can be dropped onto the form and does not have to be configured further. Much clappter and even a few “woohoos”. Alright! This session is fun.
      • Request total cost is calculated automatically. Nothing too fancy here.
      • The Needed By: field is a date picker, but it has some validation with an error tip. It is actually a rule. Nothing that new here.
      • Under rules, you can see the conditions and actions in the task pane. Very cool.
      • Best Practices Tip: Do not load the data until you need it. So, load on demand.
      • Until a user selects a sub category, or product type, the data is not pulled in. When it is selected, Sharepoint is queried and then the data is pulled in for the drop down. Presenter thinks user expects a delay for this sort of action? Click on a dropdown and wait to see a medium sized list? Possibly some users, but not in the public space.
      • Best Practices Tip: If user does not need any extra buttons after submitting a form, then provide a blank view where the user’s only option is to go back to the portal.
      • On submittal, a rule simply sends the user to the “go to Submit Confirmation” view. Ok, this could easily be done with a custom button in previous versions.
      • A third primary view for the Form is the rejection form, where the end user can only read the form, and declarative logic in the form determines which stoplight image is shown (i.e. red light for rejection, green for approved)
        • The declarative logic basically shows one of three sections so the form is designed with three separate sections that have the green, yellow, and red stoplight image. The status properties determines which section to show. Ok, again, simply done in previous versions.
    • Workflow
      • Approver has a dropdown on the form along with the comments section. The dropdown selections have pre-built workflows for each.
      • SharePoint Designer 2010 is used to manage each workflows, i.e. Approval workflow, Feedback workflow, etc.
      • Workflows can be applied to more than one list or library. This comment generated a lot of clappter. Guy behind me even says, “Nice”.
      • Document ID is generated for every document in a site collection. So, in the forms solution, a prefix can be prepended to each document ID and the filename is same as document ID. A redirect service allows you to find a document based on document ID.
      • There are multiple layers in the workflow. An action in one workflow can trigger another workflow sequentially. So, in SP2010 workflow view, you can “drill down” into the underlying workflow details.
      • Buttons at bottom of form are branded and color coded so that user does not execute the wrong action.
      • The list of options for rejecting a form are actually pulled from SharePoint.
      • Last piece of workflow is assembling the Word document
        • From SPD2010 Workflow, an action is inserted with a custom action “Assemble Word Document” Anyone else in the site collection creating a workflow can use this custom action.
        • Custom action has some parameters to choose using the GUI. Very slick.
        • Parameters are required to determine which template to use to generate the document and location of where to store the document.
        • They will publish this custom action publicly as well.
        • Code for custom action is shown in Visual Studio 2010 and is only a few functions using OpenXML SDK.
    • Portal
      • Master page is modified to strip some UI elements that are distracting for the solution.
      • Master page includes a link to the form URL. The link to the form has a Source parameter so that the form knows where to go after it is submitted.
      • To create the master detail view between task list (remember, it was in upper left) and task details (upper right), was simply using web part connections -> send row of data to method.
  • Application Deployment and Portability
    • Data connections in InfoPath forms are now relative URLs, they are not hard coded. Yes. Finally! Almost everybody clapped!
    • Can package applications as reusable templates (WSP).


Top 3 Features of InfoPath 2010

  1. Built-in controls i.e. People Picker
  2. Filtering supported in the browser i.e. A drop down list on a secondary data source can be filtered based on another field in the form and the form in the browser now respects the filter.
  3. Rules. The rules now has a new task pane so it will be MUCH easier to configure and manage rules.


If you are reading this and find it helpful, let me know. Send me a comment please. Thanks.


InfoPath and Forms Server 2010 Features: From SPC09 Las Vegas October 19, 2009

Posted by willhlaw in InfoPath, SharePoint, Sharepoint Designer, SPC09.
Tags: , , ,

InfoPath and Forms Server 2010 Features

There were two presenters for this session in the basement of Mandalay Bay. They were young engineers from Microsoft, but they did an outstanding job although there were a few technical glitches.

Demo 1 – Customizing Sharepoint List Forms

InfoPath 2010 can now be used to customize SharePoint 2010 list forms.

Since we are in Las Vegas, the presenter bet that she could customize an InfoPath form and bring it up on a webpage from Forms Server in under 1 min. She actually did it by adding an image to the top row in less than 30 seconds. It was a quite impressive since I know the pain it has been to deploy InfoPath forms to Forms Server 2007.

When creating a rule, the Formula Builder has an updated UI and the presenter talked about it having more powerful combinatorial type functions that did nto exist before. Unfortunately, she did not go into deeper detail.

If a form is opened up from SharePoint in InfoPath, the quick publish option allows a quick save back to SharePoint without any extra prompts.

End users will not even realize a form is actually an InfoPath form getting served up by Forms Server 2010 and the user may just think it is just a fancier SharePoint Form.

The demo continued with similar features that we are all used to since InfoPath 2003 like secondary data sources and filters on these lists.

Benefits of customizing SharePoint List Forms and overview of First demo.

  • Information workers solve own problems, freeing up IT
  • Layout form using pre-built tables
  • Use rules to conditionally format, validate data & show/hide sections
  • Bring in data from SharePoint Lists
  • Take offline in SharePoint Workspace
  • Examples shown included Project Contact List, issue Tracking List, Feedback Form, and Event Sign-up.

Demo 2 – Creating Mashups with Form Web Parts

The Second demo started with showing a live image being pulled in to show the current weather conditions and a Map It button which was simply a rule-based hyperlink that pointed to, you guess it, Bing.

The form web part was connected via web part connections to another list. Thus, when the recruiting trip was selected from a particular recruiting list item, the form web part showed the corresponding form that showed the weather and Map It hyperlink for that particular trip’s destination.

InfoPath forms can now be packaged as solution packages in order to move a Forms solution from development to pre-production to production. ISV’s can also now create a Form solution and send it as a solution package to their clients. For portable solutions, the links need to be absolute, and InfoPath and Forms Server is able to deal with that.

Benefits of creating mashups with Form Web Parts and overview of Demo 2

  • Information Workers & IT have tools to create mashups
  • Connect InfoPath web part to other Webparts; Excel, Silverlight, List etc.
  • Customize form in InfoPath
  • Design web part page in browser or SharePoint Designer
  • Package as reusable templates (WSP)
  • Examples included Mortgage Calculator (with Excel) and the recruiter Master-detail (with List)

Demo 3 – Office Business Applications

A cascading dropdown was created pulling information from SQL Server. When form is submitted, workflow kicks off e-mails to Supervisor and another group. However, the details were kept from the audience and reserved for session later in the week.

SharePoint Designer is the no-code center point for OBA (Office Business Applications). Designer can even kick off a Forms solution.

Benefits of office business applications and overview of Demo 3

  • Manage OBA in SharePoint Designer: Workflow, Pages & InfoPath Forms
  • Store data in SharePoint or external systems, BCS (Business Connectivity Services)
  • Add sandboxed code to InfoPath form
  • Package as reusable templates (WSPs)
  • Examples include Procurement, Expense Reports, Orders, Onboarding, Service Requests, Helpdesk

Q & A

I asked if Forms Server 2010 and the Form web part will allow rich AJAX and javascript functionality. The answer was yes and no. Yes in that they have improved the AJAX that the form executes within the context of the form on the page so that cross-browser compatibility and performance have been enhanced. The second and more important part of the question, unfortunately, was a No. They were not sure (and I think it would have been a pretty big deal) that javascript on a page that has a form on it would be able to easily access the fields on the form, to get, set, and perform other tweaks on it.