InfoPath And The Future Of SharePoint Forms

Posted on Tuesday 10th October 2017 12:00

Organisations are currently looking ahead to find viable alternatives for their SharePoint forms solution currently based on InfoPath forms.

Infopath retrofitted in SharePoint

From the start, InfoPath was never built for but rather retrofitted to support SharePoint forms.

Microsoft turned to researching a web-based solution for the design and creation of forms online rather than on a desktop.

InfoPath is generally a great tool for businesses needing to build forms because of its support for basic calculations, external data sources, conditional formatting and custom code.

Over the last decade, SharePoint has outgrown InfoPath, exposing its limitations, especially its XML foundations. First of all, when publishing forms to SharePoint, users can encounter rendering issues, the forms are not mobile friendly and the usability is lagging. For large lists, the publishing process is not stable.

Status of InfoPath and SharePoint forms

The updated guidance from Microsoft is that InfoPath will still be supported until 2026, which is a long time in terms of software technology.

SharePoint 2016 supports InfoPath browser forms. InfoPath 2013 works with SharePoint 2016 InfoPath Forms Services.

InfoPath 2013 is the last version Microsoft will release, and support has been extended until 2026 to match SharePoint 2016 support lifecycle.

Office 365 will support InfoPath browser forms officially until further notice, although they are not working in the mobile view. The browser forms containing code are not supported anymore.

Microsoft provides guidance that the successor to InfoPath is PowerApps, but with some caveats: feature parity with InfoPath is not a goal and InfoPath will still be preferred for some scenarios like offline work or rich XML documents.

Alternatives to InfoPath forms

A common usage scenario for InfoPath customers is to build moderately complex, interactive forms that integrate with SharePoint lists and libraries.

Currently there are not many options available from Microsoft:

  • PowerApps (and Flow)
  • Excel Surveys in Office 365
  • Custom .NET forms in SharePoint

As a result, major players are currently offering powerful alternatives to InfoPath:

  • Nintex Forms
  • K2 SmartForms
  • Formotus

 

Comparison PROs CONs
PowerApps (and Flow) Runs on every device
Easy to deploy
Bring your own data
Basic workflow offering
Complex in hybrid scenarios
Excel Surveys in Office 365 Easy to extract and transform the data
Accessible to the masses
Not mobile friendly

Not useful for complex forms

No integration with external data sources

Custom .NET forms Highly reusable and extensible
Integrates well with other technologies
Highly customizable
Virtually no implementation constraints
Hard to maintain
Developer knowledge needed
Big learning curve for some InfoPath customers
Nintex Forms Mobile phone/tablet support
Friendly workflows
No code solutions
Web based, drag and drop experience
LOB systems integration missing
Licence and cost implications
K2 SmartForms Low code powerful BPMS
Reusable forms automatically generated from SharePoint lists
Mobile friendly forms
Cost of licences implications
Steep learning curve even for technical staff
Formotus Mobile/touch optimized forms
Seamless migration of InfoPath forms
Rich offer of data store connectors
Basic workflow offering
Licensing costs (as license-months)

The future of SharePoint forms

SharePoint has never been known for having the best user interface, but has provided a platform around which organizations could develop powerful business solutions using forms, workflows, lists and by manipulating the look and feel.

Forms are challenging to design and, with all its advances, the fact remains that SharePoint has a user experience (UX) problem. The developments and news coming out of Microsoft suggest they are focusing on improving the user experience.

Everyone using InfoPath is to some extent concerned about finding a replacement. Need some help? Just ask.