Mastering InfoPath Development Series Introduction

Building business forms is an intrinsic part of architecting a serviceable collaboration environment that accentuates user interaction into overall business operations. Forms and the data that is entered into them build the backbone of most internal and external enterprise processes for organizations, regardless of industry background. One of the most frequent requests of any collaborative environment is to procure circumstances where normally endless paper, human-oriented processes are optimized and an environment that procures methodized, controlled, and manageable paper-less forms are introduced to speed user interaction, couple with intuitive workflows, fetch and push data between various types of data sources, and improve custom form time to production. The benefits of leveraging paperless forms are vast, ranging from cost benefits to flexible deployment and usability options. Form distribution fees and production costs are eliminated, capturing and routing become automated by the collaboration environment, forms can be audited for non-repudiation legal purposes, and robust levels of forms storage and pipeline security can be implemented.

InfoPath 2007 and Office SharePoint Server 2007 running InfoPath Forms Services, or a separately purchased Microsoft Office Forms Server (OFS 2007) platform, procure a bridge between the Information Worker whom is most aware of the organizational form content and process involvement, to the developer who can enhance and automate form activities, to the systems architect who is responsible for maintaining the form platform and tangible form maintenance.
Typical business form development can prove tend to be convoluted because a considerable quantity of conventional business forms are specialized in intent, often times the solitary persons whom are aware of how data should be inputted, manipulated, and stored is not an avid member of the development team. Empowering the set of stakeholders involved in the forms development process with the tools to help communicate needs to tangible deliverables, and deliverables to organizational systems will procure numerous benefits for an organization, increasing the overall quality and usability of the end product.
Stakeholders in the Form Development Process


Using Forms Services


For The Information Worker


Allow an integrated design environment where form controls can be easily added to a layout page, capturing the most beneficial user design while maintaining an uncomplicated, effortless form development and design surface.


For The Developer


Inherent functionality to bind form controls to various data sources and control basic form behavior. Allowance of backend managed code to tap into new InfoPath Object Model in order to create more complex form behavior using C# or VB.NET through the use of Microsoft Visual Studio Tools for Applications (VSTA) or Microsoft Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO). Support for native scripting languages such as Jscript and VBscript through the Microsoft Script Editor (MSE) for customizing other form attributes to be bundled with form template packages.


For the Systems Architect


Ease control over deploying custom forms to a SharePoint environment with a granular, defined publishing model. Exert forms jurisdiction over pieces that tap into custom business logic by allocating the task of activating such forms as an administrative task. Allow forms to be updated even while SharePoint users are entering in data, decreasing the amounts of service disruptions and increasing quality of data retrieval. Provide forms administration through familiar SharePoint STSADM command line interaction.


Throughout this series, I will introduce you to how to construct robust, extendable forms using InfoPath 2007. The constructed forms will then be able to employ InfoPath Forms Services in order to increase the reach of the form through its zero footprint form fill-in technology, allowing even users without the InfoPath Smart Client installed to utilize the InfoPath forms. As you’ll see shortly, you will exploit powerful development approaches that can immediately be put to work in your environment through the native InfoPath design surface and through custom managed code. The presented strategies include several sections of inherent InfoPath functionality as well as demonstrations of how to hook in custom logic written in managed C# code. For those developers who don’t have InfoPath 2007 as a development platform, for those developing forms solely on the Windows SharePoint Services V3 platform or not having the Enterprise Features of MOSS enabled, we will also explore how to use native WebPart development to build forms that can achieve the same goal as developing when using InfoPath 2007.
We will also walk through the architecture of InfoPath forms and InfoPath forms services. You will become familiar with the pieces that build up an InfoPath form and related pieces of technology that are important to an InfoPath forms developer. Since InfoPath FormsServices provides the foundational serving mechanism, we will also examine the core components that construct this service, and how exactly the rendering components of InfoPath Forms Services can expand the reach of custom built forms.
So warm up Visual Studio, strap on your seat belts, and let’s start developing!