Overview of InfoPath Forms Services

Author: mety Nagm Labels::



In this article, you will learn about InfoPath Forms Services and how you can use it to host Microsoft Office InfoPath forms that can be filled out on the Web. In addition, you will learn how InfoPath Forms Services can be used to manage, distribute, and store form templates and their associated forms in a centralized location.

InfoPath Forms Services is a server technology that makes it possible for users to fill out InfoPath forms in a Web browser. Users don't have to have InfoPath installed on their computer to fill out this type of form, nor are they required to download anything extra from the Web. All they need is access to a browser, such as Windows Internet Explorer, Apple Safari, or Mozilla Firefox.
InfoPath Forms Services also enables you to store and manage forms and form templates in a centralized location. InfoPath Forms Services is built on and requires Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, which enables you to publish form templates that you design to a common location across an organization. Additionally, users can submit forms to SharePoint libraries, which are folders where a collection of files is stored and where the files often use the same template. It is also possible to integrate forms into document management and life-cycle tasks such as workflow and rights management.
The InfoPath Forms Services technology is available in the Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Enterprise CAL and also, separately, in Microsoft Office Forms Server 2007.

The design experience

Form templates that can be filled out in a browser are called browser-enabled form templates. To create this type of form template, you design a browser-compatible form template (browser-compatible form template: A form template that is designed in InfoPath by using a specific compatibility mode. A browser-compatible form template can be browser-enabled when it is published to a server running InfoPath Forms Services.) in InfoPath, publish it to a server running InfoPath Forms Services, and enable it for use on the Web.
In some cases, you can enable the form template for use on the Web by selecting the Enable this form to be filled out by using a browser check box in the InfoPath Publishing Wizard. In other cases, you must publish the form template to a shared location on your corporate network and then contact a server farm administrator for assistance in enabling the form template and making it available on the server.
Administrator approval is required in the following scenarios:
  • The form template contains managed code.
  • The form template requires a Full Trust security level, which allows the resulting forms to have full access to the system resources on users' computers, such as files and settings.
  • The form template uses a data connection that is managed by an administrator.
  • The form template is enabled to be displayed on a mobile device.

If administrator approval is required, the Publishing Wizard guides you through the steps of preparing the form template for hand-off to an administrator.
After a browser-compatible form template is browser-enabled, users can use their browser to fill out forms that are based on that form template.

The user experience

The user experience of filling out a form in a browser is nearly identical to that of filling out a form in InfoPath. For example, controls such as repeating sections and features such as formulas and conditional formatting work the same way in both environments.
Although filling out a form in a browser is like filling out a form in InfoPath, there is one key difference. In a Web browser, the InfoPath menus and toolbars are replaced by a toolbar across the top of the form, which displays options for saving, closing, printing, and updating the form. This bar also appears at the bottom of a form, so that users don't have to scroll back to the top of a long form to complete their form.
If you enable the submit options for your form template, users also see a Submit button on the toolbar. When they click this button, the form data is submitted directly to the data source that you specified when designing the form template, such as a Web service or SharePoint list. If your form template has more than one view (view: A form-specific display setting that can be saved with a form template and applied to form data when the form is being filled out. Users can switch between views to choose the amount of data shown in the form.), users will also see a View list on the toolbar.


Form open in browser
Callout 1 Users submit data to external data sources by clicking a Submit button on the toolbar.
Callout 2 Users switch between views by clicking an item in the View list on the toolbar.


When you design your form template, you can customize the toolbar settings in the Form Options dialog box. For example, you can remove one or more buttons or hide the toolbar at the bottom of the user's form.
In the following sections, you will learn more about the benefits of using InfoPath Forms Services.

Reach customers, partners, and suppliers with user-friendly forms

When you publish a form template to a server running InfoPath Forms Services, you can distribute it not just on your corporate intranet, but also on external Web sites, such as extranet sites or corporate Web sites. This allows you to collect data from customers, partners, suppliers, and others who are vital to the success of your business. For example, a large insurance company can use a single browser-enabled form template to collect and process insurance claims. An insurance customer can use a browser to fill out the claim form on the company's Web site. Alternatively, if the customer calls the insurance company to report the claim, an insurance agent can use InfoPath to fill out the same claim form on an intranet site. Similarly, a government agency can collect data from citizens by posting browser-enabled form templates on its Web site.
When users access the form, either by navigating to a library or by entering a URL for the form in their browser, one of two things can happen:
  • The form opens in a browser If users don't have InfoPath installed on their computer, the form opens in a browser, where they can fill it out just as they would any other Web-based form.
  • The form opens in InfoPath If users have InfoPath installed on their computer, the form opens in InfoPath, where they can fill it out just as they would any other InfoPath form. Because they are filling out the form in InfoPath, these users will have the added benefit of being able to use the full range of InfoPath features for filling out forms, some of which are not available in browser forms.
    Note It you prefer, you can customize the settings for your form template so that it always opens in a browser, even if users have InfoPath installed on their computer. This can be useful when you want the experience of filling out a form to be identical for everyone, or when you don't want the form to be opened in InfoPath, because you want to discourage users from opening or modifying the underlying form template in design mode.
If users will fill out forms on a mobile device, such as a personal digital assistant (PDA) or smartphone, you can design your browser-enabled form template so that it can be opened and filled out by using a mobile device browser. When users use a mobile device to access the form, it opens on their screen in a simplified format.

Streamline forms-driven business processes

Forms are at the center of many business processes. By hosting browser-enabled form templates on a server running InfoPath Forms Services, you can integrate form data with existing business processes or applications. For example, you can:
  • Submit data to existing business systems When you design a browser-compatible form template, you can create data connections (data connection: The connection between an InfoPath form and an external data source, such as a database, Web service, SharePoint library, or XML file. Data connections are used to query and submit data.) to Web services or other external data sources. This allows you to submit data to existing business systems, enterprise applications, or corporate databases. For example, a sales department can design a form that can submit sales leads and customer information to an existing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.
  • Query data from existing business systems It is also possible to query data in existing business systems, enterprise applications, or corporate databases. For example, when users open a form based on your form template, you might want data from an external data source to appear in the name and address fields on the form. This enables you to take advantage of existing organizational data and simplifies the process of filling out a form.
  • Add workflow to forms You can add a workflow to the form template that is stored in a library. This enables you to consistently manage common business processes. For example, as a manager, you can use an approval workflow to route an expense report form through a list of approvers. Approvers can approve or reject the expense report form, reassign the approval task, or request changes to the form. In InfoPath, users click commands on the File menu to participate in the workflow. On the server, they can point to the name of the form in the library, click the arrow that appears, and then click Workflows to participate in the workflow.
    Workflows command on shortcut menu

Manage forms and form templates in a centralized location

You can store your form templates and their associated forms in a centralized repository on a server running InfoPath Forms Services. This makes it easy to find, share, and manage forms and form templates.
Key benefits include the ability to:
Note From InfoPath, you can publish a form template to a server that is not running InfoPath Forms Services. For example, you can publish your form template to a server running Windows SharePoint Services. In this scenario, you can take advantage of some of the features mentioned in the preceding list, such as the ability to publish a form template to a library. However, if you want to create a browser-enabled form template, or if you want to use features such as data connection libraries, then you must publish the form template to a server running InfoPath Forms Services

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