Sharepoint 2010 : Using InfoPath 2010 to Create Electronic Forms (part 1) - Creating an InfoPath Form

1/5/2014 8:27:33 PM
When you create a new item in SharePoint, you are provided with a form that enables you to enter data into the associated list. Sometimes, however, the default SharePoint forms are not sufficient for capturing data in a complete way because you may need to look up information from other sources, make one choice field be dependent on another, and so on. In addition, users may be used to filling out paper-based forms, so you might want to make a form that behaves like the paper form. For example, you may want to enable job applicants to fill out a fairly complex application form.

So do you really need electronic forms? In most cases, organizations are using SharePoint lists, Word documents, or Excel worksheets. But a real form package gives you rich design, validation, prepopulation of information, multiple roles, digital signatures, and rich security. Take a look at this list of common issues and see if any of these sound familiar:

  • In your existing forms-submission process, do you have challenges around incomplete, inaccurate, or lost information? Do you face challenges around locating that information? Does it take too long for information to make it to its final destination(s)? Forms can drive business processes so that these issues are minimized or eliminated, validating the data by checking it as the user is supplying it.

  • Are your users overwhelmed with the number of business processes or sources of information that exist within your company? Electronic information capture helps streamline the complex processes sitting behind forms.

  • Are people filling out paper forms that need to be rekeyed? Electronic forms capture data at the source.

If you are experiencing any of these issues, you’re probably a good candidate for capturing information via an electronic form. InfoPath 2010 is Microsoft’s offering for electronic forms creation and use. In this section, we describe the process of using an InfoPath-based electronic form with SharePoint. We focus not on the technical details of InfoPath, but rather the key integration points with SharePoint.


The example in this section requires all users (and the form designer) to have InfoPath 2010 to fill out a form. If you elect to use browser-based forms created with InfoPath (described in the next section), you’ll need SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise.

1. Introduction to InfoPath

InfoPath 2010 is a client application that lets you visually design forms using layout tables and controls for gathering data such as text boxes, choice fields, buttons, and so on. In addition to quickly formatting a form, InfoPath allows you to connect the form to various data sources such as a database or a SharePoint list. The interface provides a lot of wizard functionality for tasks such as submitting the form, but InfoPath also provides for full customization using Visual Studio Tools for Applications.

Figure 1 shows the home page for InfoPath 2010. From the home page you can select from a variety of templates to get started or choose to design your own. While InfoPath is used to design the templates, it’s also used to fill in the forms built from these templates.

Figure 1. The InfoPath home page allows you to select from existing templates, or you can design your own from scratch

An InfoPath form can be used in two ways:

  • Gather and send data to a service.

  • Gather and save the data to a file (local or on the network).

If the data in the form is saved to a file, it is saved as XML with the form schema. While InfoPath can exist and operate on its own, we are going to focus on how it integrates with SharePoint through the Forms library template and InfoPath Forms Services. Before we discuss integration however, let’s start by creating a simple InfoPath form.

2. Creating an InfoPath Form

From the InfoPath home page, select the blank template. Figure 2 shows the new form with a placeholder for the form title. To build the form, we are going to use some controls from the Controls group on the ribbon, and then we are going to use tables from the Insert tab to format the layout. It’s unclear why Controls is not on the Insert tab, but that’s a question for the InfoPath team.

Figure 2. The blank template allows you to define your own InfoPath form using controls and tables for layout

So using tables and controls, we are going to put together a layout that looks similar to Figure 3. The majority of controls are text and date fields; however, the expense fields are wrapped into one very useful control called the Repeating Table. The repeating table control allows a user to add additional rows to the table on the fly—very useful for an expense report.

Figure 3. Our Expense Report includes date fields, text fields, and a repeating table where additional rows can be added for each expense

When you add a control to the form, InfoPath gives it a default name like field1, all of these fields can be renamed to be more descriptive like reportDate. As you add fields, you will see them listed in the Fields panel on the right.

Once all of our controls are added and positioned using the layout tables, all that is left to do is add a Submit button. For our expense report we are going to submit it to a SharePoint Forms library. What this means is when the user clicks the Submit button, the data will get saved as a new item in the library. To do this, we need to create a new SharePoint library using the forms template and then in InfoPath configure the submit action to send the data to our new library.

Assuming we have our Forms library in place (you should know how to do that by now), right click the button and select Button Properties. From the Button Properties dialog, ensure the action is set to Submit and click the Submit Options ... button. Figure 4 shows the submit options we have. Here, we select to submit to a SharePoint Document Library. Before we click OK though, we need to configure a data connection to our SharePoint library as in Figure 5.

Figure 4. The Submit Options dialog allows us to send the data to a SharePoint document library that we define through a data connection

Figure 5. The Data Connection Wizard steps through the process of creating a destination for the form data

Click Add to create a new data connection for the library. The Data Connection Wizard (see Figure 5) steps you through the simple process of connecting to the SharePoint form library we have already created.


To recap, we now have a fully designed form that will allow the user to submit data directly to a SharePoint forms library. However, we still need to make this form available in a central place so our users can get to it. For this we need to publish it from InfoPath.

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