After learning that InfoPath would be depreciated after Office 2013, Microsoft announced its approach to retirement in late January. Despite this drastic announcement, it doesn’t seem that Microsoft is in any hurry to make the switch: they will support InfoPath 2013 for the next ten years and “migration scenarios and guidance” will be provided at the end of 2014. Microsoft noted that InfoPath will be replaced by Office forms and we’ll get more details on the capabilities at the SharePoint conference in March. So what does this mean for SharePoint users?
Many of our SharePoint consultants are glad to not have to deal with InfoPath, but are cautiously awaiting Microsoft’s next form solution hoping that it will not suffer from the same frustrating pitfalls that InfoPath faced. InfoPath can be a great tool for power users given that they are comfortable working within InfoPath’s many constraints. However, many developers prefer the freedom of ASPX forms. Of course, InfoPath forms are often considered more easily maintained, as you can’t expect a power user to work with the complex .Net code often contained within an ASPX form.
Depending on the complexity of the form, there are many scenarios in which it would be more efficient to have a developer update an ASPX form than it would to have a power user struggle against InfoPath’s constraints and try to force InfoPath to do something it doesn’t do well. We’re hoping that the creators of InfoPath’s replacement will take note and address these concerns.
Some of the complaints users have regarding InfoPath relate to critical issues such as not being able to map a variety of form fields to SharePoint columns. This includes repeating rows, in which only the first row can be saved, and the Contact Selector (InfoPath’s people picker control) which cannot be mapped to a Person or Group column, and is instead stored as plain text. Other complaints relate to the lack of HTML editing and the difficulty – in some cases impossibility – of customizing the form.
There is certainly a place for InfoPath’s replacement however. As mentioned, power users can’t be expected to maintain ASPX forms and there will always be a need for a solution that lets users who can’t write code create and maintain powerful forms.
So what’s the solution going to look like? We’re hoping to see a well developed product that is accepted by the majority of the community – otherwise it will suffer the same fate as InfoPath. It needs to be both intuitive and powerful: easy for power users to learn but have a lot of potential for the developers who get their hands on it. Easy to learn and hard to master, this is the only way for it to be an effective replacement.
Are you glad that InfoPath is getting the boot from Microsoft? What features would you like to see in InfoPath’s replacement? Comment below!