Saturday, January 5, 2013

The future of custom forms in SharePoint 2013

I've been doing quite a bit of research on SharePoint 2013 and the future of custom forms. Back in SharePoint 2010 the push seemed to be toward InfoPath Form Services and using IP to create your forms (items, workflow initiation, tasks, etc...).

At the SharePoint 2012 Conference there seemed to be a big push toward Business Users using Access 2013 to create their custom forms, but after I got my environment setup for this I quickly found out that this certainly doesn't replace InfoPath. An Access Web App is very powerful, however it doesn't really integrate with SharePoint other than being hosted there. You can't have workflow run on your items, and you don't even access SharePoint lists or libraries (the data is stored in SQL by the app).

The lack of attention to InfoPath at the conference as well as a few other things (listed below) have made me wonder... What is going to be the InfoPath replacement?

Reasons I believe InfoPath is going away:
  • InfoPath forms services doesn't work with Forms Based Authentication or SAML Tokens. I've been told by Microsoft that this isn't going to change, which leads me to believe they are not putting a focus on it. (See "Features that do not work with forms-based authentication or SAML security tokens" here: )
  • SharePoint 2013 removes InfoPath Forms for Workflow Initiation or Tasks.
  • The complete lack of attention at the conference to InfoPath along with a focus on CSOM and custom ASPX pages.
  • The fact that they haven't fixed things like mapping People Selector fields to actual people columns in Form Libraries, and the ability to access Managed Metadata in custom InfoPath forms. This was frustrating in SharePoint 2010 and is the same in 2013...

So, where does this leave us? Here are the options as I see it:
  • Access Web App - If it's business users and they don't need workflow (like a LOB solution) this could be a great solution.
  • Custom ASPX forms - At the time of writing this seems like the way everything is moving. Strangely this moves form design out of the businesses hands (the push was the opposite way with 2010 release) and into the developers hands.
  • InfoPath - Still fully supported in SharePoint 2013, however as I mentioned above, reading between the lines tells me this may be the last release that "fully" supports IP, so it might be time to start new projects with one of the above two options.

In the end I feel custom ASPX pages are the safest bet since they've worked since SharePoint 2007. Who knows where Access web apps will go in the future. Only time will tell.

As I learn more I'll update this post.

- Owen Runnals
SharePoint Practice Manager @ General Networks Corp

1 comment:

  1. Managed Metadata is a key feature of SharePoint 2013 which gets pushed for all kinds of purposes. The fact the InfoPath doesn't support this feature speaks for itself.