There is not one advantage, but many. It is a form building tool that also acts as the GUI for filling out forms. InfoPath allows you to create powerful, rich forms that do not require you to write any code, which is great, because it allows non-developers to create them or maintain them. You can also write code to enhance them beyond what they can do out of the box, but they can do A LOT without code. InfoPath 2007 forms can either be used these ways:
- In rich client mode, which requires every user to have InfoPath 2007
- In restricted rich client mode with 2003-compaitibility, which requires every user to have InfoPath 2003 or 2007 but has limited functionality
- In browser mode, which requires either MOSS Standard + Forms Server or MOSS Enterprise (includes Forms Services). In this case, users don't even need to have Office, because Forms Server or Forms Services writes the ASP.NET code when converting your form to be viewed in the browser.
Microsoft InfoPath 2007 is a part of the MS Office 2007 suite of applications. It allows the development of electronic forms that, once deployed, allow the collection, processing, and storage of data. The benefits of InfoPath include:
Easy-to-use design interface
Conversion of existing Word-based and Excel-based forms -
InfoPath Forms and Templates - XML Structure
In InfoPath, the form template and the captured form data are rendered in XML, or extensible mark-up language. Simply put, XML is a data structure that identifies individual blocks of data with easy-to-understand tags. For example, the username "Tomas" may be identified as <username>Tomas</username>, where <username> and </username> are the opening and closing tags for that item of data. XML is widely used and easily readable in its native form.
InfoPath Easy-To-Use Interface
The InfoPath interface is laid out in a logical flow sequence to help the user to construct forms quickly and easily. Forms are constructed based on tables that set out the foundation for the placement of individual controls and control groups. To add a table to a form, the user simply places the cursor in the appropriate location on the workspace, then selects one table from a range of table choices.
InfoPath Data Connections
Data connections are used to let InfoPath know both where to obtain data to populate controls automatically (see 'InfoPath Control and Form Rules' below) and where to store data when the form is saved or submitted. Data is saved via a data connection to a SharePoint library, a database, a PDF file, and so on.
Validation of InfoPath Data
A paper form is subject to the whims and fancies of the person entering data, but not so with the electronic form. Each control can be set up to validate the data entered. Examples of data validation range from the simple, such as setting the control to only accept text or numbers, to complex, such as notifying the user that the number entered is out of an acceptable range. Data validation ensures that the data collected is as consistent as possible.
InfoPath Control and Form Rules
In similar fashion, rules can display a dialog box, set a field's value, query or submit to a data connection, switch form views, or open or close a form in response to certain events and conditions. An event could be a change to a particular field or group in the data source, a button click, or submitting a form. Examples of conditions are whether the value of a field is blank, is within a specified range, equals the value of another field, or contains certain characters.
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For example, a drop-down list can have a connection to an XML file that contains employee names. The control is populated with the names. Once the name is selected, a rule on that control can call the appropriate related information on the employee's manager and department to the appropriate controls.
When used in conjunction with Microsoft SharePoint, an InfoPath form can operate under the direction of a workflow. For example, a simple approval workflow can, when a form is completed and submitted, raise an approval task to the manager of the person that raised the form.
When the manager approves the information entered into the form then the workflow is complete. Some simple workflows are built into the InfoPath application, while other more complex workflows may be built using applications such as SharePoint Designer.
Microsoft Word and Excel Form Conversion
InfoPath contains conversion utilities that take forms that have previously been constructed using MS Word and Excel and quickly convert them into InfoPath forms.
InfoPath Form Views
A single form can have several different views. For example, a large complex form can have several views that slowly expose different blocks of controls as the form is completed. A print view can also be constructed to let the form be easily printed for those cases where online completion is inappropriate or impossible.
InfoPath Digital Signature
InfoPath templates may be secured using digital signatures from staff with or without signature registration. This ability ensures the authenticity and the integrity of the form template.
InfoPath is a powerful application for building forms for data collection and storage. It boasts an intuitive user interface, and robust data validation and rule structure. A boon for any business wishing to consolidate their business data.