SharePoint Forms Options

SharePoint Forms…  The bane of many a SharePoint user. Am I right?

The out-of-the-box default SharePoint Forms are pretty worthless except for the most basic scenarios.  They have almost no business logic and they LOOK about as slick as a tuna fish sandwich that’s been sitting in the back of your refrigerator for 2 years.

Oh, let’s use InfoPath you say? Really? InfoPath? Have you ever had to maintain an InfoPath form that someone threw a lot of code-behind into to make it do what they wanted? The performance issues, the nightmares of reporting on the data in InfoPath forms, and deployments and updates. Mobile forms? Could anyone ever realistically migrate a complicated InfoPath form??? It hurts my head to think about.  I’ve never seen an organization that used InfoPath that didn’t also abuse it… I avoid it at all costs.  But Business users can create forms you say? I need some Excedrin…

But there has to be some other SharePoint form options to consider???

Absolutely. Regardless of the future of InfoPath there ARE other forms options (a lot actually) depending on what functionality you truly need and how much you want to spend. 

There are also a TON of posts out there about various forms solutions in SharePoint. If you are going to pay money the default choices are definitely Nintex and K2. They pretty much have the paid-for forms market covered. Both are great companies, with great support, and I can recommend both of them with confidence.

Let’s say you don’t have a budget though, what are your options???

I’m SO glad you asked. It just so happens that I, in my effort to avoid all things InfoPath, have created a couple of free tools to help you easily create and maintain you SharePoint forms.

Modifying Out-of-the-Box Forms

Let’s face it, a lot of the time you don’t NEED InfoPath. You simply want to make SharePoint’s forms look more elegant. You want to put a little business logic behind them. You want to make them more usable. If this is the case, before you click on that button to launch InfoPath, check out a simple script I wrote to modify SharePoint’s default forms.

http://www.markrackley.net/2013/08/29/easy-custom-layouts-for-default-sharepoint-forms/ 

The only skill you NEED is a basic understanding of HTML to turn a SharePoint form that looks like this:

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And turn it into something that looks like this (or even more slick if you are a designer):

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The limits are really up to how good of a designer you are. You could even turn those out of the box forms into some slick mobile friendly forms… AND it works in SharePoint 2007, 2010, 2013, and Office 365.

Another thing I REALLY like about this solution is the ease with which you can “roll back” to the default SharePoint forms in case you want to some day switch to a different solution or if Microsoft throws out an update that adversely affects something you did in your form. Simply delete a Web Part on the page and your form is back to it’s unaltered out-of-the-box state.  This is definitely a quick, painless, safe approach to give your users a better user experience.

An Alternative to InfoPath

Let’s say you have more complicated forms and need to add some more extended business logic? What if you need more of an InfoPath like solution where you can store 75 fields in a form but only promote 4 or 5 of those fields to your SharePoint list? Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some alternative out there for that as well?

Lucky for you, there is! A few years ago I created a lightweight InfoPath replacement tool that is free on CodePlex. 

http://forms7.codeplex.com/

With almost 3,000 downloads a lot of users have found a lot of success with this tool and the only skills you need are HTML and JavaScript to create really powerful business forms. 

Will it do EVERYTHING InfoPath will do? No, but it is a great, lightweight, easy to use solution for many organizations… AND it works in SharePoint 2007, 2010, 2013, and Office 365.

I’m also in the process of making some pretty major updates to this tool with hopefully an easy to use user interface in the near future. 

The Caveats

Are these tools going to be the perfect tools for everyone? Absolutely not. They are free tools I created to help you get the most out of SharePoint. If you truly need  dedicated support, slicker user interfaces, and someone to hold your hand you’ll need to fork out some money (in some cases A LOT of money).  However, if you have no budget, are comfortable with HTML and JavaScript then dive in and improve your SharePoint forms today… for free… 

4 thoughts on “SharePoint Forms Options

  1. Mark, thanks for all the helpful tips. In the example above, are you using forms7/codeplex, and tabs? Meaning there is one form, and the fields from that form can be spread across several tabs. Thanks

    • Hey Julie,

      The above example with tabs is not using Forms7 it’s the default SharePoint form, but you can do tabs with Forms7 as well. Where you needing help one way or the other?

      • Yes, I was looking into possibly using Forms7 oppsed to InfoPath, and being able to break it across multiple tabs would be very helpful. However, we are still on SP2007 so tab options may be limited?? TY!

  2. Hey Mark,

    Firstly, been using some of your tools (tabs especially) and I LOVE them. So easy to use – huge Kudos sir 🙂

    I’m now using Stratus to get us away from InfoPath – I was wondering if you’d managed (or were planning) on merging this with the custom disp form layouts scripts? Would be super cool to have both in the same application rather than writing 2 or 3 html forms.

    I’ve noticed you mentioned thinking about it, and you were working on some cool new features for Stratus – hoping this is one of them?

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