Using Microsoft InfoPath 2010 with Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Step by Step – #bookreview

Using Microsoft InfoPath 2010 with Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Step by Step
By Darvish Shadravan and Laura Rogers
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $34.99; Kindle edition, list price $31.99)

A 21st century Shakespeare might write: “All the world’s a form, and we are just filling it in.”

One of this book’s authors contends (not completely in jest) that “forms run the world. Imagine modern life without forms, both paper and digital–it’s not possible! Everything that is known and recorded about you, from your birth city to your magazine subscriptions, to  your preference of aisle or window seats–yes, all of this information was entered in a form at some point in time.”

Microsoft InfoPath 2010 is used to design and build electronic forms, as well as gather data, without writing code. Meanwhile, SharePoint Server 2010 “offers a robust architecture for managing access to data connections and external systems.” SharePoint is Microsoft’s suite of software tools aimed at making it “easier for people work together,” whether in the same office or scattered around the planet.

This well-written and nicely illustrated book shows how to bring the two products together in powerful ways that (1) enable InfoPath forms to be created and formatted and (2) integrate data from SharePoint and other company systems. InfoPath forms also can be hosted on SharePoint.

The book is aimed at “any information worker that needs to build and use electronic forms that will be stored in SharePoint.” Its goal is to “teach you the basics of building and using InfoPath 2010 forms in a SharePoint 2010 environment.”

The writers assume you are at least a “savvy Office and Windows user.” It is helpful, but not mandatory, to also have at least some basic familiarity with SharePoint Server 2010. “However, even if you’re not a SharePoint guru, most topics in this book should be within your grasp,” they point out.

If you do not have a SharePoint environment in your company, “InfoPath 2010 supports the creation of forms in Microsoft Office 365,” the two authors note. Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud product that provides online access to a variety of programs for communicating and collaborating.

InfoPath has been around for a few years and recently was given a significant update. But many businesses and computer users do not have it.

That’s not show-stopper when InfoPath and SharePoint work together, the authors point out. “If you create your forms as browser-enabled form templates, users who don’t have InfoPath installed on their computer can still work with the form in a browser. This lets you share business forms with a variety of users, including employees, customers, and vendors.”

The 446-page book has 14 chapters. The first four chapters show how to create and format forms using InfoPath. The remaining chapters focus on using InfoPath with SharePoint.

According to the two authors, “the mission of this book is to help you understand how to create business forms that provide a pleasant, reliable, and intuitive experience for your users and customers,” they write.

The process of creating, formatting and publishing forms is shown and described in clear, succinct how-to steps. Practice files can be downloaded from a Microsoft site, and the exercise topics range from the basics of form design to building an approval process and working with SharePoint views and dashboards, to (1) “control what fields are displayed at any given time” and (2) “generate reports from any information in SharePoint lists and libraries.”

The authors add: “SharePoint libraries, specifically form libraries, are well suited for storing and managing InfoPath forms.”

InfoPath’s native language is XML, “perhaps the single most powerful method of storing and sharing structured data to come along since the advent of digital computing.” Creating electronic forms has long been a code-intensive process.

InfoPath hides most of the XML behind an easy-to-use interface. And XSLT (Extensible Style Sheet Language) style sheets also “‘sit in front of’ the underlying XML and transform it into the rich and easy-to-use forms that InfoPath can create.”

The book’s illustrations, short paragraphs, step-by-step lists and example files can all help readers get up to speed quickly, whether Microsoft InfoPath 2010 is used with Microsoft SharePoint on a company network or via the cloud, by way of Office 365.

Si Dunn‘s latest book is a novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry and several short stories, all available on Kindle. He previously worked in the telecommunications industry as a software and hardware tester and technical writer.

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