UPDATE February 2015: Microsoft has listed FOSL (Forms on Sharepoint Lists) as cancelled on the Office365 roadmap. This was supposed to be one of the technologies used to replace InfoPath. At the same time on the Office Blog they officially announced that InfoPath Forms Services will be available in SharePoint 2016 on premise and supported in Office365 until further notice. This update does not change the fact that there will not be another version of InfoPath, or the previously released end of support date of April 2023.
Organizations will need to find a long-term replacement for InfoPath. Read on to learn how Content360°’s Sharepoint integrated PDF forms solution can help.
Earlier this year, Microsoft announced it is discontinuing their electronic forms management product called InfoPath, which is used with SharePoint, Access, and Word. InfoPath Form Services 2013 will be the final release, but Microsoft has committed to supporting the product through April 2023.
According to Microsoft: “Industry trends and feedback from our customers and partners make it clear that today’s businesses demand an intelligent, integrated forms experience that spans devices.”
This makes sense, but it highlights the deficiencies in InfoPath, which means InfoPath is currently not particularly intelligent, nor integrated. InfoPath wasn’t the answer to SharePoint forms even before Microsoft announced their decision to discontinue support. Why?
The Problems with InfoPath
The idea of using an electronic form as a structured document to collect, classify and save data elements is an excellent idea, and Microsoft was one of the first innovators to develop this concept. However, there are several limiting factors that prevent InfoPath from becoming a complete electronic forms management solution:
- Problems using the InfoPath form as a database that can be edited.
- You almost have to be a developer to get maximum value out of InfoPath.
- Limited ability to access information from other applications or databases such as CRM, ERP, HR, a workflow process, etc.
- Difficulty turning an electronic form into a standalone application to store, fetch or send data, using its own rules.
- Perhaps the biggest challenge with InfoPath forms is that they are not universal, like Adobe’s PDF forms.
InfoPath and SharePoint Challenges
Of the challenges facing InfoPath and SharePoint, the most significant problems arise when information from other lines of business or departments are required to add or modify content on an InfoPath form. Integration with other departments or areas of the company is an essential aspect of forms management today, and the limitations of SharePoint and InfoPath make them inadequate to support a full scale electronic forms strategy.
Now that InfoPath is going away, what will fill the void? What SharePoint forms solutions are available?
Adobe PDF Forms
A superior alternative to using InfoPath with SharePoint is Adobe PDF forms. PDF forms run in all Adobe Acrobat applications, including their free Adobe Reader, and PDF forms are universal meaning they work well on the SharePoint platform. For those interested in finding an alternative to InfoPath, Harvest Technology Group can seamlessly replace InfoPath with Adobe’s powerful PDF forms creation tool.
A PDF Forms Solution to Replace InfoPath
Content360° from Harvest Technology Group provides an enterprise PDF forms based solution in SharePoint. Through Content360°, organizations can:
- Create fillable PDF forms using standard Adobe functionality or use existing PDF forms
- Use external applications or data sources to auto-fill fields in the forms
- Fill out forms within SharePoint or through Adobe and submit the forms to SharePoint
- Create column values from the PDF form fields and leverage bi-directional syncing (if you update a field in the form it updates the column value in SharePoint and visa versa)
- Route forms for approval or review using Content360° workflow .
Content360° works flawlessly with SharePoint, and uses Adobe Forms to create and deploy PDF forms throughout your enterprise. This enables Content360° to provide truly state-of-the-art forms management.
Adobe PDF Forms and Content360° will be supported for years to come, and will continue to lead the way in state-of-the-art content management systems. As InfoPath fades over the next several years, PDF Forms will capitalize on its cutting-edge position in the market and provide superior forms management capabilities to work with emerging technologies.