Who Really Needs Custom Forms on SharePoint Anyway

Right about now, a lot of IT decision makers, SharePoint users & developers are all probably thinking the same thing – that somewhere in the halls of the Microsoft campus in Redmond, somehow this idea has taken hold: that no one wants, alas needs, custom web-based forms on SharePoint.

How else do we explain the sudden, if not buried, announcement that not only has InfoPath Forms Services been extended indefinitely on O365 and included for the next release of SharePoint on-premises (i.e. SP2016), but the most promising alternative on the horizon – Forms on SharePoint Lists (FoSL) – has simply been cancelled.

Consider the facts:

  1. A few weeks before the SPC14, Microsoft makes a big announcement that they’re retiring InfoPath. They say InfoPath 2013 will be the last version of InfoPath, InfoPath Forms Services is not committed to indefinite O365 support (i.e. it will only be “supported until further notice”) and, for on-premises, SharePoint Server 2013 (SP2013) will be the last release.
  2. They heavily promote, both before & during, a session at SPC14 entitled “Update on InfoPath and SharePoint Forms – SPC348″, during which four potential alternatives are introduced, of which FoSLs receive the most attention; we actually blogged about this in the immediate aftermath of SPC14.
  3. An InfoPath “funeral” is held at SPC14, and yet very little additional information is released after the conference regarding FoSLs
  4. Then suddenly late on a Friday afternoon (February 6, 2015) – because that’s a great time to get maximum exposure on a major announcement – rather than making a new post, an “Editor’s Note” is added to the original January, 2014 article concerning the end of InfoPath, simply noting “we are also updating the timelines for removal of InfoPath Forms Services components of SharePoint and SharePoint Online.”
  5. In parallel, and not mentioned within any related post during that time, the release of FoSLs on the O365 Roadmap is abruptly moved from “In development” to “Cancelled”, which is succinctly defined as “Previously planned updates that are no longer being developed or are indefinitely delayed.”

So 13+ months removed from the news that InfoPath would no longer be updated, Microsoft has giveth then taketh away the only fully web-based form customization tool (FoSLs) they had on their roadmap, maintained the removal of Design View in SharePoint Designer 2013 and then extended the life of InfoPath – though it’s noteworthy that they did not commit to a new release, only an extension of how long & on which platforms the old/last release will be supported. Hardly a strategy any CIO/CTO I know would want to bank on.

It’s here that platforms like CorasWorks provide critical value; our existing Actions framework is a mature capability set, with nearly a decade of evolution behind it. It easily supports customizing which fields appear on a form, the order of those fields, whether or not a field is required or read-only within that form instance, customizing the description or guidance for each field using HTML rich text, triggering Workflows and even executing external service/API calls upon form submission. As the browser landscape has improved – namely IE8, the last major browser to not support HTML5 & CSS3 falls to under 3% usage worldwide – CorasWorks now looks to add even more form customization features to include more options over how forms are laid out visually, leveraging the best free frameworks on the web.

We’ll continue to track this development and the potential impacts it has; but more importantly, we’ll also continue to grow & improve our platform to meet the evolving needs of the SharePoint ecosystem, InfoPath getting a last gasp notwithstanding!

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