The future of InfoPath & SharePoint

Over the past several years I’ve grown very comfortable with InfoPath and SharePoint. In the 2007 days it was a great tool to provide advanced forms capabilities to the end user, with very little development knowledge or experience needed. Things like data connections to query and expose external data, conditional field formatting, user interface adjustments and conditional views were all configurable by anyone who was comfortable with Microsoft Office. I grew very accustomed to helping customers provide an elegant and intuitive interface for data entry. It was also common to tie the forms to a back-end workflow, which could take a business process from paper and sneakers to 1’s and 0’s, fully automated. It was beautiful. And it worked.

SharePoint 2010 took InfoPath even further, allowing us to quickly and *very* easily edit the default forms for a SharePoint list using InfoPath. Now we could do things like provide branding, conditional formatting and data connections in a standard list item form. Sure, it wasn’t the easiest thing to extend beyond the OOTB capabilities of InfoPath, and don’t get me started on the complete omission of Managed Metadata support; but it was a great starting point for custom forms. THAT was the pinnacle for InfoPath. That’s the best it would ever be and for some reason, that’s the last time the InfoPath team would get to develop any *new* features for InfoPath and SharePoint.

When SharePoint 2013 and Office 2013 were released, there were a lot of head scratchers – wondering “what’s next with InfoPath?” I was one of them, and I was increasingly concerned that the end of life was coming. Well, it’s here. InfoPath is officially going bye bye. Now we’re left wondering what’s next, and I suppose if you’re lucky enough to attend #SPConf14 you may just find out. Until that’s released however, we’re all left wondering.

I’m open to change, and I’m definitely hoping Microsoft knocks this decision out of the park. However, I am extremely doubtful there will be anything that comes to close to the ease of which InfoPath could be used to extend SharePoint’s data entry forms. Sure, there are those who are great at writing custom code and building HTML/JS forms – I’m not one of them. Most people who USED InfoPath aren’t either. InfoPath shined in its ability to give the power user some freedom and power – I just don’t see anything new on the horizon that will be as easy to use. Maybe I’m wrong, I hope I’m wrong – but until I see it I won’t believe it.

The ultimate question I have at this point is: does Microsoft even make an attempt at a replacement? Or do they leave the power-user-forms-building to 3rd party ISVs such as Nintex, Dell, etc.? That remains to be seen, but I for one am excited to hear what’s next for InfoPath & SharePoint. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

SharePoint Saturday Columbus 2013

Today I spoke in front of a hometown crowd at SPS Columbus, which was a great event filled with an absolutely incredible lineup of speakers!

The presentation was about InfoPath – which was interesting considering how little it’s changed in 2013. The high-level gist of the presentation is to talk about how InfoPath can streamline forms development and data entry in SharePoint 2013, although all of it is relevant with SharePoint 2010 as well. I have used this presentation before, although I adapted it quite a bit to add relevance both to SharePoint 2013 on-prem and Office 365.

Below is a description of the topic itself along with PowerPoint Slides:

Funnel your Info down a new Path

​InfoPath provides business users with a familiar, feature rich means of creating dynamic, powerful electronic forms. While it has been around since the 2003 release of Microsoft Office, InfoPath 2013 combined with SharePoint 2013, is a match made in heaven. InfoPath is heavily integrated into SharePoint 2013, and users can now create engaging forms within minutes and without writing a single line of code.

This presentation will show you how you can start leveraging InfoPath to funnel your business information down a new path. Demos, gotchas, tips & tricks will all be a part of this 10,000 foot view of Microsoft InfoPath as it relates to SharePoint 2013.

Here are my slides:

And finally, if you want more information on the workflow I used to create the SPWebs upon gaining approval – here is my separate blog post on that topic.

Create a SharePoint Site (SPWeb) using REST in SPD 2013 Workflow

I have been struggling with an issue for several days, and it’s one I’ve been trying to solve for an upcoming SharePoint Saturday presentation. That issue is creating SharePoint sub sites/SPWebs automatically via the “Call HTTP Web Service” action in SharePoint Designer 2013 workflow. There were several sources of information that ultimately provided the solution, so I will be sure to credit those folks in this article.

There are several steps which are required to make this happen, and the coolest part is; this will work both on-premise and in Office 365/SharePoint Online!
Continue reading “Create a SharePoint Site (SPWeb) using REST in SPD 2013 Workflow”

DAYSPUG Presentation October 9th 2012

Last night I spoke to a great crowd of SharePoint folks at the Dayton SharePoint Users Group (DAYSPUG) in Dayton, Ohio. I knew most of the folks in attendance from other local SharePoint and PowerShell events, so it was nice to see everyone again.

This time instead of talking about PowerShell, which by the way I love to do – I decided to present on Microsoft InfoPath. I have a presentation I have used a few times now that in my opinion is a great intermediate view of what you can do with InfoPath and SharePoint 2010.

The topic is called “Funnel your Info down a new Path“, and it focuses on different types of forms available to you in SharePoint 2010. It was a pleasure to go west to Dayton and present to other Microsoft enthusiasts!

Here are my slides from Slideshare.

Thanks again to Tony Maddin and the rest of the DAYSPUG members for welcoming me to speak. See you all next time!

PowerShell Saturday Charlotte 2012

Today I had the privilege of speaking (twice) at the second PowerShell Saturday, in Charlotte, NC!

Originally I was accepted to speak about advanced functions and XML, so I tweaked my “Build your SharePoint Internet presence with PowerShell” talk to be more of a deep-dive into XML and PowerShell advanced functions (it’s also called “The Power is in the Shell, Use it Wisely!”). However, another speaker was unable to attend and I ended up doing two SharePoint-focused PowerShell presentations. I’ll detail them below, and since this will be a long post, here are links to the different areas within the page:

  1. The Power is in the Shell, Use it Wisely!
  2. Getting Started with SharePoint + PowerShell

The Power is in the Shell, Use it Wisely!

The topic: The Power is in the Shell, Use it Wisely!
The story: Everybody knows PowerShell is powerful, it’s in the name! But did you know that PowerShell can read and understand XML? By leveraging XML among other things, complete builds can be automated – making them efficient and predictable.

In this fun, interactive and demo-filled session – I will show you how you can leverage PowerShell to help you build your branded, company website from the ground up using PowerShell and XML. I will also pass along some tips and tricks that will help you become a PowerShell Rockstar!

This was the second PowerShell Saturday, and the first in Charlotte – and I was very proud to be a part of a great event.

My session went pretty flawlessly, as I lucked out and had zero issues with the presentation or the demos. For those of you who attended, thank you for being a part of it – and if you have any feedback or questions feel free to contact me either on Twitter or via e-mail (Ryan at SharePointRyan dot com).

I promised to upload my slides and demo PowerShell code, so the slides are on Slideshare and the XML and PowerShell code is saved on SkyDrive.

Intro to SharePoint + PowerShell

The topic:  Intro to SharePoint + PowerShell
The story: You may have heard of PowerShell, but do you know what it’s capable of? Gone are the days of long, painful STSADM batch files – we have Windows PowerShell, and it’s here to stay.Learn how you can use Windows PowerShell both to perform simple one-off tasks as well as complex, bulk operations. Leveraging the Object Model gives Administrators and Developers the ability to do in a few lines of code what would’ve taken a lot more work (and probably a Developer or two) in the WSS platform. You’ll see how you can get started with PowerShell, and you will hopefully leave with not only a greater understanding of what PowerShell is – but what it is capable of and how you can start using it to automate tasks in your SharePoint 2010 environment.

View all of the presentations from Ryan Dennis.