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.