Six InfoPath and SharePoint Designer Replacements
The Xgility managed services team frequently gets asked about options to replace InfoPath and SharePoint Designer. InfoPath forms libraries still work in SharePoint Online and SharePoint 2016, but many of our customers are looking to decrease their use of InfoPath in SharePoint due to the long-term roadmap. SharePoint Designer 2010 and SharePoint Designer 2013 workflows also still work, but Microsoft announced there would be no SharePoint Designer 2016 at Ignite in 2015. At Ignite 2016, Microsoft’s Chris McNulty re-affirmed support for InfoPath and SharePoint Designer until 2026 while other technologies mature.
Out-of-the-box SharePoint offers a list or document library properties form that can be edited in the browser. While limited, this may meet the need for basic forms to enter data in a list. In the past, it was common to use SharePoint designer to build a custom list form or use InfoPath. Another more modern option is to use JSLink to build a custom form or customize list views.
Nintex is a great third party forms and workflow designer for both Office 365 and SharePoint Server. Recently, they simplified their pricing to provide one model for both SharePoint Server and Office 365 based on number of workflows. InfoPath developers have complained that Nintex does not offer an exact one-for-one replacement of all features in InfoPath. Our team has had to train InfoPath developers that the design philosophy for Nintex Forms and Workflows should be different from some of the ways InfoPath and Designer have been used in the past.
Flow and PowerApps
Recently, Chris Ertz from Xgility presented a demo on Flow and PowerApps at the Reston SharePoint user group. These are two new features currently in preview with Office 2016. In the demo, he used Flow to pull data from CRM into a SharePoint list to create a proposal. Chris also demonstrated how PowerApps can connect to data sources such as SQL, Excel, or a SharePoint list.
The most exciting thing about Flow and PowerApps is that they extend beyond SharePoint and even Microsoft products. Office 365 users may notice that the new document library look has Flow in the ribbon.
.NET Developers as part of our Xgility staff can use Visual Studio to build custom forms. The disadvantage is that creating and editing the form will require a developer. For some requirements a custom form is the best option.
Structured Documents in Word
Structured Documents can be part of a special template in SharePoint known as a content type. The document information panel is no longer a feature in Word 2016, but a structured document can be used to fill in metadata and can be used as a simple form. This might be used with documents such as proposal templates or status reports.
In the past, SharePoint developers would create custom master pages using SharePoint designer. In SharePoint Online, our team is more likely to use Themes due to concern that some customizations can break due to Office 365 updates. We have also successfully used templates like those available from bindtuning
Kurt is the Director of Productivity Solutions at Xgility. In this capacity he leads all aspects of company growth such as team building, onboarding, company culture, and partnerships. His expertise includes leadership, team building, and business productivity.
You can follow him on Twitter @KurtGreening or on his personal blog at www.kurtgreening.com He enjoys conversations about SharePoint, Office 365, cloud security and application modernization.