Ever since the release of Office 2013 there has been speculation about the future of the information worker toolset, specifically InfoPath and SharePoint Designer. In SharePoint 2010, the go-to tools for information workers trying to build solutions within SharePoint were the browser, Office Applications, SharePoint Designer and InfoPath. Using a combination of these tools we could easily create no code solutions that allowed us to help impact the use of technology within the organization.
Today, some big news from Microsoft clearly states its position on the future of InfoPath. Lets look at some answers to many of the questions we have had about the future of InfoPath in the last year and how we should be using it now.
Clear Direction (Maybe …)
Microsoft's blog post made it clear that there will be no future releases of InfoPath. InfoPath 2013 will be the final release of the forms application. This does not mean that Microsoft is abandoning the idea of forms, it just means that going forward a different set of tools will be made available. At this time there is no clear direction on what the toolset will be exactly. The only thing we know for sure is that something new is coming.
The blog promises that our first glimpse will come during the Microsoft SharePoint Conference later this spring. The idea is that there will be a single way for people to customize forms that applies to SharePoint, Access and Word. This type of technology would allow for users to have one forms solution across all Office applications. The idea of this cross-application type solution fits the overall direction of things coming out of Microsoft lately and aligns well with the idea of having one toolset that allows you to do multiple things.
While We Wait
So now the big question -- what do we do in the meantime?
While we wait for Microsoft to release their newest set of Forms tools what do we use to address our current needs? The blog post answers this question very specifically and encourages you to keep using InfoPath. While I agree with this idea, I would caution you to tread wisely and use InfoPath when it makes sense, but in all of your planning remember that InfoPath will go away and be replaced with another tool.
It would be wise to evaluate each form on a case by case basis and determine the best path for that solution. There is a danger in building too much within a retired product, but there is also an equal danger of building something custom when you could have easily used InfoPath. The real trick is finding the balancing line and using the right tool at the right time for the right thing.
Below are some basic guidelines to adapt for your decision making process as you determine the right tool to use as we wait for the newest release:
How often will this be reused?
If I am building a solution that will need to be used over and over within the organization then I am most likely going to look at a tool other than InfoPath. Knowing that the tool has reached end of life, I wouldn’t want to knowingly put a form in multiple places that would require additional work for the next upgrade. In this scenario I would look for ways to reduce the places the form needed to be deployed or I would look into other options such as third party tools or custom development.