InfoPath Forms Services is a server technology, available in Microsoft Office Forms Server 2007 and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, that enables users to fill out Microsoft Office InfoPath 2007 forms by using a Web browser instead of, or in addition to, the Office InfoPath 2007 client program. This technology allows wider access to forms than was possible with previous versions of Microsoft Office InfoPath.
This article explains the different ways that you can share Office InfoPath 2007 form templates on a server running InfoPath Forms Services.
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Introduction to InfoPath form templates
InfoPath is a program that uses open XML standards to provide users with a flexible yet structured way to gather data. Because InfoPath is built on XML standards, the data that is collected by using InfoPath forms can be reused throughout an organization. For example, the data that is saved in an expense report form can be accessed and displayed on a Web page that highlights the budget trends for a department.
When a form designer creates a new InfoPath form, the designer actually creates what is known as a form template. A form template defines the data structure, appearance, and behavior of the forms that users fill out. Think of a form template as a blueprint — the starting point that enables users to create new forms that use and store data in the same way. Because a form template must be available before you can fill out a form, form templates must be deployed to a location where they can be accessed by users. Form templates are commonly deployed to locations on a company network such as shared folders, Web servers, or SharePoint libraries.
If users have permission to access the location where a form template is stored, they can fill out a form that is based on that template by using InfoPath, a Web browser, a mobile device, or Microsoft Office Outlook 2007. Whether a form can be filled out by using InfoPath or one of the other methods depends on several factors, including how the form template was designed and deployed. For example, to be filled out in a browser, a form must be designed to run in a browser, and the form template for the form must be deployed to a server running InfoPath Forms Services.
Deploying and activating a form template
InfoPath Forms Services enables users to fill out Office InfoPath 2007 forms by using a Web browser instead of, or in addition to, the Office InfoPath 2007 client program. This allows wider access to forms than was possible with previous versions of Microsoft Office InfoPath.
In addition, InfoPath Forms Services enables users to fill out forms by using a mobile device. The set of controls that are available for use in mobile-enabled forms is more limited than those that are available for browser-enabled forms.
A form template designer can also enable property promotion for a form template. This option allows the data from a form that is based on that form template to be displayed as column values in a SharePoint library, so that users can easily work with the form data without actually opening the form itself.
To share a form template on your site, a form template designer or an administrator must first deploy the form template. To deploy a form template, a form template designer must publish the form template as a user form template, or an administrator must upload the form template as an administrator-approved form template. The decision to use either type of form template depends on the features that the designer adds to the form template.
Deploying a form template
The type of form template that you use determines who is responsible for deploying it.
User form template A user form template can be deployed by a form template designer who has design permission on the site. If a user can create a document library, he or she can publish a form there. This type of deployment is for form templates that do not contain managed code.
Administrator-approved form template The deployment of an administrator-approved form template requires additional permission levels and may be coordinated among the following roles:
Form template designers, the people who create the form template
Farm administrators, the people who upload the form templates after verifying that they do not contain errors
Site collection administrators, the people who activate the form templates, making them available to be used as content types in a document library
Activating a form template
After an administrator-approved form template is deployed, it must be activated. Activation is the process that is used to turn the features in a site or site collection on or off. Because administrator-approved form templates are considered site collection features in InfoPath Forms Services, they must be activated before they can be used. When you activate an administrator-approved form template, you make it available to be used in a site collection as a content type for a document library or to be opened directly from the form template library for the site collection.
If you want to deploy a form template that contains managed code, but you do not have permission to do so, contact a farm administrator for assistance. Before you ask a farm administrator to deploy a form template, you must publish it to a location where the administrator can access it.
When a farm administrator deploys a form template, it is added to a central location on the server. Those who have site collection administrator permissions can activate the form template to their site collection. This method of deployment is recommended only for form templates that you want to make available to one or more site collections.
Ways that users can work with the forms that you deploy
After you deploy and activate a form template to a server running InfoPath Forms Services, users can work with the forms based on the form template in a variety of ways.
Using forms in a browser
With Office InfoPath 2007, a form template designer can create a browser-compatible form template and deploy it to a server running InfoPath Forms Services. After the browser-compatible form template is browser-enabled, users who do not have InfoPath installed on their computers can fill the form out in a Web browser.
Previously, users needed to have InfoPath installed on their computers to fill out the form. With InfoPath Forms Services, users can fill out an Office InfoPath 2007 form, such as an expense report form, in a browser. This capability makes it convenient to fill out forms on computers where InfoPath is not installed. For example, when users are travelling and do not have access to their own computers, they can fill out their expense reports in a browser from any computer with Internet access.
Using forms on mobile devices
By using Office InfoPath 2007 together with InfoPath Forms Services, a form template designer can create a browser-compatible form template that runs on a mobile device. The form template designer can create a browser-compatible form template that is exclusively for display on the small screen. Alternatively, the designer can create a dedicated view for mobile users in a browser-compatible form template, and other views for people who fill out the form in InfoPath or in a Web browser.
Exporting form data
When a form template designer enables property promotion for a form template, the data from a form based on that form template can be displayed as column values in a SharePoint library. This makes it easy for users to work with the form data without actually opening the form itself.
This also makes it easy for a user to export the data from the library where the forms are stored. Users can export the form data that is displayed in the library view to a Microsoft Office Excel workbook. Users can then share the workbook or perform other tasks, such as sorting the data in the workbook or grouping rows and columns.
Note: The data that you export to a spreadsheet is a snapshot of the data from the list. The data in the library is not linked to the data in the spreadsheet. If the forms in the library are updated later, the data in the spreadsheet is not updated.