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Introduction to InfoPath e-mail forms
If you already use Microsoft Office InfoPath forms for tasks like submitting weekly status reports, and if you use Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 to manage e-mail messages, InfoPath e-mail forms can help streamline the processes that you use to collaborate and share data. That is because you can open, fill out, and submit InfoPath forms from within Office Outlook 2007, without having to open InfoPath. If you receive an InfoPath e-mail form, you can reply to it, forward it, and store it just as you would with any other items in Office Outlook 2007.
About InfoPath forms and 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 collected by using InfoPath forms can be reused throughout an organization. The data saved in an expense report form, for example, can be accessed and displayed on a Web page that highlights budget trends for a department.
When a form designer creates a new InfoPath form, he or she 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 libraries on Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 or Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 2.0 sites.
If users have permission to access the location where a form template is stored, they can fill out a form based on that template by using InfoPath, a Web browser, a mobile device, or 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.
You can use InfoPath e-mail forms to share your own data or to collect data from other Office Outlook 2007 users.
Share data with InfoPath e-mail forms
You can use InfoPath e-mail forms to share data. For example, if you currently fill out a weekly status report form in InfoPath and then send the completed form to your manager as an attachment to an e-mail message, you can use Office Outlook 2007 to streamline this process. Open the status report from its published location as an InfoPath e-mail form, fill it out, and then send the data to your manager by using Office Outlook 2007 — all without opening InfoPath. In addition, if the form is configured to submit data to a data source, submitting the form by using Outlook will send the data to that data source. After you submit your data, you can optionally save a copy of the InfoPath e-mail form and the data it contains in the current folder.
Collect data with InfoPath e-mail forms
You can use InfoPath e-mail forms to collect data from others. For example, if you are a manager who sends weekly e-mail messages to your team to remind them to fill out an expense report form, you can use Office Outlook 2007 to send the expense report form as an InfoPath e-mail form. If your team members add your e-mail address to the To box in the InfoPath e-mail form when they submit their data, you will receive copies of their expense report form in your Office Outlook 2007 Inbox. When you collect data by using InfoPath e-mail forms, you can also manage that data by performing the following tasks:
Store data in folders In Office Outlook 2007, you can use a new type of folder, called an InfoPath Forms folder, to store collections of related Office InfoPath 2007 forms. For example, if you collect status report forms from your team by using Office Outlook 2007, you can store the completed status reports in an InfoPath Forms folder in your Inbox. You can also choose to show data from each form in columns in that folder. This allows you to quickly group, filter, and sort data from multiple forms.
Before you can display data from a form in a view of an InfoPath Forms folder, the form template for that form must be configured to use property promotion. Property promotion enables fields in a form to display values in InfoPath Forms folders in Office Outlook 2007 or on servers running Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 or InfoPath Forms Services. Only a form template designer can enable property promotion for a form template by using InfoPath.
Merge data You can consolidate data from multiple InfoPath e-mail forms into one form. For example, if you collect status report forms from your team by using Office Outlook 2007, you can merge the data from their forms into a single summary form for your manager.
Export data If you want to perform a detailed analysis of form data, you can export it from your Forms folder in Outlook to a Microsoft Office Excel 2007 workbook. You can also export individual InfoPath e-mail forms as .xml files to your desktop.
Prerequisites for using InfoPath e-mail forms
To use InfoPath e-mail forms successfully, you should ensure that you and the people whom you work with have the correct software installed and configured.
To send or receive InfoPath e-mail forms in Microsoft Office Outlook 2007, Microsoft Office InfoPath 2007 must be installed on your computer, and Office Outlook 2007 must be configured to send and receive InfoPath e-mail forms. If you have these programs installed on your computer, and Office Outlook 2007 is configured to send InfoPath e-mail forms, but the same is not true for recipients of your InfoPath e-mail forms, the forms that you send will appear to those recipients as attachments to e-mail messages. The recipients can then save the attached forms and open them by using InfoPath. Office Outlook 2007 is configured to send and receive InfoPath e-mail forms by default. To turn InfoPath e-mail forms on or off, in the Options dialog box in Office Outlook 2007, click Advanced Options on the Other tab, and then select or clear the Enable InfoPath E-Mail Forms check box in the Advanced Options dialog box.
Installation prerequisites for recipients
If the recipients of your InfoPath e-mail forms do not have Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 and Microsoft Office InfoPath 2007 installed and configured to use InfoPath e-mail forms, they will receive an e-mail message that contains an HTML representation of the default form view, and an InfoPath form will be attached to the e-mail message. If the recipients have an earlier version of InfoPath installed, and the form contains backward-compatible features, they can save the attached form file and open it by using the earlier version of InfoPath.
Form template dependencies
If you want users to fill out InfoPath e-mail forms and submit the data back to you, and the form's associated form template is not stored in a shared location that your users can access, you can include the form template with the InfoPath e-mail form by clicking the Include form template option in the Mail Options task pane. The task pane appears when you forward an InfoPath e-mail form or reply to it, or when you send it by clicking Submit on the form. Alternatively, you can send a read-only version of the form.