Overview of forms in Outlook

A form provides a way to distribute and collect information electronically. For example, you can use forms to order supplies or post information to a public folder. Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 provides built-in forms such as the Message form to compose messages and the Contact form to enter information for a contact. If you have sent an e-mail message or created an appointment, you have used a form. Every Outlook item is based on a form.

Customizing forms for different scenarios

Office Outlook 2007 offers three ways to develop and customize forms that can be used differently depending on your organization and resources. These include:

Custom form pages

These forms work with Office Outlook 2007 and earlier. Outlook provides the Outlook forms design environment to create custom forms. Use a built-in form to leverage the functionality of the item that is associated with it. For example, to include automatic name checking in a custom form, you can create the functionality from a form that is based on an e-mail message. To modify a form template, you add and remove fields, controls, options, and form pages. A form customized with form pages that you create can also be saved as a file to be used as a template or in a forms library to be available to others.

Developers can extend forms with Microsoft ActiveX controls and put Web pages right on their forms by using the Web Browser control. Standard Outlook Forms customizations can be programmed by using Microsoft Visual Basic Scripting Edition (VBScript).

Outlook form regions

Outlook form regions are a new feature in Office Outlook 2007 and help to make the custom form experience richer. Form regions are also designed in the Outlook Form Designer and are added to standard Outlook forms.

Many restrictions in customizing form pages do not apply to customizing form regions. For example, form regions allow you to override any part of an Outlook form template or custom form, including the first form page.

By using form regions, developers can extend Outlook forms with ActiveX controls and put Web pages on the form by using the Web Browser control. Forms that include form regions are designed as individual Outlook Form Storage files (.ofs), each of which contains one form region. Multiple .ofs files can be attached to the same message class to build a complete form with multiple form pages.

Note:  Unlike Outlook forms, forms that include form regions must be installed on each computer where they will be used, for both senders and recipients.

Other advantages of using form regions include the following:

  • Form regions enable forms to appear as a seamless part of both the Microsoft Windows XP and program user interfaces.

  • Forms that are designed by using form regions can be viewed both in the main Office Outlook 2007 window and in the Reading Pane.

  • Form regions are deployed by using an add-in to Outlook and are not dependent on Exchange public folders.

Microsoft Office InfoPath forms integrated with Office Outlook 2007

If you already use InfoPath forms for tasks like submitting weekly status reports, and if you use 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.

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