If you are working for customers by using SharePoint platform then you will come across various situations where you will realize there will be always a gap between what customers expecting and what SharePoint is offering by default. Definitely, the business need is far more than what SharePoint offers.
Especially the challenges come when your customer wants a very sophisticated form with the same looks and feel of SharePoint. Because SharePoint list forms are very good but with very basic and limited. Definitely, the default list forms are not sufficient for real-life applications. So what alternatives we have?
Microsoft provides options like Visual Studio, by using this tool you can develop your own custom forms, but again this involved lots of development and support cost. Apart from Visual Studio, Microsoft also gave a free tool known as SharePoint designer. But in SharePoint 2013 designer they have removed the design option, so a bit difficult to build a sophisticated form.
Apart from the above two, Microsoft provides InfoPath a very useful tool to build forms very quickly but InfoPath also has lots of limitations like:
- You will not get the same look and feel of SharePoint forms.
- All the column types are not supported.
- You will not able to see your repeating sections or repeating table data in list or library views itself. To see those data we need to open the item which is not very much user-friendly.
Apart from the above, you can see this webinar for more points.
Another major problem is that Microsoft itself is not investing further on InfoPath, though according to Microsoft’s latest statement InfoPath will be supported by the upcoming version of “SharePoint 2016”, but there will be no new version for InfoPath, and so InfoPath 2013 will be the last version.
The other option is to use any 3rd party tool. One of the best 3rd party tools for designing forms and business process is “Infowise Ultimate Forms”.
Infowise Ultimate Forms:
Infowise Ultimate Forms is a strong alternative to InfoPath and Workflows. Ultimate Forms enables business users, not IT personnel or developers, to create powerful SharePoint applications without custom code.
Since the Ultimate Forms has a complete library of form, process, reporting, and collaboration components that have been designed to work together seamlessly to create reliable, easy-to-use, and quick-to-develop solutions, your business users and individual lines-of-business can create powerful solutions quickly, allowing them to stay focused on driving business value.
The best part of this product is it extends the SharePoint functionality, it does not replace it. Means if you customize the list form using InfoPath, then when you open the form, the appearance is different from your list forms, but if you will customize using Infowise tool then you will not see any difference in the UI. This forms will have the same look and feel of list forms.
Another thing about Infowise ultimate forms is that it works with SharePoint Foundation, Standard and Enterprise versions whereas InfoPath works with only Enterprise versions.
Different Versions and Various Components:
Infowise ultimate forms come in 3 different versions known as:
Infowise Ultimate Forms almost 18 components and depending on your editions the components will come which you can use to build business solutions.
Out of 18 components, few components are Smart List Pro, Smart Action Pro, Smart Alert Pro, Associated Tasks Field, Smart Print Pro, Smart Import Pro, Event Calendar Plus, Smart Chart Pro, List Search, Smart Filter Pro etc.
The beauty of these components is that you do not need any tool or designer to use it, simply you can use your browser to use these tools. You can check this link to find more on the editions and the components.
Something which is possible with Ultimate Forms not with InfoPath:
Tabs and Tab Permissions:
You will get a lot of requirements to design the form in the Tabs format so that users do not need to scroll form. Again if the form required to display tabs with different permissions then it is very difficult or nearly impossible to do this using InfoPath. But it is very easy to do by using the Smart List Pro.
Below is screen by using the Smart List Pro where you can have a different tab for different users like one for everyone and one for leaders and one for managers. We can do this by using the component easily and another thing is we will get the same look and feel of SharePoint.
Look and Feel through Style Sheet:
Ultimately the look and feel matters so if you want to do styling through stylesheet then it is impossible to do through InfoPath. By using Ultimate forms you can use your own styling like background images, styling to each control in all the forms like new, display and edit. Unlike InfoPath which has its own look and feel, in Ultimate forms, you will get the SharePoint looks.
Show repeating data in view:
In some situations, you may deal with repeating section or repeating table data. When you deploy the form to a form library, you will not be able to see those data in views, neither you can search for the items. To see the data we need to open the document and we can see in the InfoPath form because InfoPath stores this in XML format. But by using Ultimate forms you will be able to see the columns in the SharePoint views, you can search for items as well. This is a very cool feature of the tool.
Life made easy by using Smart Action Pro:
You may need to execute some action on every list item created or modified. Microsoft provides a SharePoint designer to build a workflow where you need to have developer knowledge as well as you need a lot of effort to deploy the workflows to different servers. But by using Smart Action Pro you can execute custom actions every time a list item created, edited or deleted from the browser itself. All actions are created, executed and monitored using just the web browser, no external tools are required. Few actions are like Update list item, create a list item, delete a list item, copy item or document, create a list, create a site, run a workflow, manage permissions etc.
Check the screenshot below which shows how easy it is to create a custom action through the browser.
Similarly, you can give the conditions like we usually give through designers. Here we can define the conditions through the browser itself.
Easily Overcome Print Issue with Smart Print Pro:
InfoPath has print issues like you cannot print all the views at a time and it can only print whatever is seen in the browser. If your multiline textbox has scrollbar then it will not print all the contents. Basically, InfoPath prints the screen as it is.
But by using Smart Print Pro you can see the print preview and also you can create multiple custom print templates, for single items, lists, and even calendars.
Apart from this you can also do export to PDF or email to yourself very easily from the browser without using any code.
See the below screen how it is appearing while print and the UI is very much what clients usually required.
Search is very much important as per business requirements, if you have a list which contains lots of columns, you may need to search with different criteria. By default in SharePoint, it is not possible. But you can easily achieve this by using Infowise List Search web part which is a custom web part that provided Simple Search and Advanced Search. The Simple Search will display a list of items containing the requested word. The Advanced Search enables searching for list items by setting up to 5 advanced rules that the search will follow.
See a screen with advanced search:
Apart from the above, there are various other benefits and functionalities which are easily achievable by using Ultimate forms.
You can download Infwise Ultimate forms and take the benefits of Ultimate forms.
I have worked on lots of InfoPath forms and in a lot of cases we have to tell customers about the limitations of InfoPath forms, but I can say after this analysis that we can able to achieve a lot of client requirements by using Infowise Ultimate forms. Especially the SharePoint look and feel which is very much important as per end user’s concern can be easily achievable by using this Ultimate forms. So if you really wanted for an alternative of InfoPath forms which can fulfill most of your client requirements then go for Infowise Ultimate Forms.
Basically, this product is designed for SharePoint knowledge workers, you don’t have to be a workflow expert to understand. Since it is very easy to understand, you can create forms and processes in no time.
I am Bijay from Odisha, India. Currently working in my own venture TSInfo Technologies in Bangalore, India. I am Microsoft Office Servers and Services (SharePoint) MVP (5 times). I works in SharePoint 2016/2013/2010, SharePoint Online Office 365 etc. Check out My MVP Profile.. I also run popular SharePoint web site SPGuides.com