The great Office Server smorgasbord, part 3: Forms and flexibility with Office Forms Server 2007
For businesses reliant on forms processing or wanting internal business intelligence capability, the combination of InfoPath 2007 and Forms Server 2007 is unbeatableFollow @infoworld
Make your forms smarter
Without devoting the rest of this article to a review of InfoPath, let’s cover some of the important features the application provides. First, forms designers can build in offline functionality as well as straight online features, so that form users can work with downloaded forms and return data at their convenience. Forms can also be distributed as an e-mail attachment or embedded in the e-mail itself -- that last one, however, requires the recipient to use Microsoft Outlook.
Security provides some neat capabilities as well, offering both digital signatures and domain-level trust assignments to your forms. Form builders can restrict the form to accept only specific kinds of data input, offer it domain-level trust or simply open the whole thing with full trust. Digital signatures allow users to assign signature certificates to not just a form, but individual cells in a form. This means that a form can require specific user signatures on its way through life, essentially creating a secure little workflow all its own.
Developers can use the .Net framework to build custom forms or customized portions of a form. Developers (or users) can also opt for non-.Net script language additions, but this will negate some of InfoPath’s display capabilities within the Office environment. It will, however, make an InfoPath form more accessible to non-Microsoft customers via the Web. Users can control all this functionality via built-in versioning, and forms can be output as Excel, Word, or PDF files via free plug-ins.
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Conditional formatting lets designers change the appearance of a form based on program criteria, such as an option chosen in a previous field, the user credentials of the person filling out the form, etc. For instance, if a user were to fill out a form and select his branch office as being in Cleveland, the rest of the form’s fields could suddenly change to match options available only to Cleveland users. Or the form title could suddenly turn purple and a little dinosaur could dance across the screen, but that might be more trouble than it’s worth.
The Logic Inspector is essentially a developer-level form debugging tool. It can test any of the above features and keep the relevant data organized. It’s not, however, for the beginning or even intermediate InfoPath user.