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
InfoPath 2007 and SharePoint Server 2007 Forms Basic
Just to be clear, all of the above features are available to users of the InfoPath 2007 Client, with no back-end server requirements whatsoever. Adding Microsoft Office SharePoint 2007 to the mix, however, brings a new bag of benefits packaged as Forms Basics. This amounts to a document library specifically designed to manage InfoPath forms. Creating one is as simple as choosing the Forms Library option in the Libraries menu during creation. Forms Basic brings functions that benefits most users, but the benefits are multiplied for shops making heavier use of InfoPath.
First, security options can be added to a form based on SharePoint’s user security, including individual access, group or departmental access, and versioning. For example, managers can require employees to build work forms, but rest assured that they’ll stay within team access restrictions.
It’s important to note, however, that Forms Basic only stores and manipulates InfoPath forms for use with the Office 2007 client. Users can make forms part of SharePoint libraries, workflows, and search criteria, but they can only view and manipulate those forms with the actual InfoPath client. InfoPath does support publishing forms to the Web on its own, but that’s outside the scope of Forms Basic; you’re looking at SharePoint 2007 Enterprise or Forms Server 2007 for that.
InfoPath 2007 and Forms Server 2007
This gets a little tricky up front, so it pays to be clear. You won’t buy Forms Server 2007 if you’ve already purchased MOSS (Microsoft Office SharePoint Server) 2007 Enterprise, because the latter contains all the features of the former. Forms Server 2007 is for users of MOSS Standard Edition who need forms processing or simply for heavy users of InfoPath who don’t need the rest of SharePoint at all, because Forms Server is really just another version of SharePoint Server with all the advanced forms processing features turned on.
We actually didn’t need to install Forms Server 2007 on its own, since we were already testing on SharePoint Server 2007 Enterprise. Of course, we didn’t discover that until after we were almost done installing Forms Server, so we can tell you that the installation process is exactly the same as the one for SharePoint Server detailed during the first review in this series -- not surprising, since they’re essentially the same thing. Just remember 64-bit CPU, loads of RAM, Windows Server 2003, and the .Net framework.
Once installed, Forms Server applies all of SharePoint’s power to InfoPath forms processing. One feature provides users with easy access to other SharePoint document data for use as external data sources in InfoPath forms. Connecting InfoPath to any external data source is already fairly simple; just hit Data Connections under the Tools menu and define the source. SharePoint, however, makes this even easier by keeping everything in the Office family format and applying its own security structure to the library. Forms Server also has a centralized application management feature that lets administrators and managers track which data is being used in which forms across the team site, including the overlay of security, versioning, and document library resources.