Creating Forms

By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2003-03-31 Print this article Print

Creating Forms

InfoPaths interface is very similar to that of the other Office 2003 components, with a combination of the formatting tools in Word and the form controls from Access.

InfoPath makes particularly effective use of the Office task pane, which helped us manage the form creation process as we moved through it. From the task pane, we could drag layout elements, fields and controls, and data bindings into our form work space.

InfoPaths formatting tools enabled us to select the look of our form elements as we would in a Word or FrontPage document, and we could apply conditional formatting to change the look of our elements depending on their contents. We were also able to apply data validation rules on our fields that were triggered by input into other fields on our form.

We could design a form in InfoPath from scratch, from an Access or SQL Server database, from a Web service, or from any XSD (XML Schema Definition) schema file.

It was very easy to get up and running with a form when starting from an existing data source. We simply dragged the set of fields we desired from InfoPaths data source task pane and then dropped them into our work space. The software generated a simple form based on those fields, which we could then customize (see screen).

An InfoPath template file consists of a set of XML files compressed in Microsofts .cab format that store form structure, appearance and validation information, similar to OpenOffice.orgs .zip-compressed file format.

When we started a form from scratch in InfoPath, it created in the background an XSD schema that resided in the compressed InfoPath template file (see screen). We could take the schema wed created, along with the InfoPath form, and attach it to and mark up the data within an Excel document.

We could also design forms by beginning with and editing one of the 25 form samples that ship with InfoPath.

Deploying InfoPath forms is mainly a matter of placing a form template somewhere that users running InfoPath on their desktops can reach, such as a network share, WebDAV (Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning) folder or Windows Sharepoint server. InfoPath doesnt handle security itself; it depends on the security model of the share or server on which it resides.

When a client first opens an InfoPath template, the application caches locally information such as field validation, enabling users to work on forms offline, with entered data stored in a local XML file.

Probably the best way to collect data through InfoPath is to connect a form to a database or Web service, but those filling out InfoPath forms can e-mail or otherwise forward these stored data XML files.

Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at

As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. Jason's coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at

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