InfoPath: Your Forms Easy And Digital

During my work I visit a lot of companies. This gives me a great insight of how Microsoft Office is used by the end user. Seeing people use Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint might just point out to you what issues they experience during work hours. We are getting there is my statement when I look at how we use technology. But what I also see is still a lot of paper being used in the Office. Simple forms for ordering books are still being printed because they need a signature from the head of the department. I think you can think of another example when it comes to forms. What surprises me is that a lot of these companies have the full Microsoft Office suite and don’t use it to its full advantage. So every now and then I point out InfoPath to them and explain how this application can fill that last gap in getting rid of the last paper based forms.

Easy to use – low learning curve
InfoPath is easy to use and has a low learning curve. I will demonstrate this in this blog post. Ofcourse you can make things as complex as you would like but we start of with a simple form to get InfoPath the credits it deserves. In this first blogpost on InfoPath i will emphasize how to create the form and the steps to take to do so. In later posts i will dig deeper into how to share your forms and what role SharePoint can play in your usage of InfoPath 2010. Let’s get started by creating a simple form in InfoPath. I will be using InfoPath 2010 but the techniques you will see apply also to previous versions. If you have a previous version of InfoPath you might have to look around the menubars to find the same functionality because the Ribbon is not available in erlier versions.

Start InfoPath 2010
As with all other Office applications you will see a familiar screen. We are looking to start a blank – empty form. Sure there are various templates you can choose from but for now we just want a plain simple one. So choose Blank form by either double clicking or click on the Design Form Button.

Next step
You will be presented with a nice blank form as this: (click to enlarge)

At the right hand side of the screen you will also see a taskbar with one folder named “myFields“. This is the most important section where you will define all the necesarry fields. You don’t have to do any programming don’t be scared!

Ok, let’s get started
First change the title of your form to something like Orderform click and typ to change the title. Make it a little neater by making it bold or something similar. Now we will define a couple of fields we can add to the form. We will add the following fields: Name, OrderDate, Department, Item, Price and Quantity. To make ik possible to send the form to someone we will also make a submit button. Rightclick on the myFields folder in the taskpane and choose “Add“.

You will see the follwing dialog popup

This is the add field or group dialog. You will use this very much when creating forms. The first field is the name field. Add a fieldname here. We want to know the persons name so we call the field Name. The next field is Type here you define the type of control for adding fields. You can also choose group here but for now we leave it at field. We’ll discuss the group option later. The third field is the datatype. Here you define what kind of data will be entered in the field. We are going to add a name which will be a text field, Orderdate which will be a date field, a department which will be a text field.

Adding a group
The next fields we are going to add is the order itemline fields. Because we want to be able to order more items we want this to be a group. So rightclick the myFields folder and click Add. Now define a nice name for this group. In the example i named it Itemline. In the Type field choose “Group”. Look at the lowerleft of the dialog and check the repeating option. You have just added a group to your taskpane. Now rightclick that group and add the following fields: Item, Price and Quantity. For item i chose text, for price i chose double and for quantity i chose the Integer datatype. When finished your taskpane should look something like this:

You will see a little blue square with a with arrow pointing down indicating that this is a repeating group. This means that every time we want to add an item we will get an additional row to enter data. How cool is that.

In the actual form i added a table. These are the steps i took: i clicked the Insert tab on the ribbon and in the “tables” group is selected a predefined table with two columns and a header. This makes my form look like this:

Magic time
Ok time to show some magic. On the form you see the labels and control fields where you can place your fields. That’s exactly what we are going to do. Drag the first field to the first line of the form until both cells become blue. Now let go of the left mouse button and your field is actually placed in both cells. On the left you will see that the label field is filled with the ‘Name’ label and your textfield is place on the right side in the second column. Now add the Orderdate and department fields to your form using the same technique.

Some more magic
Well actually you know what is coming right? Make sure that the cursor is below the last field and drag the group folderitemlines” to the form. You will see a dialog popup asking you if you want a section or a repeating table. Perfect we are looking for a repeating table so let’s choose that one.

Submit button
We want the user to have the possibility to send the form by mail so let’s add a submit button on the form. Click on the Home tab and in the group “controls” look for Button and add it to your form. Rightclick on the button and choose button properties (see image; click to enlarge).

These two dialogs will present you with the following options to fill in:

– Change the action option to Submit. After you have done this click the submit options button. This will present you with the next dialog. Here click the “allow users to submit this form” checkbox. Because we need to fill in an emailaddress you have to click the add button which will present you with another dialog where you enter the designated emailaddress.

Follow the instructions (believe me they are simple) and click apply. You now have a working submit button on your form which will allow users to mail this form to the designated emailaddress.

Let’s fill in the form
We are going to fill in the form to see if all wen as expected. Click on the Home tab in the ribbon and click on the “Preview” button on the far right. You will see your form as the users will see it. Fill in all the fields, add a couple of items in the repeating table and click submit.

Congratulations you have just made your first InfoPath form. You see easy to create right? Ok so let’s practice a little more and get rid of all the paper based forms.

I will be writing some more posts on InfoPath forms. Next time we will make things a little harder and add some calculations to the form so we actually get a totals field and some sections.

What are you waiting for, i’ll stop writing here so you can start InfoPath and create your form 🙂

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