Disclaimer: The following information is just humble opinions derived from available information publicly and in chatting with fellow SharePoint-ers. Treat them as opinions of a fellow SharePoint guy and nothing more please. It is true that I am a SharePoint MVP, however, I never have been and am not a Microsoft employee.
I still remember the first time I started teaching courses involving instruction on InfoPath 2003 (back in early 2005). It was a product way ahead of it’s time – completely built to be based on and handle XML like no other Office application. A great way to create and manage dynamic forms with or without SharePoint. No one knew where it was headed, but it had a special feel about it. Not many companies adopted it at that time due to its lack of support for web forms, but with the release of forms services (to serve web forms using SharePoint Server Enterprise), it took off like wildfire. Companies were formed solely focusing on InfoPath support, products and training (like my good buddies at Qdabra and Texcel systems ) and loads of companies were using it to replace their everyday business forms.
Present day InfoPath story
Fast forward 8 years and today the future of InfoPath seems uncertain once again. Almost no new functionality was put in InfoPath 2013.
People started whispering a while back regarding the longevity of this product. Will Microsoft make InfoPath vNext or is this the last version..? No one knows for sure to be honest (at least not that I have heard of). All we can do is look at the evidence at hand and take our best guess. So that’s what I would like to present to you today. Take it for its face value and don’t read into it too much because I am not trying to lean heavily on either side of the argument.
Evidence at hand
The last time anything was posted on the InfoPath blog was about 2 years ago:
It seems that the InfoPath Tips guy has also stopped writing about the product since October, 2012.
I guess there just isn’t anything new and exciting to write about, right..!?
On the other hand, when you look at the InfoPath story for developers, it has gotten much better . I’m not a developer anymore for many years now, but here’s some information that even I can understand regarding how this is a major improvement for developers: “The Microsoft Visual Studio Tools for Applications IDE that was integrated with InfoPath 2010 has been removed in InfoPath 2013. To write or edit form code in InfoPath 2013 now requires Visual Studio 2012 with the Microsoft Visual Studio Tools for Applications 2012 add-on installed.” So there definitely has been some investment in the InfoPath realm which makes it easier to for developers to code around it.
The remainder of the information on that page pretty much talks about the same thing that InfoPath 2010 could do as well – so nothing new there
When you create a new workflow form in SharePoint Designer 2013, it doesn’t generate InfoPath forms anymore like it did in 2010. It instead creates aspx forms like workflows did back in SharePoint 2007:
(look for the following text on the page: “Workflow form changed from InfoPath form to ASPX form”)
Well… actually you still can edit workflow forms with InfoPath if you were creating SharePoint 2010 type of workflows (which you can still make in SharePoint 2013) and not the SharePoint 2013 ones. The 2013 ones have the newer, cooler functionality of course such as looping, staging, calling web services etc. All of that is based on the Workflow Manager which must be installed on a separate server and provides the awesome workflow services to SharePoint 2013. For these workflows, the forms are back to being ASP.NET forms.
Look and feel
The interface for InfoPath 2013 matches the other Office 2013 applications. So Microsoft did spend time making that happen. Also, now you know who you are signed in as when designing the form since just like every other Office app, InfoPath has the account login info displayed on the top right. There is also another small addition under the Insert tab. You can now add online pictures (clip arts and such) in addition to uploading pictures from your machine. Small, but very useful addition.
What about Managed Metadata support you ask? This is one thing that has bothered a lot of folks. When you have a list with a column of type Managed Metadata, you can’t customize it’s list form with InfoPath since it doesn’t support that type of column. A bunch of us were hoping we would get that in this release, but no luck there. Check out the following thread for some info on this and the response by Patrick Halstead, InfoPath MVP, who talks about a new REST API endpoint for Managed Metadata that can be queried without the need for programming:
Definitely sounds promising if you are willing to dig into it.
InfoPath 2013 is still a supported product by Microsoft. However, Microsoft acknowledges that “In this release, InfoPath 2013 has not introduced new functionality or scenarios.”
We, at SharePoint-Videos.com, have had an InfoPath 2010 DVD for a long time now, but decided not to produce the 2013 version. What would be the point? We don’t focus on programming InfoPath anyway so it would be the same exact information that’s in the 2010 DVD (aside from the newer looking interface and the cool new online pictures button 😉 ).
So you must be thinking: “what does this all mean and what should I do?”
InfoPath has not been deprecated in this release and it’s still a great tool for creating powerful forms to be used in SharePoint. Your 2010 based forms will continue to work in 2013.
I wish I could guarantee the path for you going forward with this tool, but I can’t. I doubt if anyone can at this time. This is the ‘wait and see’ period. I can definitely guarantee that Microsoft is looking to enhance the overall forms strategy for future releases. That’s for sure! Whether InfoPath will be part of that plan… I don’t know to be honest. The only fact I do know is that thousands of companies out there are using InfoPath currently. Many in a smaller capacity with a couple of forms and others who have created some business critical processes around their forms. So the hope is that if you are already using InfoPath, there will be a clear strategy to migrate them to whatever the new strategy produces. Maybe it’s simply an all powerful InfoPath vNext or maybe something else…