Forms for SharePoint – What are your Options

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C%2FLINGO-BODY%3E%3CLINGO-SUB%20id%3D%22lingo-sub-1081811%22%20slang%3D%22en-US%22%3ERe%3A%20Forms%20for%20SharePoint%20%E2%80%93%20What%20are%20your%20Options%3C%2FLINGO-SUB%3E%3CLINGO-BODY%20id%3D%22lingo-body-1081811%22%20slang%3D%22en-US%22%3E%3CP%3E%3CA%20href%3D%22https%3A%2F%2Ftechcommunity.microsoft.com%2Ft5%2Fuser%2Fviewprofilepage%2Fuser-id%2F4865%22%20target%3D%22_blank%22%3E%40Haniel%20Croitoru%3C%2FA%3E%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3EWow%2C%20there's%20really%20no%20replacement%20for%20handling%20repeating%20sections%20effectively%20besides%20the%20soon%20to%20be%20phased%20out%20InfoPath.%26nbsp%3B%3C%2FP%3E%3C%2FLINGO-BODY%3E
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MVP

With PowerApps nearing its first birthday (though still in preview), some people are asking whether it is ready for prime time and if not, what are the options.  In this article, I’m presenting some common forms requirements and look at solutions that are available for free to build these forms.

 

Common Forms Requirements

 

If you have developed many forms in the past, you will probably agree that after finishing the first few, the ones that followed were permutations of the same requirements.  Sure, all forms include some controls for data entry, field validation, and maybe some basic logic.  The following categories represent these requirements:

 

Look & Feel

 

Who doesn’t like their website to look beautiful?  The importance of the look and feel also holds true for the forms, particularly on public-facing websites and large intranets as they represent the brand of your organization.  Some of the requirements that fall into this category are text fonts, colours of controls and other components, and general layout of the form. 

 

Mobile Access

 

Working anywhere on any device is the new norm.  With the massive increase in mobile device usage globally in the last decade, your users are expecting to do more and more on their mobile devices.  Filling out forms falls into this category as well, particularly for users whose job is to work in the field.  Imagine having a safety inspection worker filling out safety checklists on-site.  Could you imagine them completing the lists on paper and then transcribing the information when their back in the office?  Not likely. 

 

Conditional Formatting

 

Injecting logic is one of the of the great benefits of digital forms.  A form can request various type of information from the user based on some criteria, such as data that the user previously entered or information acquired indirectly, such as the user name and other information about them.  Conditional Formatting can be used to reduce the size of the form to be completed by automatically ruling out additional questions.

 

Lookups

 

Another way to lessen the amount of user data entry is with lookups.  Lookups let you query for specific information from SharePoint or other systems (e.g. SQL, Exchange, Active Directory, etc.).  The fact that the user doesn’t need to enter the data also reduces the risk of incorrect data entries where corresponding field values don’t match (for example a person’s name, social security number, and address in the case of an insurance renewal).

 

Repeating Sections

 

Repeating sections are used to capture sets of fields when you don’t know how many sets will be filled-in.  Paper forms usually contain a fixed number of fields or suggest attaching additional documents as needed.  Properly built forms will let your users enter a variable number of values.

 

repeatingsections.png

 

Available Solutions

 

Depending on your form needs listed above, you have a few options to choose.  Here’s a quick summary of the various tools provided by Microsoft.

 

SharePoint List Form

 

These are the forms that are built directly into the different SharePoint lists and libraries.  They get generated automatically by SharePoint when you create the lists.  You can configure the lists to display the fields in particular orders and have validation through the SharePoint user interface.  You want to further enhance the look and feel and functionality using client-side scripting. 

 

SharePoint Designer

 

SharePoint Designer lets you modify the existing SharePoint list forms and also create new ones.  Using SharePoint Designer provides you more flexibility than the default list forms but requires knowledge of HTML and client-side scripting.  Look and Feel can be more easily configured using SharePoint Designer than the native lists.

 

InfoPath

 

InfoPath is a separate application that has been the preferred forms development tools for SharePoint by many developers for many years.  It has a rich feature set that addresses all requirement categories listed above.

 

PowerApps

 

PowerApps is new forms visual forms development app that lets you create forms from SharePoint and numerous other apps from within the Office 365 apps family and outside.  PowerApps allows you to select the layout you want to use for your forms app, and there is a definite focus on mobile access.  As PowerApps is not a SharePoint-only forms solution, it requires you to install the PowerApps app on the device you want to use the forms on before being able to open them.

 

Microsoft Forms

 

Microsoft Forms is a survey-like education tool that as developed for creating quizzes and provide feedback.  Its functionality is mainly geared around building forms that have branching, multiple choice, and short text answers.  This app is only available to Office 365 Education tenants. 

 

3rd Party tools

 

There are also some 3rd party tools available on the market the focus specifically on forms creation.  Many of them use a visual interface and are very feature rich to meet all your forms needs.  Such tools usually carry an additional cost with them, but before dismissing them as a viable option, you should assess your specific requirements around how many forms you need and how long it would take to build them using some of the other available tools.

 

With all these requirements and tools available to you, which is the best option?  To derive the answer, you need to consider a few things for our organization, such as:

 

  • How many forms will you need?
  • Are they simple forms fields or complex requiring lookups, repeating sections, and other possible customizations?
  • How often do the forms change?
  • Do you own any of these tools and have staff that knows how to use them? If you’re looking to procure new tools, do you have the budget for the licenses and training?
  • Is there staff in your organization that can build any necessary customizations?
  • How long will the forms be used?

If you’re thinking of using SharePoint Designer or InfoPath, then you need to consider that both of these products are being phased out.  According to Microsoft, InfoPath 2013 and SharePoint Designer 2013 will be the last versions of those products. SharePoint Designer is not being re-released with SharePoint Server 2016, although we will continue to support custom workflows built with SharePoint Designer and hosted on SharePoint Server 2016 and Office 365. Support for InfoPath 2013 and SharePoint Designer 2013 will match the support lifecycle for SharePoint Server 2016, running until 2026.

 

Here’s a quick summary of the available options.

 

Requirement

SharePoint List Form

SharePoint Designer

InfoPath

PowerApps

Microsoft Forms

Look & Feel

Yes*

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Mobile Accessible

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Conditional Formatting

Yes*

Yes*

Yes

Yes

Yes

Lookups

Yes*

Yes*

Yes

Yes

No

Repeating Sections

No

No

Yes

No

No

  

* Can be achieved through client-side scripting

14 Replies
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I a missing the infopath problems if people have not a IE browser or are not using IE10 or lower... 

But to compare it is a nice overview.

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I would also add here Excel Survey capability as a possible option for some simple scenarios
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My understanding was that Excel Surveys required the tenant to be set to allow 'Anonymous Sharing'. Which has its own implications.

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Paul, everyone one of these solutions carries its own limitations.  I tried to keep this article at a high level, but if there's interest, I'd be happy to go deeper into each one of these solutions.  Thanks for your feedback.

Agreed. Also, Unlike the other options I've listed, Excel Survey does not store the results in a SharePoint list, but rather in an Excel document. I'm sure there are ways to get the data into an Excel list, which require extra steps.
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Would love to hear about what can be done with Visual Studio..

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Today i found out that i have forms on my NON Education tennant with E3 so something has changed a long the way :)

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Indeed!  Forms is now available on other tenants.  I beleive if your tenant is set up with First Release, you should have access to it.  Visit https://forms.office.com to check it out.

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At least in my case I have a message in the Message Center advising the roll out of forms...and there is also a setting to enable / disable Forms in the tenant. Default setting is to have Forms enabled.

New feature: Microsoft Forms Preview
MC106358
Published On : June 16, 2017
Expires On : October 15, 2017
Microsoft Forms is a simple and lightweight app for creating polls, surveys, and quizzes that lets your users easily gather customer feedback, measure satisfaction, learn what employees think, organize team events, and more. It works on any web browser, and includes features such as themes, logo and image support, real time responses, automatic charts, question branching, and support for collaboration.

With this Preview, we will also be upgrading the Excel Survey feature, which will be renamed “Forms for Excel”. This update comes with a modern experience powered by Microsoft Forms to make it simple and easy to collect information into Excel. It can now be used without changing the organization’s sharing settings in OneDrive. The Preview comes with the quality, compliance, and security you’ve come to expect from Office 365.

We'll be gradually rolling the Microsoft Forms Preview out to First Release customers, configured for entire organization, in June. We will begin rolling out to the rest of Office 365, starting the second half of July, and the roll out will be completed by September. Microsoft Forms has been available to education customers since August 2016.

This message is associated with Office 365 Roadmap ID 16254.
How does this affect me?

With this release, administrators can now assign or remove Microsoft Forms licenses to employees on a per user basis. Removing the license from a user will prevent the user from creating forms in Microsoft Forms, but they can still respond to forms created by others. By default, Microsoft Forms is enabled for your organization.

Administrators can also block external users from collaborating on form questions and responses. This will disallow people outside your organization to edit forms and responses created by your users. People outside your organization may still respond to forms if the form author has allowed them to.
What do I need to do to prepare for this change?

You may want to let users know that this app is coming as part of their subscription.

If you would like more control on when your users see this feature, you can disable and enable on a per-user basis, today. Please click Additional Information to learn more.

To disable external collaboration, in the Admin center, go to Services and click Microsoft Forms.
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Hi to all,

 

Yes I can confirm that Forms is available as preview to "First Release Tenants".

 

If is not available in your tenant as Juan said the message in "Message Center" that is rolling out, please if you want enable First Release and wait a few days.

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Thank you so much for your very useful summary of Form options for SharePoint. It's unfortunate that a tool like Microsoft Access cannot be used for this purpose given its oodles of options and ease of use. However, I know that Microsoft will never support that. My question is regarding whether there is any application out there that allows you to easily build forms with the same degree of customization but does not require users to know HTML or JavaScript. Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

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Since we have not so many options for designing forms for SharePoint modern UI, I want to mention a 3rd party solution that allows you design fully responsive forms for SharePoint modern lists and libraries - Plumsail Forms. It provides easy-to-use designer with drag-n-drop UI, supports repeating sections, conditional formatting, and many other features. 

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Hmm! I’ve seen one somewhere..the messages and planner tasks etc are still there but it says “unknown user” I belive
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@Haniel Croitoru

Wow, there's really no replacement for handling repeating sections effectively besides the soon to be phased out InfoPath.