Developing with InfoPath

A couple of weeks ago,
Patrick Logan
made reference
to one of the

PDC sessions on InfoPath
saying that it was "Better than
previous demonstrations and white papers…
".

I blogged about this session

at the time
and I was less than impressed. However, during the
last month or so, I've spent quite a bit of time with InfoPath
trying to sort out how to fit it into the development landscape. It
really is a powerful product with its rich support for real XML and
it presents a very intuitive interface to form users once you've
published a design. In fact, for one project that I'm involved
with, we are actually going to use InfoPath as the main forms
engine and our application will piece together new InfoPath forms
on the server-side before shipping them down to clients over HTTP
(see the

InfoPath SDK
for information about the make-up of InfoPath
forms).

I can't help still feeling a little confused by the target user
for InfoPath. It is pitched as a power user product rather than as
a development tool – there aren't quite enough features for
developers (though I have been impressed by a few of its
subtleties) and the lack of support for embedding InfoPath forms in
your own applications lets it down. It dreams of a world where web
services and XML documents are ubiquitous within organisations and
where it is important that power users be able to consume them in
wonderful new ways not conceived of by their developers. I'm not
sure we live there yet and whether we ever will remains to be
seen.