Developing with InfoPath

1 minute read

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.