Thursday, March 02, 2006

Infopath 2003 - not what it could be

I'll start off by saying this: I like Infopath - well I want to like it.

It is VERY much a v1.0 program. Hopefully, Microsoft will continue to develop it further in the next few iterations.

The VSTO 2005 tools are a good start - this allows you to create managed code behind rather than ugly JavaScript. My issue is that it is really hard to do anything productive. I don't speak XPath at the moment, so it's really down to trial and error to figure out what to do.

Case in point, I was trying to autoincrement field in a repeating table. I did my usual things - googled, google groups, documentation - nothing found a solution. I tried quite a few things from Google groups, most didn't work at all and some would sort of work.

Anyway, after half a day of trial and error and reading the docs, it appears that I can use an expression field and have its default value set to position(). Thats great but it shouldn't take half a day to work out. I mean this is a fairly standard thing to want to do.

Hopefully in Office 12 Infopath will be improved. As I said before I think it has the potential to be huge - in our company for example, there are literally hundreds of documents someone has made as read-only Word templates available on the intranet, but these need to be printed out and filled in by hand. Obvious job for Infopath, however at current state it would be a big job to convert.

I might wait for the next version before I recommend that upgrade.....


EricRi said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts here, James. I work on InfoPath and I can understand that the open standards technology we use (XML, XSD, XSLT, XPath) are all well and fine for geeks but it's hard to put a usable wrapper around it.

The calculations (fx button) we added in InfoPath 2003 SP1 helps, some.

There does reach a point, though, where are declarative stuff reaches a certain limit and you have to read up on XPath and XSLT functions.

At least there are plenty of resources for it vs. being some odd Microsoft-only expression language.

I think the VS integration stuff coming up in Office 2007 will knock your socks off. Please give the Beta2 a whirl when it comes out later this year.

== Eric

James said...

G'day Eric.

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

I take your comments on board. Maybe I should brush up on my XPath knowledge.

Like I said in the post, I can see where you guys are heading with Infopath and it is pretty exciting. Keep up the good work and I will be watching with interest!