One question I get frequently is how to build real world forms with SharePoint. This involves in particular organizing the fields in logical blocks (e.g. Street/City/Zip Code/State) and tweaking the layout to have multiple columns or interactive zones (e.g. tabs).
Until last year, InfoPath was the official go-to application for form design. You can still use it today, however in January 2014 Microsoft announced that InfoPath was retired. Some InfoPath fans will tell you that with Microsoft’s deprecation policy you are still safe for 10 years… What they don’t mention is that this is only true if you decide never to upgrade to new SharePoint versions!
Considering the lack of visibility on the future of SharePoint forms, I have decided to explore what could be done with my SPELL library.
SPELL already includes several building blocks to help with forms, in SP 2007, SP 2010, SP 2013 and Office 365. It can parse a default SharePoint form page, identify field types (e.g. text, drop-down choice, multi-lookup), and add behaviors like cascading selects or pre-populated fields. Also, I already have a solution for form layouts, however just limited to tabs. The new solution will expand it, to allow for more custom layouts.
To accommodate the new features, SPELL is going to evolve:
- the existing Form module will be renamed Form Behaviors: cascading selects, item ID, pre-populated fields, read only fields, color coding, etc.
- the new module will be called Form Layout and will include Form Tabs.
To get started, I have built a proof of concept. Feel free to play with it, and let me know what you think! Eventually the plan is to release a gratis and a commercial version, just like I already did with Tabs and Cascading Selects.
A quick walk through:
- Move the logo to confirm that your browser supports drag and drop
- In the Form Editor, select the target form, the layout and the name of each zone. Then press “Retrieve Form and Render Layout”.
- Drag and drop the fields to add them to the custom form layout. Double click on a field name to switch to a stacked display (example: Task Name in the screenshot below).
What if my browser doesn’t support drag and drop?
The proof of concept is not going to work. You’ll need to switch to a browser that supports the HTML5 standard (yes, HTML5 officially became a standard…today!), or add the feature via a polyfill.
- a fix for older browsers will be included in the final solution
- only the designer – not the regular end user – needs the drag and drop feature.
Tentative release schedule:
- End of 2014: alpha version, available to existing SPELL users.
- Early 2015: the SPELL Form Layout will be offered for on premises environments (SP 2007, SP 2010, SP 2013).
- For new SPELL users on Office 365, I plan to make the solution available in the second half of 2015.