SharePoint components - business processes without development, InfoPath, SharePoint Designer or workflows. SharePoint Services, SharePoint Foundation & SharePoint Server 2010-2016.

May 2014
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Validate empty value

By: Genady Vaisman | Comments [1] | Category: Products | 5/30/2014

Sometimes we need to make a field mandatory only when certain circumstances are met,

for example: depending on another field’s value or if the writer belongs to a specific group of users..

For this cause we will use our Smart List Pro

We'll head into the list / library settings and press on the "Infowise Column validation settings" under "Permissions and Management"

 

Column Validation - validate empty value

Many of our dedicated clients are aware of this functionality, but not all of them remember step 5, and without it - no magic will happen :)

 

thank you for reading and keep enjoying our products

 

Infowise Ultimate Forms vs. InfoPath - feature-by-feature comparison

By: Vladi Gubler | Comments [10] | Category: Products | 5/28/2014

Hello all,

This article serves as a script of sorts for the upcoming (at the time of writing) webinar "Head-to-head: Infowise Ultimate Forms vs. InfoPath", where we compare the two on a feature-by-feature basis. Once available, you can view the webinar recording here.

Something I'd like to clarify straight away: when we started to develop Ultimate Forms, we did not position it to be an InfoPath competitor or replacement. We were basically trying to build a platform that would help our customers to get more out of their SharePoint, bridging the gap between what they needed and what SharePoint could actually do, without having to resort to costly custom development. It was never our intention to duplicate InfoPath's features as they were, rather to address the actual business needs as we understood them. Nevertheless, many customer were and are using Ultimate Forms as a replacement for InfoPath, been doing it for years actually, a natural choice in my opinion.

With the recent announcement of the imminent demise of InfoPath and the frantic search for a suitable successor that followed (if you went to the session at SPC 2014, you saw how packed the rather large conference room was), we feel quite obligated to present our own comparison as well. I'm sure that it will speak for itself, showing you that not only InfoPath had a strong alternative while it was alive, but it also has a better (IMHO) successor after its death.

So, without any further ado, let us start.

So why do we actually need forms in SharePoint? Well, SharePoint is a great platform for storing and managing business data. It's easy to use, extensible, has a robust UI and permission system and the price (at least for the free Foundation edition) is right. The only place where SharePoint is lacking is forms, the interface for adding, displaying and editing individual data items. They are pretty basic, for the lack of a better word, not something you can base your business solution on.

So what are the alternatives? You can always develop your own forms from scratch in Visual Studio. Most users won't choose this approach though, due to the high development and support costs. So you can use Microsoft's or 3rd party solutions.

Microsoft has two solutions to extend list forms:

  1. SharePoint Designer: powerful, but awkward. And today, with the removal of the "what you see if what you get" visual editor, not an options for most users. This product is free.
  2. InfoPath: can create visually appealing and powerful forms in the InfoPath client application ("Designer") and deploy them to into SharePoint. InfoPath requires both a client license (for the Designer) and CALs for SharePoint Server Enterprise Edition.

InfoPath

Now with InfoPath it gets complicated. You can actually use InfoPath in two distinct ways, each with its own pros and cons:

  • Replacing built-in forms - an InfoPath form will replace the built-in form, so whenever you click on Add new item or view/edit an existing item, you will actually see the InfoPath form. SharePoint will use InfoPath Forms Services to generate browser-based representations for InfoPath forms and integrate them into SharePoint UI. I would like to use the word "seamless", unfortunately, it is not so.
  • Using form libraries - here the form, although hosted within SharePoint, is not actually integrated into SharePoint. You are basically working with InfoPath as an XML editor, that saves the resulting XML data structure into a specialized document library. Although some XML fields can be promoted to library columns, this is only a partial integration and cannot be considered a true SharePoint solution.

The first approach, although offering higher levels of integration, is actually the weaker one. Beyond the eye candy of being able to modify the layout of the form, it offers little in terms of functionality. There is just not enough power to serve as a real business process building block. So in our comparison, we are going to be focusing on the form libraries, occasionally mentioning InfoPath forms, where relevant.

Ultimate Forms

So what is Infowise Ultimate Forms anyways? Basically, it's a set of components, up to 18, depending on the edition, that extend SharePoint to make it easier to build business solutions. When I say "extend", I mean preserving the way SharePoint works out-of-the-box. For example, unlike other products (InfoPath or 3rd party solutions), we do not replace the native list forms, we extend the exisitng forms. So we never lose any existing functionality (ever got frustrated not being able to use Managed Metadata columns in InfoPath?). We add new functionality, tons of it. And you only need your browser, no external designers or tools required. And we only require the free SharePoint Foundation 2010-2013 (WSS for you, 2007 users, you are still fully supported as well). And, despite its name, Utimate Forms is much more than just forms. It will take care of your business logic (including data import and export) and reporting (including KPIs, charts and much more).

And here we start the actual comparison, look for a summary table at the end of the article as well.

 

Design And Integration

Here we discuss what design tools we use and how well each platform is integrated into SharePoint.

Design Environment

Ultimate Forms deeply integrates into your SharePoint, you design your forms directly in your browser by simply clicking the Design with Ultimate Forms button on the List ribbon. Given necessary permissions, any user can design forms, from anywhere, no tools required.

InfoPath is actually a client application, you must purchase and install on your own computer, without it you can modify any forms (although the end users don't need the application, InfoPath Forms Services will convert the InfoPath form into a browser-based form on the fly).

Integration

Ultimate Forms extends your existing SharePoint forms without replacing them. So 100% native functionality is preserved, plus the many additional features that Ultimate Forms adds. It will even work with 3rd party products you purchased from other vendors.

InfoPath replaces SharePoint forms with custom pages. Most SharePoint column types can be mapped to corresponding InfoPath controls (text, number, date and so on). But some, such as Managed Metadata, are not supported. 3rd party components? You can forget about those. Even supported controls look and work differently, your users will notice the difference.

SharePoint License

Ultimate Forms works with all SharePoint versions, including the free Foundation (WSS in 2007).

InfoPath requires the Enterprise license, the most expensive one, plus CALs.

 

Layout

The first thing users want to change in SharePoint forms is the layout. Moving the columns around, adding custom colors and fonts is always high up on their list. Let's see what Ultimate Forms and InfoPath can offer in that department.

Form Layout

Ultimate Forms allows you to subdivide your form into tabs (with tab permissions), add sections or groups and arrange the list columns in one to three vertical columns. You can also control the location and appearance of labels and descriptions. Note that all of these are accomplished through configuration and not drag-and-drop, making it easier and faster to design a form.

InfoPath provide a visual design interface allowing you to place fields in a custom layout table. Section are easy to implement. Tabs are harder, requiring your to create multiple views and provide a mechanism for switching between views.

Look and Feel

Ultimate Forms offers you configuration options for setting common look and feel parameters, such as background images or borders. For more advanced customization, you can provide your own CSS styling. Each one of the 3 list forms (new, display and edit) can be given its own distinct look.

InfoPath uses a visual designer to modify the look, which can, in many cases, be more time-consuming to configure.

SharePoint UI Integration

Ultimate Forms extends SharePoint forms and does not replace them, your site-wide branding is preserved intact, while giving you the ability to override as much as you need.

InfoPath is a distinct product, with its own look. Although it can forced to visually appear similarly to the rest of your site, it's not a natural process and can be quite time-consuming.

 

Permissions

Here we will focus on the common need of being able to control writability and/or visibility of columns, depending on the current user, column values and form type.

Tabs

Ultimate Forms allows you to group your columns into tabs/groups with subsections.

InfoPath makes it easy to create groups/sections. Tabs are much trickier, as you have to use multiple views (time-consuming, especially when you need to achieve a certain look).

Tab Permissions

Ultimate Forms allows you to assign permissions to whole tabs/groups, making the contained column writable, read-only or completely hidden. The permissions can be applied based on the user (for example, depending on whether or not the user is a member of a certain group), column values (e.g. Status = Completed) and form type (New or Edit form).

InfoPath can use rules to hide/disable specific columns only, not groups/sections. That will be very time-consuming when you have a lot of columns on your form.

Column Permission

Ultimate Forms can apply permissions to a specific column, overriding tab permissions. As with tab permissions, user, conditions and form type are used to determine the permission level.

InfoPath can hide/disable columns based on conditions. User or form type do not come into play.

View Permissions

Ultimate Forms can hide certain views from certain users and even set a different default view for different users.

InfoPath has no view permissions. You will not be able to hide some columns from certain users.

 

Data Structure

Let's talk about how the data is stored and what relationships between entities we can implement.

Storage

Ultimate Forms extends regular SharePoint lists, so data is stored in lists (or document libraries).

InfoPath, when replacing forms, also stores data in the list. But in most cases the data will be stored as XML files in forms libraries. This is not a native SharePoint format, rendering many SharePoint feature incompatible.

Repeating Sections

Ultimate Forms allows you to link any item to multiple related items, found in other lists. These can be tasks, general purpose items or even documents. Each related item is a full SharePoint item, with its own version history, permissions and workflows and can be viewed and edited separately. You can even drill down into related items from any list view of the parent items.

InfoPath only supports repeating section when working from a forms library. The repeating section are stored within the XML and do no map to SharePoint items. You must open the parent item to view the repeating sections and they do not exist separately. As such, they are not visible in views.

Related Items Summary

Ultimate Forms includes the ability to count or summarize related items automatically, without having to edit the parent item. You can even count/summarize just the items that pass a certain filter.

InfoPath can count or summarize repeating section values inside the form, while you are editing it.

 

Column Types

Let's examine which column types are supported by each platform.

Support For Built-in Column Types

Ultimate Forms supports all column types.

InfoPath does not support some column types, such as Managed Metadata.

Support For Custom Column Types

Ultimate Forms supports all custom column types, including from other vendors.

InfoPath does not support custom column types.

Custom Column Types Provided

Ultimate Forms provides a set of additional column types, such as associated items, cascading lookups, electronic signatures, color choice, document link, voting, etc.

InfoPath provides none.

 

Validations and Defaults

Default Values

Ultimate Forms allows you to specify distinct default values for different users/group. Additionally, you can pass default value though the URL.

InfoPath allows you to specify a single set of default values.

Validation Rules

Ultimate Forms can validate column values based on regular expressions (such as email or phone number, but you can create your own), length and compared to other column values or expressions. The validation rules can be applied based on conditions and based on the current user.

InfoPath can check basic patterns, based on conditions.

Validating Related Items

Ultimate Forms can validated based on related items, e.g. preventing a support ticket from being closed when there are still open tasks assigned to it.

InfoPath does not supported this.

 

Actions

Let's see how business logic can be implemented.

Types of Actions

Ultimate Forms offers 16 different actions types, ranging from updating/creating/deleting list items in any list, managing permissions and creating lists/sites to managing Active Directory, calling web services and executing stored procedures in any database.

InfoPath can only set field values of the current form.

Execution

Ultimate Forms can execute actions when item is added/update/deleted, on timer or manually, through a ribbon button

InfoPath executes actions when a field value changes.

 

Lookups

Cascading lookups are the most common requirements in any business solution. Being able to filter a list of cities based on a state is one example.

Cascading Lookups

Ultimate Forms supports unlimited number of levels of cascading lookup, including multiple parent values.

InfoPath only provides support when working with forms libraries.

Adding New Values

Ultimate Forms allows you to add new values on the fly.

InfoPath requires the values to be present when the form loads.

Filter Values

Ultimate Forms allows you to add additional filter to make selecting values easier and faster, especially when working with large number of values.

InfoPath has no such capability.

 

Signatures

Being able to sign your data is an important part of many business processes.

Signature Type

Ultimate Forms uses an electronic signature, where the validation is performed against your Active Directory or using hand-written signatures.

InfoPath allows you to sign using a digital signature.

Signature Providers

Ultimate Forms can use Active Directory or Topaz Signature Pad (for hand-written signatures).

InfoPath requires you to have a digital certificate (either issued internally by your organization or purchased from a provider, such as VeriSign).

Displayed In

Ultimate Forms allows you to view signatures in forms, views and even in print-outs, including PDFs.

InfoPath's signatures are visible in forms only.

 

Printing

Despite our efforts to go paperless, printed copies are still inevitable, as well as read-only PDF versions.

Print Templates

Ultimate Forms allows you to create multiple custom print templates, for single items, lists and even calendars. Templates can be shared with other users and the most suitable template can even be selected automatically.

InfoPath prints the screen as-is.

Export/Email

Ultimate Forms allows you to save the print out as PDF and/or email it to any recipients, both internal and external.

InfoPath allows you only to print (unless opening the form in the client application).

UI Integration

Ultimate Forms allows you to print from forms, context menu and ribbon buttons, including the ability to print multiple items at once.

InfoPath only has the ability to print from forms, one item at a time.

 

External Data

Being able to work with data found in external applications is essential in today's integrated business.

Data Sources

Ultimate Forms can work with any database type and with web services.

InfoPath can only work with MS SQL and web services.

Filter External Data

Ultimate Forms can filter external data based on column values.

InfoPath can filter external data based on column values.

Automatic Import/Export

Ultimate Forms can import and export from email, any database and web services.

InfoPath does not have automatic import/export capability.

 

Color-coding

Color-coding allows you to identify data at a glance, without having to read.

Type

Ultimate Forms allows you to set background colors, font colors or use icons.

InfoPath allows you to set background colors, font-colors, boldness and underlines.

Displayed In

Ultimate Forms color-codes forms, views, calendars and print-outs.

InfoPath displays color-coding in forms only.

 

Item IDs

Assigning automatic item IDs in your own format is essential in many applications, such as support tickets, invoices, etc.

Templates

Ultimate Forms allows you to create multiple templates and select the most suitable one automatically.

InfoPath does not support item IDs.

Format

Ultimate Forms uses a combination of text, column values, functions and numerators.

InfoPath does not support item IDs.

Applied In

Ultimate Forms applies item IDs automatically in new and/or edit forms.

InfoPath does not support item IDs.

 

This concludes our feature-by-feature comparison. I will let you decide which platform works better for you, just keep in mind that I just covered some of the features of Ultimate Forms, those that map to the corresponding InfoPath features. There are tons of other features you can leverage:

  • Actions - although partially covered above, actions are an extremely powerful feature, deserving their own webinar (and you can view the past webinar for Smart Action Pro on our Webinars page).
  • Alerts - a replacement for the built-in alerts, we offer multiple internal and external recipients, timer-based notifications, conditions and custom email template.
  • Color-coded calendars - view data from multiple sources, such as lists, databases and Exchange calendars.
  • Charts and graphs - visualize your data with over 30 chart types and filter using charts.
  • Color-coded views - apply color-coding to any list view, without having to modify it using SharePoint Designer.
  • Indicators - add KPIs, progress bars and countdown to any form/view.
  • List search - find items in list, print and export to PDF/Excel directly from the search results.
  • Voting - let users vote on items/documents and leave comments.
  • Much more...

For your convenience, here is the comparison again in a table:

 

 Ultimate Forms

 InfoPath

Design and Integration   

Design environment

Integrated into SP, accessible anywhere

Stand-alone application, local installation required

Integration

100% integrated

Non-native UI and functionality

SP License required

Foundation (free), Standard, Enterprise

Enterprise only

Layout

Form layout

Tabs, tab permissions, sections, groups, multi-column layout, custom fragments

Sections, drag-n-drop design

Look and feel 

Configuration + CSS-based styling

Designer-generated styling

SP UI integration

100% native look

Distinct, foreign look

Permissions
Tabs

Tabs and groups with subsections

Groups. Tabs can be implemented as views

Tab permissions

Writable/read-only/hidden through conditions

Writable/read-only/hidden using rules

Column permissions

Writable/read-only/hidden through conditions

Writable/read-only/hidden using rules

View permissions 

Based on current user, with custom default view

None
Data Structure

Storage

List item based, completely integrated

XML file based, stored in document library*

Repeating sections

Real items in related lists, visible in forms and views

Repeating sections in XML, do not map to SP items, not visible in views

Related items summary

Automatically calculated, subject to filters. Columns do not need to reside on the form

Summary functions within the forms

Column Types

Support for built-in column types

All column types are supported

Some column types are not supported (Managed Metadata), others: reduced or modified functionality

Support for custom column types

All custom column types from all vendors supported

None

Custom column types provided

Associated items, cascading lookup, color choice, KPIs, document link, etc.

None
Validation and Defaults

Default values

User-specific; passed through URL; content type-specific

Common to all users

Validation rules

Specific to users, subject to conditions, regex pattern support

Subject to conditions, support for email/URL patterns

Validating related items

Run validation rules based on summary of related items

Not supported

Actions

Types of actions

16 types of actions: update/create/delete items, manage permissions, create list/site, print, etc.

Set field value

Execution

On value change, add/update/delete, on timer, manual (ribbon button)

On value change

Lookups
Cascading Yes, unlimited levels Yes, in form libraries only
Add new value Yes, in-line or through pop-up No
Filter values Yes, multiple filters No
Signatures
Signature type Electronic Digital
Signature providers Active directory, Topaz signature pad, touchscreens Digital certificate
Displayed in Forms, views, print-outs Forms only
Printing
Print templates

User-defined, multiple templates with automatic/manual selection

Print screen

Export/email

Convert to PDF and email, with attachments

None*

UI integration

Print from forms and views, print multiple items at once

Print from forms only

External Data

Data sources

Any DB type, web services, REST APIs

MS SQL only, web services

Filter external data

Yes Yes

Automatic import/export

Emails, web service, any DB

None
Color-coding

Type

Background color, font color, icons (with or without text)

Background color, font color, boldness, underline

Displayed in

Forms, views, calendars*, print-outs

Forms only

Item IDs

Templates

Multiple, automatically selected

Not supported

Format

Combination of text, column values, functions, numerator

Not supported

Applied

New item, modified item

Not supported

 

Create an ID that restarts every day

By: Genady Vaisman | Comments [1] | Category: Products | 5/12/2014

By now you all know our Smart ID Pro which is well documented here: Smart Id Pro Documentation.

Today i'm gonna show you how to use it to create an id containing a counter, which restarts every day.

basically Smart Id's counter part will restart every time that the constant part changes, so if we want a counter per day, we embed the date in our constant part, using this simple formula: $Year([Today])$Month([Today])$Day([Today])[#|100].

This formula will produce us with the following ID: YYYYMMDDID.

here are the steps to perform it:

1. Go inside Infowise Item ID Settings, under list settings page:

 settings

2. Define the ID

ID settings

3. See it generated!

List View

 

thank for reading and enjoy using our products!

 

How to let users change their own Active Directory passwords

By: Vladi Gubler | Comments [2] | Category: Products | 5/10/2014

Hi,

Using Smart List Pro and Smart Action Pro it's easy to implement self-service password change functionality in SharePoint.

  1. In Active Directory, give Password reset rights on your OU to the application pool account
  2. Create a custom list "Password Changes", rename the Title column to New Password and add another text column “Confirm Password”.
  3. Using Smart List Pro, add validation rule Password = Confirm Password. That will make sure users confirm their entry. You can also add pattern (regex) validaition rules or length validation rules to ensure password complexity.
    Password validation
  4. Using Smart Action Pro, add 2 actions to the list:
    1. Manage Active Directory action to change the password. Turn on Impersonation for the action and set it to run on New only. Use Created By for the User Name value (you might need to change the display field to Account, just edit the column in list settings) and Password for the new password.

      Manage AD - general settings

      Reset settings

    2. Depending on your requirements, add either Delete action to erase the newly created item once the first action finished, or Update action to set both Password and Confirm Password to “*******”.

      Hide Password
  5. Add link to the New form of the list to wherever you want it, you can use a content editor web part to create a link as a image button. Pass src parameter in the URL to specify the return URL (otherwise it will return to the list, you probably don’t want that).