Working offline with InfoPath Filler forms and SharePoint 2010

October 9th, 2012 | Posted by Marijn in business | ecm | infopath | Microsoft | sharepoint 2010 | usability | workspace

The additional value when you work with SharePoint and InfoPath is very clear: you can use the forms to enhance the way you input and edit information in our favorite platform. Here is a video on how it was meant to work:

Working offline with InfoPath 2010

As you will probably know, InfoPath was build for companies to create digital forms, in a lot of ways:

  • – In a forms application, known in Office 2010 as InfoPath Filler
  • – Via Outlook 2010
  • – Via SharePoint 2010

Request

My client had a very clear image on what kind of form they wanted: it is an organisation that has a lot of people working in the field (literally) filling forms in paper about tubes and sewerages. They had 2 big demands:

–          They have to be able to draw images on the form

–          They are not always connected to the internet (yes, even in Belgium we don’t have connection everywhere)

Draw images on the form

To tackle the first problem, InfoPath has a very cool control called “ink picture control”. This allows you to draw images on the form. The result is stored within the form. Only downside is: you can’t use that in a webform. You have to use InfoPath Filler.

Offline connection between InfoPath Filler and SharePoint

The connection problem is not so much of a problem with SharePoint, we have SharePoint Workspace, right ? Right! Only small issue is that you can’t sync a form library in SharePoint Workspace.

Well, that is no problem, we can just add them to a document library, right ? Right! When we go offline, we can open the template from our SharePoint Workspace (which is connected to a document library that has the InfoPath template file).
Awesome, we can now go offline, fill in the data in the form, we can even draw our images!

Ok, our form is filled in, how are we going to get the data back to SharePoint? Submitting to SharePoint is not possible, because we are offline. There isn’t a way to send the data to an offline list in SharePoint Workspace either.

We have 2 solutions here:

  • – Save it on our harddisk and wait until we are online, reopen the form and submit
  • – Save it on our harddisk and drag/drop it to SharePoint Workspace (because SharePoint Workspace doesn’t let you save files directly from an application to the Workspace)

Below are those 2 work processes you can use when you are working offline with an InfoPath Filler form and SharePoint. Both ways contain some manual steps and an offline location where you can save the filled in forms.

Offline Process 1

  1. SharePoint Workspace is connected to a document library that contains the published InfoPath template. (only has to be done 1 time)
  2. End-user opens the form via SharePoint Workspace and fills in the form
  3. End-user saves the form locally on the disk
  4. End-user drags/drops the saved form file into SharePoint Workspace
  5. When the user has network connection, the Workspace is synced automatically
  6. SharePoint can start a workflow when it detects the new file

Offline proces 2

  1. SharePoint Workspace is connected to a document library that contains the published InfoPath template. (only has to be done 1 time)
  2. End-user opens the form via SharePoint Workspace and fills in the form
  3. End-user saves the form locally on the disk
  4. When the end-user has network connection, open all filled in forms and “submit”
  5. SharePoint can start a workflow when it detects the new file

A summary on list forms vs. form libraries is here.

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