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Customizing out-of-the-box forms with InfoPath

Posted By:Manning       Posted Date: February 25, 2011    Points: 100    Category: SharePoint    URL: http://www.dotnetspark.com  

Customizing out-of-the-box forms with InfoPath in Sharepoint. The author shows walks you through the steps involved in customizing the out-of-the-box forms

This article is taken from the book SharePoint 2010 Workflows in Action. The author shows walks you through the steps involved in customizing the out-of-the-box forms

et 40% off any version of SharePoint 2010 Workflows in Action with the checkout code dnspark40. Offer is only valid through www.manning.com.

A new feature in InfoPath 2010 is the ability to customize out-of-the-box auto-generated forms. Even if you choose the out-of-the-box approach and later decide you need more functionality, you can customize those forms with InfoPath. This article walks you through the steps involved in customizing the out-of-the-box forms.

Data storage methods differ significantly between using a form in a form library and using InfoPath to customize the out-of-the-box New and Edit forms. A form in a form library stores its data as XML, which is uploaded as a document in that library. When you customize the out-of-the-box forms, that data still needs to be mapped to columns in the list item. If you have a good deal of data, you may want to go the form library route, rather than add 20 columns to the list item. You may want to change the behavior of one or two columns or possibly brand the form with a company logo or more detailed instructions. In this case, customizing the out-of-the-box forms is an excellent approach.

SharePoint Server required when customizing the out-of-the-box forms

This article describes features available only to the Server edition of SharePoint 2010.

To get started, first create a SharePoint list or library and onto that list add all the columns you need to track. You can do this through the List Settings and then Add a column option. After you have all your columns set up for your data requirements, edit the forms to suit your user interface requirements. In the Ribbon's List tab, you can use the Customize List dropdown and choose Customize Form (figure 1) to launch InfoPath.

Figure 1 To customize the out-of-the-box forms in a list or library, click the Customize Form button in the Ribbon to launch InfoPath.

The example you're going to build involves a tasks list, and each task has an associated Project and Sub Project. What we want to do is change the lookup columns for these associated projects to be dynamic. As a result, the Sub Project dropdown will change its items based on the selected Parent Project, when you select a project. Figure 2 shows what the tasks form looks like when it's first opened in InfoPath. Notice the Parent Project and Sub Project columns that you'll alter.

Figure 2 When you first select to customize the out-of-the-box New and Edit forms on a list or library, InfoPath is loaded with all the columns on that list or library, and you can start editing their behavior or appearance.

The Parent Project column is a lookup column for a separate list called Project Names. Sub Project is another lookup column for a second separate list called Sub Project Names. The Sub Project Names list has two columns, Title and Parent Project. Parent Project is a lookup for the Project Names list. Before continuing, set up the two Project Names and Sub Project Names lists as previously described. Then, add a Project Name lookup column and a Sub Project Name lookup column to a Tasks list. Last, edit the out-of-the-box form in InfoPath as shown in figure 1.

To make the Sub Project dropdown in your tasks form dynamically, select its items based on what is selected in the Parent Project dropdown. First, create a new data source for the Sub Project dropdown. The default data source for this dropdown only has two fields, Title and ID. Because you need to filter on the Parent Project column, add a new data source. Then, filter that data source on the selected Parent Project. And last, set up a rule on the Parent Project dropdown to ensure the data source is updated each time the dropdown is changed. The steps in table 1 will walk you through this process.

Table 1 Setting up dynamic dropdowns in an InfoPath Form

While customizing the out-of-the-box task edit form in InfoPath, set up a new data source for the Sub Project's dropdown menu. 1.  In the Data tab in InfoPath's Ribbon, click on the Data Connections button. Click on the Add button to add a new data source.
2.  Select the radio buttons to create a new data source that receives data. Click Next.
3.  Choose to receive data from a SharePoint library or list. Click Next.
4.  Type the URL to the SharePoint site that contains the Sub Project Names lists, click Next and then continue with the wizard.
You'll be halfway through the new data source creation wizard.
Specify your list and columns to be included in the data source. 5.  Select the list name that contains the data for your connection (in this case, Sub Project Names) and click Next.
6.  Select the columns to include in the data source (in this case, Title, Parent Project, and ID columns). Click Next twice.
7.  Give the data source a name like Sub Projects Filtered by Parent Project Selection. Click Finish to complete the data source wizard, and then Close.
8.  Change the Sub Project dropdown to use this data connection instead of the default connection by right-clicking on the dropdown and choosing Drop Down List Box Properties. Then, change the Data Source dropdown menu to be the data connection that was created and click OK.
A new data connection will be available, and the Sub Project dropdown will be set to use this new connection.
Filter the new data source on the selected parent project. In the Entries box directly below the Data Source selection on the Sub Project dropdown, you'll see the XPath query that points to the data. Click the Select XPath button directly to the right of the text box. (Click the ellipses image.) Follow these steps to set up the filter.
1.  In the Select a Field or Group dialog box, click the Filter Data button and then click Add.
2.  The first dialog box contains the fields in your custom data source. Select the Parent Project field. Leave the comparing field (middle dropdown) set to is equal to.
3.  In the third dropdown, choose Select a field or group. Another dialog box will appear; change the Fields dropdown to Main to select the data that is represented on the form itself.
4.  There are two sub folders: the queryFields folder will query fresh data and the dataFields folder contains the data on the form at the present time. Expand the dataFields folder.
5.  Expand the sub folder containing the list item data. Select the Parent Project field. Click OK five times.
Now your Sub Project dropdown is correctly filtering its data according to the Parent Project dropdown's selected value. The last thing you need to do before you publish the form into our SharePoint tasks list is to set up a rule on the Parent Project dropdown. Each time the Parent Project dropdown's value is changed, you need to tell the Sub Project dropdown to update its items. 1.  Right-click the Parent Project dropdown and, under the Rules flyout, select Manage Rules.
2.  Click the New dropdown in the Manage Rules toolbar and select Action.
3.  Give the rule a name like Update Sub Project Dropdown.
4.  Next to Run these actions, click the Add dropdown and select Query for data.
5.  In the Data Connection dropdown, select the custom data connection you created earlier. In this case, select Sub Projects Filtered by Parent Project Selection and then click OK.
With the rule in place on the Parent Project dropdown, the data source for the Sub Project dropdown will update each time the parent dropdown changes.

That's it! Now all that's left is to publish the form into your tasks list. Under the File menu in the Info tab, click Quick Publish. Now, when you go to create a new task in your tasks list, the Sub Projects dropdown will be dynamically populated based on what Parent Project is selected (figure 3)!

Figure 3 You can customize the out-of-the-box New and Edit forms to make lookup columns in your lists or libraries dynamically generate their items based on custom rules.

Only Positive Integers Allowed Error

If you get an error that says Only Positive Integers Allowed, you're trying to save a string into a column that is expecting a number. Most likely the Sub Project dropdown's value is set to a string but, because the column is a lookup, it needs to be a number instead. To fix this error, right-click on the Sub Project dropdown and choose Dropdown list properties. Then, underneath Entries, change the Value from d:Title to d:ID. After you republish the form, the form should start saving properly.


Three main tools for building custom forms in SharePoint are out-of-the-box forms, InfoPath forms, and ASP.NET forms with Visual Studio. The out-of-the-box forms provide the easiest and fastest approach to giving your end users an interface that can accept data and information. The out-of-the-box forms have their limitations. When a more complex form is required, InfoPath is the next best choice. Be aware that SharePoint Server edition is needed to host InfoPath forms in the browser; otherwise, you'll need to have the InfoPath client installed on all your end user's workstations.

SharePoint 2010 Workflows in Action

Phil Wicklund
MEAP Release: May 2010
Softbound print: December 2010 (est.) | 400 pages
ISBN: 978193518271

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Author: Sunette         Company URL: http://www.dotnetspark.com
Posted Date: July 16, 2013

Hi there,
I am new to infopath. I have tried this solution onto two dropdowns called Region and Building in a sharepoint list of mine. I can't find a place where you link which items in the Building dropdown links with a specific item in the Region dropdown. I have completed all the steps, but now have an empty Building dropdown, on matter what region I select. Can someone please assist me with this.

Not sure if it has something to do with the naming of the fields like:
Region: Cape Town CA, and the building CA building name in order to work. Can someone please help me with this?


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