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InfoPath 2003 Service Pack 1

Even before InfoPath 2003 was out the door, InfoPath 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1) was under construction; it was finally released on July 27, 2004. Convenience features, such as a table-drawing tool and the Format Painter, were added in SP1. Integration was introduced or enhanced, such as Web service support for ADO.NET DataSet objects. New controls, such as the File Attachment and Master/Detail controls, were added. Finally, InfoPath was also made more robust by adding features like crash recovery while filling out a form. Even if the computer doesn't crash, there's always the possibility that a power outage may occur (or the battery may die on your laptop). If you didn't think it could get any better, InfoPath 2003 SP1 was available as a free upgrade on the Web and fully backward compatible with 2003.

In tune with the numerous enhancements you would expect from a new release, InfoPath 2003 SP1 provided a much richer design experience. A lot of features that were already available in other Microsoft Office applications were integrated into InfoPath 2003 SP1. The new Insert Layout Table button (available on the Standard toolbar, as shown in Figure 1.3) enables you to quickly insert a table with as many as five columns and four rows.

Figure 1.3

Figure 1.3 Insert Layout Table toolbar item

Another tool that was added in SP1 to make table creation easier is the new Tables toolbar (see Figure 1.4). This toolbar, which includes a table-drawing tool that can be turned on by clicking the Draw Table button, simplifies the process of creating tables tremendously. Using the table-drawing tool, you can easily draw a table any way you want without having to use the Insert Table dialog. The Tables toolbar also allows you to quickly and easily change various properties of any table, such as borders and shading. Considering that most InfoPath forms rely heavily on table layout, these tool improvements were welcome additions.

Figure 1.4

Figure 1.4 Tables toolbar

Another very useful tool added in SP1 is the Format Painter. You may already be familiar with this tool since it's also available in other Microsoft Office applications, such as Word. This tool allows you to quickly copy formatting from one part of the form template's view to another. You can select text or a control and copy its formatting to other text or another control in the form template.

The new table tools and the Format Painter are just two of the many features added to InfoPath 2003 SP1 in response to customer feedback. There are many more features that were added as well. Another feature added in response to feedback from international markets is support for complex script and right-to-left (RTL) languages. With InfoPath SP1, you can create forms that work with languages requiring complex script and/or RTL reading such as Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, and so on.

InfoPath 2003 SP1 also added a slew of new controls to the Controls task pane. As with the other features added to improve the design experience, the decision about which controls to add in SP1 was based solely on customer feedback. (We will talk about each of these controls in more detail in Chapters 2 and 4.) The following controls were added in InfoPath 2003 SP1:

  • Master/Detail
  • File Attachment
  • Choice Group
  • Repeating Choice Group
  • Choice Section
  • Recursive Section controls
  • Scrolling Region
  • Vertical Label
  • Ink Picture
  • Custom controls

One of the most exciting additions to the Controls task pane was the support for custom controls. As of InfoPath 2003 SP1, you can use ActiveX technologies to build your own custom controls for InfoPath. Support for custom controls expanded in InfoPath 2007 and further expanded 2010 to include the ability to build controls without code.

Data source enhancements, such as support for choice and recursion, were added in conjunction with the new Choice Group and Recursive Section controls. Customers clearly use industry-standard XML Schemas with choice constructs. As a result, InfoPath 2003 SP1 fully supports the XML Schema choice element and the Choice control that binds to it. Recursion is also very common in real-world XML Schemas. Recursion is when a schema element can contain itself. For example, a schema describing a hierarchy of employees can be described only by using recursion (since an employee can have employees under him or her). The Recursive Section control naturally supports recursion by allowing you to insert the same item as a child of itself. In SP1 there is no extra burden on the form designer to get this working properly, but in InfoPath 2003 it was a bit of a technical hurdle.

One of the most useful features introduced for nondevelopers in SP1 was the Rules feature. Overwhelming customer feedback was clear: Too many seemingly simple things required writing script. For example, showing a dialog or changing views required a few lines of script. With rules, setting up your form template to show a dialog is a few button clicks away. A more complex scenario would be to switch views, submit to a database, and set the value of a field—all in one rule and without code! Introducing rules to the masses meant less programming and more form function.

Creating a rich, functional form template is sufficient until you realize that your one form template does not fit all users. Sometimes data in the form shouldn't be shown to specific users. Imagine a form that tracks top issues, and each issue has a checkbox to set the entry as private. With InfoPath 2003 SP1, you can assign users to private and public roles and, in combination with conditional formatting, decide whether or not to show private data based on the current user role.

When it comes to trusting the data in a form, little can supersede the security offered by digital signatures. Highlights such as nonrepudiable partial signatures, cosigning, and countersigning allow the form template designer a greater level of freedom while not sacrificing the concept of "secure by default." Factor in the extended programmability support for digitally signed forms, and you have a complete solution for protecting form data.

Arguably one of the most anticipated features in the SP1 release was the introduction of managed code support. With the world buzzing about .NET, customers could not wait to get their hands on the free Visual Studio Toolkit plug-in. Along with managed code support, a revised and expanded programming interface, or object model was included. In Chapter 13 we will introduce the OM, which was introduced in InfoPath 2007.

Not only can InfoPath simplify the creation of forms but, as mentioned earlier, since InfoPath forms are based on XML, they can be integrated easily into existing business processes and workflows. By using InfoPath with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server or Outlook, you can quickly build workflow processes in a fraction of the time it would take with other forms development tools. We will talk in more detail about workflow in Chapter 10.

With the growing popularity of Tablet PCs, it seems only natural that InfoPath would include support for these devices. InfoPath 2003 included limited support for Tablet PCs that was expanded in SP1. In design mode, the Ink Picture control enables you to include sections in your form template that are exclusively for handwriting with the Tablet PC pen. When editing the form, all controls support an ink-entry mode that allows you to write in them with your Tablet PC pen. Your writing will then be converted to text. While in ink-entry mode, InfoPath supports many of the same gestures to edit and correct text you may already be familiar with.

SP1 also brought enhancements in form template deployment. InfoPath 2003 made it very difficult to send form templates by e-mail for users to fill out. Form template designers had to jump through a few technical hoops to get it to work properly. It was also inconvenient for recipients as well. The addition of e-mail publishing in SP1 opened up the potential for anyone with an e-mail address and InfoPath to fill out a form. Deploying a form template via e-mail is only a quick click away. Once a template is deployed via e-mail, users can open the e-mail message in Outlook and start filling out the form.

In addition to enabling you to build more elaborate form templates, new features also enhance the process of filling out forms. One very useful new feature is the Fill Out a Form dialog. This dialog, shown in Figure 1.5, gives you a starting point for editing forms and a central location for managing them. (These capabilities have now been included in the backstage view available from the File tab.) Using the dashboard, you have easy access to forms you've filled out before by clicking the Recently Used Forms link in the left-hand side of the dialog. You can also add forms to your list of favorites by clicking the Add to Favorites link on the right-hand side and keep track of your favorites via the Favorites link on the left. You can download forms from Office Online by clicking the Forms on Office Online link or design a new or existing form template by clicking either the Design a Form or Design this Form links. This new dialog greatly simplifies the process of creating, filling out, and managing forms.

Figure 1.5

Figure 1.5 Fill Out a Form dialog in InfoPath 2003 SP1

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