From the very beginning, one of the primary uses of SharePoint Server was the development of custom solutions based on the SharePoint platform. Whether it was simple data entry forms, workflow interactions and endpoints, or even complex business solutions, there was always a need for designing forms for data entry, editing, and viewing.
Simply put, standard SharePoint list forms were adequate for basic needs and scenarios. But in many ways, they lacked the critical features that users needed, including the ability to efficiently change layouts and apply dynamic behaviors to control fields.
To address these shortcomings, Microsoft offered InfoPath, a proprietary forms services solution, as a part of SharePoint Enterprise Edition. However, InfoPath forms were deprecated a few years ago, reopening many of the gaps that it initially set out to fill.
In this blog, we’ll explore how to migrate InfoPath forms from SharePoint, call out some of the best InfoPath replacements, and help you get back on track to effective collaboration.
What is InfoPath?
To sum it up, InfoPath offered a decent forms designer, control behaviors and validation, and a rudimentary code backend for implementing actions on data change. InfoPath was great for simple solutions which required forms, but it lacked the advanced data control and processing features to accommodate complex solutions. In fact, its limitations often prompted developers to abandon InfoPath projects in favor of custom web parts and applications.
However, InfoPath was still the preferred solution of choice for designing forms on SharePoint lists and form libraries. Its users varied between citizen developers who wanted to improve the forms design in SharePoint lists to professional developers who used InfoPath with multiple connections and custom code to create semi-complex business applications.
Becoming Legacy Technology
When Microsoft retired InfoPath in 2014, it didn’t come as much of a surprise. InfoPath was considered one of the legacy technologies within SharePoint, as it was fully server side, difficult to maintain, and even more challenging to migrate. It was a hopelessly outdated technology whose features were getting regularly switched off.
The planned Forms on SharePoint Lists (FOSL) release with SharePoint 2016 was officially cancelled, with no active development or foreseeable plan moving forward. After Microsoft deprecated sandbox solutions with custom code in SharePoint Online, Office 365 became a graveyard of useless InfoPath forms, meaning organizations that previously utilized InfoPath hit a dead-end.
Essentially, this was Microsoft’s way of telling InfoPath users to move on.
Getting Out of the InfoPath Trap
Getting out of the InfoPath trap and moving onto bigger and better technologies requires a comprehensive migration strategy. The key questions that need to be addressed are:
Does every InfoPath list form or form library have to be migrated?
Which data has to be migrated together with forms?
What are the best InfoPath replacements?
Let’s take a look at some of these questions in detail.
Conducting a Pre-Migration Analysis
A comprehensive analysis of your collaboration environment is a prerequisite for all form migrations. Since many forms will be unnecessary in the new environment, the first step is to create a forms or business solutions catalog and determine what to do with each list form or form library.
Specifically, you should establish if the forms still hold some sort of value for your users. If not, should it be archived with its associated data? Or is it part of an active solution that should be brought to the new technology stack and further developed?
Metalogix Expert is a free tool that helps you conduct a pre-migration analysis and assess your SharePoint environment. Its Readiness Report also helps you to locate InfoPath forms.
Rencore SPTransformator is a third-party tool that can help you answer some of the aforementioned questions. It effectively analyzes your farm, identifies InfoPath forms, and even suggests possible transformations.