Once the form designer is displayed, the fun begins. Figure
7 shows the InfoPath Form designer after the Wizard has created the form. At
the top of the form there is information for the novice InfoPath user about the
presence of two views. I like to see instructions on the form where it is
impossible to miss. However, this is not for the end user of the form so I
have started by deleting the section and adding instructions of my own.
Figure 7 InfoPath Forms Designer After the Wizard is Done.
In addition to changing the instructions, I took the
Deleted the Data Entry view, making the Query view the default.
Dragged the dataFields for Region into a new "Repeating
Section with Controls" section on the form.
Added a Submit Button to submit to the database.
Removed the RegionDescription from the query.
After a little reformatting the form is complete and I can
preview it as seen in Figure 8 after the Run Query button was pressed.
Figure 8 A Preview Window
Here, all the records have been retrieved. However, you can
also run the query to retrieve a particular record or use the New Record button
to add one. Once you are done making changes, press the Submit button and all
the modified records are updated. In this case, I have added an Asia region
and modified the descriptions of the other Regions so that they are more
international. You can see the results in Figure 9. This is after I submitted
the changes and reran the query.
InfoPath will only write a very simple query using the equal
operator. If you would like to have a more complex query, for example using
the LIKE operator, you will have to handle the proper events and construct your
own select string. This is only one of many opportunities that you have to
intercede as InfoPath processes the form.
Sharing the Form
InfoPath forms can be distributed on file shares, web
sites, or even via e-mail. However, to use them with a database the recipient
must have access to the database and a correct Office Database Connection (ODC)
file. The easiest way to achieve this is to publish the form on a file share
on your network and let users get to it from there.
The published file is has a type of XSN. It is actually a
CAB file with multiple compressed files inside. Most of them are in one type
of XML format or another. If you would like to see them, open the form in the
designer and use the menu command File/Extract Form Files.
One of the interesting aspects of InfoPath is that the user
can save the form to a file. Come back to it later and submit it then. This
feature allows a limited type of offline work.
This article has shown how to connect an InfoPath form to
SQL Server and use it to create a simple GUI update form for a simple table.
Seeing how this can be done in just a few minutes leaves me very hopeful about
what can be done with InfoPath. I am looking forward to the full product
release and updated help files.
I am not so sure that the direct database connection is
going to be usable for anything but a pretty simple application. For applications
that are more complex a WebService may be a better way to go. That is the next
avenue that I will investigate for connecting InfoPath to SQL Server data.
See All Articles by Columnist Andrew Novick