InfoPath 2010 and SharePoint 2010 – List Forms vs Library Forms

Not many aware of two different kinds of InfoPath forms available in SharePoint 2010 – List Forms and Library Forms. Having understanding of both kind of InfoPath forms is one of the most fundamental knowledge one need to have to be better InfoPath Developer for SharePoint 2010. Since you can’t switch from List forms to library forms or vice-a-versa (Yes, you read it right, you can’t switch or migrate forms from one to another), deciding on List vs Library form becomes one of the most fundamental architectural decisions part of InfoPath-SharePoint solution.

This article highlights high level differences between SharePoint 2010 List and Library forms and guidance on when to use which kind of forms. Microsoft has published wonderful article on this topic and my article is extension of what’s been published on InfoPath blog with some additional notes I have taking over the last two years.

InfoPath Team Blog Reference

 List Forms – Tied to the List – New in SharePoint 2010

  • Key Characteristics
    • InfoPath Form Tied to specific SharePoint list, Not reusable
    • InfoPath Form Schema tied to SharePoint List Schema
    • InfoPath Form data stored in the SharePoint List.
    • Each control (e.g. text box) in the InfoPath Form is bound to a column in the SharePoint List.
    • Supported on Simple SharePoint Lists like Custom List, Tasks, Announcements, Links, Contacts from Browser Interface
    • Not supported in Document Libraries and advanced SharePoint Lists like Calendar
    • You can customize or edit the published form template by clicking the “Customize Form” on the List Ribbon Bar
    • Requires SharePoint Designer to customize the External Lists Forms
  • Limitations
    • Tied to only 1 list and data stored directly in list
    • No Custom Code Support
    • No Digital Signatures
    • Because it’s tied to specific list, No Custom Submit or Publish Behavior
    • No Repeating and Nested Data
    • No Print Support – No Print Button
    • Not available to the Document Library
  • Use cases
    • To customize the out of the box List New Form, List Edit Form, and List Display Forms
    • Ideal for Prototypes or quickly get started building InfoPath forms on SharePoint
    • Ideal for No-code solutions using SharePoint Designer and Browser Customization for Pre-Packaged Departmental SharePoint Sites designed on production farm.
    • To use forms offline with SharePoint Workspace
  • Important Note => Do not use List InfoPath Forms in formal code management and deployment scenarios from development to staging to production.

Library Forms – Tied to the form libraries – Same as SharePoint 2007

  • Key Characteristics
    • Form data stored as the XML document in SharePoint Form Library
    • More complex and requires more disciplined/structured approach
    • Can be deployed as Sandbox or Farm Level Solutions
    • Unlike list forms, Form library forms can be deployed as a template to associate the forms to multiple form libraries across multiple sites or site collections or multiple web applications within farm
  • Publishing Mechanism
    • Single Library
      • Deploy/Publish to specific form library
      • Not reusable in another library
      • Only one form template per form library, Same benefits as list InfoPath forms. If Form is directly published to form library, another form can’t be published or used in the form library.
    • Reusability across Site Collection – Multiple libraries or sites within Site Collection
      • Deploy/Publish as a Form Content Type and Later use Content Type in the Form Library
      • Enables deployment to multiple document libraries
      • Supports multiple content type per library. It means,  multiple types of Form Templates can be tied to the Form Library using multiple Form Content Types
    • Reusability across Farm – Multiple Site Collections or Web Applications
      • Deploy/Publish as a Administrator Approved Form Templates
      • Once deployed and activated on the site collection, Administrator-Approved Form Templates behaves same as Content Type Form
      • Deploy as features and solutions framework, PowerShell, or manual upload
  • Use cases
    • Form Templates with Code
    • Form Templates with Tabular Structure (Nested or Repeated Data) or Complex Schema
    • Form Templates with Printing Support from Ribbon Bar
    • Form Templates with Custom Submit Behavior
    • From Templates needs to be digitally signed
    • Great fit for Enterprise Level Form Solutions with Advanced and Reusable Functionality
    • Admin Approved forms eases future enhancements, upgrade, maintenance, and deployment
    • Fits perfectly in formal deployment process of moving features from development to staging to production.
    • Form is not hosted in SharePoint or you need to store results as an XML document
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