Hi, my name is Joey Wiggs and I’m a developer on the InfoPath team. In InfoPath 2010, one of the ways in which we've improved our integration with SharePoint Server 2010 is by providing richer capabilities for connecting to and getting data from SharePoint lists. In this post, I will compare SharePoint list data connections in InfoPath 2007 and InfoPath 2010, and discuss the benefits of using the new 2010 data connection type. I will also outline the steps required to upgrade your InfoPath 2007 SharePoint list data connections to the new and improved version.
About SharePoint List Data Connections
Let’s start by looking at a scenario when you would use a SharePoint list data connection in an InfoPath form.
In Microsoft, when employees run into technical issues, they log a help ticket by filling out an InfoPath form. They start filling out the form by selecting an Problem category from a dropdown list. We could store the category names inside the form but that means that whenever a category is added, deleted or renamed, the form will need to be updated.
Instead, we can store the Category names in a separate SharePoint list and pull this information into the form when users are filling it out. We can do this by adding a SharePoint list data connection to the form. The benefit of using a data connection is that the data can be maintained separately in a single location and the form will always pull in the most up to date information from that location.
Why use the 2010 SharePoint List Data Connection?In InfoPath 2010, we have extended the functionality of the SharePoint list data connection.
- Query fields are now supported
- Additional field types are supported
- The data pulled from the SharePoint list is no longer tied to the default list view in SharePoint
Query FieldsSetting a query field value allows you to filter the data before it is pulled into the form. SharePoint list connections in InfoPath 2010 now have query fields, allowing you to filter your data and return more scoped results. You can query on a number of different field types, including single lines of text, numbers, and even people and lookups. By filtering your list connections, you can ensure only the data you want is brought into your form. This can also speed up your form connection, as it may pull in less data than it would otherwise.
For example: By setting the “Modified by” query field to the current user (using the username() function), the query will return only those list items that were modified by the current user.
Additional Field TypesIn 2007 the list connection could only support simple field types, such as single lines of text, currency fields, and single choices. The new connection now also supports complex field types such as multiple choices, multiple lookups, attachments and person fields.
In previous releases, the number of items returned and the sorting order of said items were determined by the default view for the list in SharePoint. To work around this limitation, form designers had to go to the list settings page in SharePoint and modify the default list view to get the data they wanted into their forms. That’s no longer the case! The new 2010 list data connection will return all of the items in the list, regardless of the default view’s settings. You can also sort the incoming data by a particular field in the data connection wizard when creating a new connection, or modifying an existing one.
How can I get this in my forms?If you’re designing a new InfoPath 2010 form, you just need to add a SharePoint list data connection and you’ll have this functionality available to you from the start.
The new list features are supported in InfoPath 2010 filler and browser forms only, so if you want to use the new connection in your existing InfoPath 2007 form you will need to upgrade your existing forms to InfoPath 2010. However, once upgraded, InfoPath 2007 clients will not be able to open the form.
To upgrade the data connection, form designers must complete the following steps:
- Use the data connections dialog to upgrade the list connection
- Rebind your controls, rules and code
- Save the form as an InfoPath Web Browser Form Template or InfoPath Filler Form Template
Convert Data Connection to Current Version
For each list data connection that retrieves data in your form, you will need to select it in the data connections dialog and press the “Convert to Current Version” button. You will be prompted if you want to continue. After conversion, you will see an information bar when that connection is selected stating that the data connection is incompatible with the current version of your form. That’s okay; we’ll be upgrading the form to the required version later.
Rebind Controls and Fix up Rules and Code
After converting a data connection, you’ll need to rebind your controls and fix any field or XPath references inside rules and code. When rebinding, you’ll need to rebind the repeating sections to the d:SharePointListItem_RW group, then rebind the controls inside the repeating sections to the correct fields. You can rebind a control by selecting it, then right-clicking and choosing “Change Binding”. This brings up a dialog where you can choose what field or group to bind the control to.
Fixing your rules consists of finding the rule and updating any field references. Field references from the old adapter will look something like “@Title” after you convert your 2007 adapter to 2010. Select the reference, pick the field you want the rule to reference and away you go.
You can tell that the rule actually references the field by how it looks. If the field reference has a namespace, an @ symbol, or a full XPath then that rule won’t work and needs to be fixed.
Save the FormFinally, you’ll want to save your form as an InfoPath form template (filler or web browser depending on your needs). Note that if you try to save it before converting the data connections, the design checker will prevent you from doing so. 2007 list data connections cannot be in a 2010 form, and 2010 list data connections cannot be in a 2007 form. There’s no mixing and matching, and the design checker will prevent you from saving the form unless they’re correct.
Once you’ve saved your form, you will be able to avail of all the capabilities of the new 2010 SharePoint list data connection. At any time, you can use the data connections dialog to modify the newly upgraded connection, to add new field types, or to use the sort by functionality. You can also set the value of query fields using rules in your form.